Almost every season of “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” on FXX is sporadic at best. This isn’t to say that the series has lost its touch through the years or anything. In fact, we could easily argue that there has never been a bad season of the show. But for every “The Nightman Cometh” or “Thunder Gun Express,” there is usually a “The Gang Cracks the Liberty Bell” or “Frank’s Brother” to drag it down. Bottom line: No season is without its “meh” episodes, so ranking them was a bit tough considering each one also contains at least a few classics. With all of that in mind, we graded every episode on a scale of 1 to 4 and averaged out each season accordingly. What follows is the results of our flawless definitive ranking system.
#10 – Season 10
Ever since its eighth season, “Sunny” has only run for 10 episodes at a time. This would be great if it meant that each one were a guaranteed slam dunk. Unfortunately, this hasn’t been the case (as you will see as our list goes on). Even though Season 10 was the most recent in our memories, we had a hard time even recalling the plots of a few episodes, let alone ranking them. While “The Gang Goes on Family Fight” certainly stood out from the pack, this was easily the show’s worst effort to date, and probably the first time there were more duds than instant classics.
#9 – Season 6
Even though “Sunny” was no stranger to two-part episodes by this point, Season 6 was the first year with an overarching theme, with Sweet Dee revealing she was pregnant midway through as the gang tried to figure out who the father was. The problem with carrying a storyline for multiple episodes is that, in most cases, it isn’t able to maintain its momemtum. The hilarity is harder to sustain over multiple episodes, and this can even be said for a majority of their two-parters. Luckily, they had much better luck with their ongoing “Fat Mac” storyline in Season 7. But more on that a little bit later.
#8 – Season 9
About half of Season 9 contains amazing episodes, while the other half were just amazingly forgettable. What puts this one at the #8 spot is that it also featured the series’ 100th episode, which delivered on not only the comedy front, but also served as an exploration of each character through a series of fantasy sequences that hit a high point with Charlie’s “Up” segment. Beyond that, as mentioned in our intro, the show did what it does best and remained sporadically funny throughout.
#7 – Season 1
It’s very rare that a show’s first season is its best, but at least as far as pilots go, “Sunny” gives such a standard a run for its money. For a Season 1 as good as this one, you might be surprised to see it as low on our list as it is. We were, too. But when it came right down to it, it wasn’t that it was a particularly bad group of episodes as much as the ones coming after it were that much better. Not the worst problem to have for a comedy series.
#6 – Season 8
Once again, we have a season that suffers solely because of its below par episodes. While Season 8 contained a number of greats like “The Gang Recycles Their Trash,” “The Gang Gets Analyzed” and “The Gang Dines Out,” its average was dragged down with two weak bookend episodes and a number of less than stellar and, frankly, weird ones inbetween. Plus, when it comes to the top five seasons, they set a pretty high bar.
#5 – Season 7
From here on out, the choices would have been impossibly tough if not for our brilliant and perfect averaging system. Of course, even with that in place, both Season 7 and Season 4 scored a 2.69 average. So if you feel so inclined, go ahead and flip-flop them. Since we had to pick a winner, however, we decided that since it was such a close call, we’d simply go with the best finale of the two seasons. While “The High School Reunion” two-parter was certainly a fun ride, as we talked about already, “Sunny’s” multi-part episodes rarely mesh perfectly. Plus, when compared to perhaps the best finale the show has ever done, it was a no-brainer.
#4 – Season 4
Season 4 deserves the #4 spot on this list for “The Nightman Cometh” alone, but fortunately almost every episode of the season was a memorable one. Of course, one in particular by the name of “The Gang Cracks the Liberty Bell” was memorable in a negative sense, as it is still deemed one of the worst the show ever produced. Throw in another relatively lackluster two-parter and you can see why this list hasn’t even begun to peak.
#3 – Season 2
Another reason Season 1 didn’t score quite as high on this list as it perhaps should have is because it lacks one key element that makes “Sunny” great: Frank Reynolds. Even though he’s relatively less depraved in Season 2 by comparison, his addition to the show brought a comedic element that lifted the series to new heights. His character certainly helped set the four leads apart a little more, too, as Frank being the father of Dennis and Dee gave the three a completely different dynamic than the ones he shares with Mac or Charlie (even though we know what is eventually implied with the latter).
#2 – Season 3
Other than the two-part “The Gang Gets Whacked,” there weren’t many weak episodes in the bunch. The show was really starting to hit its stride by Season 3, and it showed by keeping the laughs consistent as it moved the gang into even wackier territory than previous seasons. The only think keeping it from the top spot here is that every episode was almost too consistent, with none necessarily setting themselves apart as the funniest of the batch. They were all on about the same level which, again, isn’t the worst problem for a comedy series to have.
#1 – Season 5
The only character not at his peak comedy potential in Season 3 is at his absolute best (and technically worst) in Season 5. We are again talking about Frank Reynolds, the immoral backbone of the series. Not only is he at the top of his game this time around, but so is everyone else in the gang, making Season 5 the most enjoyable and inducing the most belly laughs of any the show has done. We previously mentioned that what Season 3 lacked was standout episodes. Well, here you have “The Gang Hits the Road,” “The Gang Gives Frank an Intervention,” “Patty’s Pub: Home of the Original Kitten Mittens,” and of course “The Gang Reignites the Rivalry” perfectly spaced out across 12 episodes of pure bliss.
Be sure to tune in to FXX this Wednesday, January 6th for the Season 11 premiere of “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” at 10p, followed by the Season 2 premiere of “Man Seeking Woman.”