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There are two shows I always default to when I can’t find anything worth watching on Netflix — The Office and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. While both are legendary comedy series, both approach humor in vastly different ways. Always Sunny uses dark humor and depravity better than any other show on TV. The ridiculous comedic skits and morally-corrupt antics of its core five characters: Dennis, Mac, Charlie, Dee, and Frank, are both outlandish yet believable thanks to the incredible complexity of each character. That said, Always Sunny also excels thanks to its sideshow characters, and boy, are there a lot of them. With the 13th season airing on FXX starting September 5th, I thought I’d take a shot at power ranking some of my favorite characters over the past 12 seasons. Yes, there are spoilers ahead.
8. Ryan McPoyle
Has there ever been a better auxiliary character group than the McPoyles? Besides the whole implied in-breeding thing, Liam’s love of warm milk and ill-fitting robes make him one of the most memorable characters on the show. He’s #8 on the list mostly because he follows his brother, Ryan, during most of the charades, but the brother dynamic between the two shines through in several episodes throughout the series.
7. Dee Reynolds
The Aluminum Monster and Bird-related jokes are two of the better running gags throughout the show. Thankfully, Kaitlin Olsen is a wonderful actor who is able to showcase the contrast in Dee’s sky-high Hollywood aspirations and low-life, corrupt a priest (Cricket) tendencies in a way that is both memorable and sadistic. Her eternal need for validation from those around her drives her depraved actions through many scenes – my favorite being her tireless pursuit of stand up comedy even though she butchers impressions and often gags before she can start a set. She’s a perfect foil to the rest of the core group and often bridges the chasm between Mac & Dennis vs Charlie & Frank.
6. Mac’s Dad
Mac and Charlie Die Parts 1 and 2 is probably my favorite mini-series in the entire show. His role in both episodes, where he goes from drug smuggler kingpin to loving dad is one of the better heel-turns in the series. Plus, the reactions he’s able to warrant from both Mac, out of desperate need for his love, and Charlie, out of perceived threat, is vital to the comedic engine of many episodes.
Mac’s character arc is definitely one of the most memorable in the show. Fat Mac remains one of my favorite characters in TV history, especially knowing actor Rob McElhenney actually gained like 50lbs just to play the role. His love of karate kicks, dusters, and Dennis, are great comedic riffs. He’s a wonderful henchman character that keeps many scenes moving, especially when he’s ripping up the board in Chardee McDennis and desperately trying to show up County Mac on Mac Day. It still blows my mind that he’s married to Dee in real life – and is also incredibly jacked now.
4. Frank Reynolds
Frank is the catalyst of this show. His invisible bankroll and tireless pursuit of perversion is often the starting point behind some of the show’s best episodes like Charlie Goes America on Everyone’s Ass where Frank orchestrates an illegal gambling ring in the basement that leads to the morbid Russian Roulette end scene. Nothing is off limits for Frank Reynolds, meaning every controversial topic under the sun is now fair game for a dark comedic spin. His twisted parent-child dynamic with Dennis and Dee and hatred of his ex-wife are key drivers in the progression of both siblings. The best part of Frank, however, is his lack of morals and any type of sociable sensibility. He’s a one-man, wrecking ball-shaped wrecking ball, who barrels through the series with reckless abandon.
3. Liam McPoyle
It’s a testament to the acting ability of Jimmi Simpson that he can seamlessly master the polar opposite personalities of Westworld’s William Delos and Always Sunny’s Ryan McPoyle. One is a wealthy billionaire protagonist, the other is a one-eyed inbred wildcard. I rank him this high mostly because he played the protagonist in my favorite episode of the show: The Gang Gets Kidnapped. Taking the crew hostage at Paddy’s Pub with sweaty robes and rubber shotguns is one thing. His creepily stoic look as he watches Dennis’ seduction of Margaret McPoyle and ramps up the heat to 90+ degrees during the episode is only heightened with the iconic “YOU WILL CALL HER” line he screams over Thanksgiving dinner in Season 6. Truly an iconic character, both in its weirdness and for how well Simpson plays the part.
2. Dennis Reynolds
I know Dennis is the show stopper for many Always Sunny fans. He is for me too and I pray that he returns for Season 13 in some form, but he’s not my favorite character. That said, his character undergoes the best (or worst?) character evolution on the show depending on how you view it, as he progresses from creepy pretty boy to predatory, I-think-he-is-actually-a-serial-killer narcissist by the end of Season 12. Between his obsession with camera angles, his “tools,” and the D.E.N.N.I.S. system, Dennis definitely provides the most memorably depraved moments in the show. His lust for revenge and pursuit of self-actualized perfection (he hasn’t even begun to peak) are some of the best running gags throughout the series. Plus, he easily has the best facial expressions of anyone on the show, no doubt. But he’s not #1 on this list.
1. Charlie Kelly
This might be controversial, but Charlie Kelly is the best character on Always Sunny, bar-none. He is the only character on the show who is consistently involved in every plot and instrumental to each episode. Charlie tends to be the instrumental cog behind many plots and schemes and he’s always willing to do the dirty work – both at the bar and in the script. His ability to bridge between lovable loser and unhinged wildcard is only surpassed by his love of paint, Bird Law, and Green Man. Frank might be the hype man and Dennis the main protagonist, but Charlie Kelly is the soul of Paddy’s Pub. Cheers! .
Image via Netflix