"What do you think is happening right now?"
I spoke last week of how much of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia's mission statement has mainly been to lampoon popular and overused television tropes and ideas. "The Gang Recycles Their Trash" took that all to the next level, creating both a cutting self parody and making fun of shows which consistently stay on the air long after their welcome and after the creative well runs dry. In the process, Sunny proves that it is, as a series, far from that point, and is as vital and hilarious as its ever been.
Right off the bat I just started laughing. One of those scholarly, self-important laughs. A laugh I haven't laughed since the peak of South Park, because I knew exactly what they were doing, especially after Mac talking about "oiling up some asses". It seemed, at least to me, that much of the foundation for the "recycling" of this episode drew influence from "The Gang Solves The Gas Crisis", which is arguably their finest hour, and it would appear the writers are aware of that.
Having the gang actually have a trash issue was an ingenious way to tie narrative in with theme, and watching Dennis and Mac laugh way too hard at old jokes, like calling Dee a bird, purposely was extremely entertaining. There was so much refreshing self-awareness in this episode, something we rarely see in this show ("The Gang Gets Trapped" comes to mind). When Dennis tells Charlie that having a wildcard doesn't make sense, it almost makes the memory of the original moment that much more hilarious, because you do realize the ridiculousness, and gain a new perspective on just how far the Gang can go in deluding themselves. Additionally, the whole exchange between Charlie Mac and Dennis, where Charlie agrees despite having no idea what the conversation is, was one of the most laugh-out-loud moments I can remember in a while.
Frank attempts to steer the Gang's ship clear of failure for once by saying that not adhering closely enough to his plans have always been the problem. You just know the wheels are going to come off and that everyone will devolve into their own sociopathic tendencies, it's just a matter of how and when.
And it happens pretty quickly.
Dennis' crippling vanity has always been one of the highlights of the Gang's exploits, so convincing himself that taking out trash in a limousine and tuxedos would somehow make things classier was perfect for his character and a great way to remind us about "The Gang Gets Stranded in the Woods". There was so much efficiency to the hysteria this week, and none if it had to sacrifice a thing. In fact, watching this episode back, I'm surprised it clocks in under 20 minutes, because it really did feel like they packed three shows worth of great material into it.
Another big reason that the episode succeeded so overwhelmingly was because they managed to put a funny twist on every reference without just, y'know, referencing it. From Dee adopting a more conservative look (you're presenting yourself as a banana LMAO), to the even more ridiculously extended conversation about gay culture, to the plan essentially working and the guys still realizing they hate it, it all injected a new freshness into old material that proved just as funny as the original iteration.
To be honest, I could reference just about every moment of this episode, so I'll just say it was all awesome.
The moment of silent reflection at the bar was surprisingly potent for me. In that silence, you had a show questioning if it really had anything else to say, then realizing it sure does, it just has to keep on keeping on, followed by a character again criticizing the formula. It was the entire thesis of the episode, and even the series, condensed to about eleven seconds.
An episode like this might be cause to worry, as it might give the impression that the show may really be running out of gas and they're just hiding it from us through snark, but I don't get that impression from "The Gang Recycles Their Trash". For so long, these guys riffed on current events and TV formulas, and now have realized they've produced enough material to be the thing they riff on. Like the Boston Red Sox, they've become what they hate, and acknowledge that their own show shouldn't be immune to their own process, lest it start to feel too self-serving. This is why the gang stays so comically ahead of the pack.
This might actually prove to be a shot of life for the series, not that it particularly needed it. Sunny, like South Park, has always been a self-sufficient show fueled by the events of the moment, so as long as time moves on, so do they, and as long as they don't reach the creative malaise that Trey Parker and Matt Stone have clearly been wallowing in the past few years, Sunny will thrive for many years to come.
On any other show, I'd say it was in danger of eating itself. On Sunny, I just say it's another fantastic episode filled with A-Grade meta-humor.
Eight years strong. Still the best comedy on television.
91% = **** = "Masterpiece"