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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia: "The Gang Sells Out"/"Frank Sets Sweet Dee On Fire"

Illustration for article titled iIts Always Sunny In Philadelphia/i: The Gang Sells Out/Frank Sets Sweet Dee On Fire
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Illustration for article titled iIts Always Sunny In Philadelphia/i: The Gang Sells Out/Frank Sets Sweet Dee On Fire

Paddy's is one of those TV food-service businesses that really burns Gordon Ramsey's testicles — no business plan, customers helping themselves to the merchandise, yadda yadda. So it doesn't take long for the corporate ownership of an "oldies rock cafe" to think better of buying it. Which leads to perhaps the first instance in television history of a gag based on confusing "wooed" with "wood."

Tonight's twofer is rooted in some very strong set pieces. I'll stack up the authoritative discussion on gay sex, bears, twinks, and "power bottoms" — set in a strip club, I might add — against the very best sixty seconds that the show has yet produced. But overall, "The Gang Sells Out" feels like several good ideas in search of a show. Charlie, Dee, and Dennis get jobs at the local TGI Beef O'Flaming Moe's and proceed to help themselves to free drinks and unlimited dips into the till. Other than the general brazenness of their malfeasance, however, the funniest thing about the plotline is Charlie's muscle tee/suspenders/farmer tan/elf vibe in uniform. Meanwhile Frank gets his old fifties gang back together to hang out around the bookstore down the street and dissuade Corporate Guy from buying it, leading to the show's other high point: Frank's excitement about singing a doo-wop number. "Of course we sing," he enthuses, "we're a gang!"

Continuing a trend this season, the second episode scores more often and feels more effortless in the penultimate week of FX's back-to-back Sunny burnoff strategy. Mac gets his closeup at last, in orange pancake makeup and with a high-powered flashlight in his eyes, as Charlie and Frank film him for a public access news show based on their eighth-grade expose of G.I. Joe flammability. When they go to a nursing home to dig up dirt, the show delivers a classic interacting-with-the-muggles moment in Mac's interview with a sweet old lady (interrupted by an old man who accuses her of stealing grapes). As the group escalates their plan to portray Mac as a hero, his horrible flopsweat problem, combined with the blown-out white balances of the camcorder footage, gives the character his best moments of the season so far. And Dee on fire throwing boxes of kittens? Never not funny.

It all feels like a warmup for the best episode title yet announced: next week's "Sweet Dee's Dating A Retarded Person."

Grade: "Sells Out" B-, "On Fire" A-

Stray observations:

- Both eps featured well-orchestrated hand gestures, but degree of difficulty goes to the four-person synchronized mime of blowing up the bar over Mac's portrayal of a kitten on a conveyer belt approaching a chopping mechanism.

- Watch for a Sunny rarity: an actual location shoot outside Corporate Guy's building, notable for the line "You sold me a shitload of shares for half a sandwich."

- I had a strange feeling of kinship and crushing shame regarding the "Dancing Man" public access show that the gang gets hooked on. Why is it that every time I turn on the publc access channel, I end up watching for two hours because nothing's happening?

- Funniest single moment of the night: Frank's deadpan suggestion that nursing homes are hotbeds of "ass-rape."

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