I love television shows, and I love ranking things. It only makes sense to combine the two. I’ll be ranking every season of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, according to science. Science, in this case, means watching every episode and assigning it a score 1-5, with five being amazing and one being not so amazing.
Obviously, the most important thing is the comedy, but I also give special props to good concepts and unique episodes. It’s all on a sliding scale, so a one doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a terrible episode, just that when compared to the other episodes, it’s weaker. Keep in mind that Sunny is one of my favorite shows, so I enjoy watching even its “worst” episodes. I then average out the scores for a season and rank them according to that final score. For ties, I’m giving the edge to the season that has the stronger “best” episodes, since those are the ones we usually remember. I know, math is scary, but I’ve done all the hard work so you don’t have to.
If you read my ranking of The League or Scrubs, don’t compare the scores. The episode and season scores are only meant to be compared to other episodes and seasons of the same show. Comparing shows to one another is a whole other kind of list that I’m not willing to dive into right now. Maybe someday…
Let me know your favorite season of It’s Always Sunny in the comments below, and enjoy the list!
12. Season Ten – 2.80
Starting at the bottom of the list, season ten was a pretty consistently mediocre season when compared to earlier seasons of the show. I don’t think many people would argue that Sunny is as strong now as it used to be, but that’s pretty typical of sitcoms. There was really only one standout episode in the whole bunch, and when you’re only making ten episodes a season, there isn’t much room for error. In the later seasons, the show started playing around with different types of genres and filmmaking techniques. The best example from season ten would have to be “Charlie Work,” which was shot like the movie Birdman, imitating the look and feel of one long shot throughout the entire episode. It wasn’t the funniest episode, but it was neat.
Strongest Episodes: The Gang Goes on Family Fight, The Gang Beat Boggs
Weakest Episodes: Psycho Pete Returns, Mac Kills His Dad
11. Season Twelve – 2.80
The most recent season of the show continued its effort to spoof different genres of television and film. “The Gang Turns Black” was the musical episode, “Making Dennis a Murderer” was obviously a riff on murder documentaries, and “Old Lady House: A Situation Comedy” took the show in a self-referential direction while also making fun of network multi-cam sitcoms. The ideas were all strong in theory, but varied sharply in bringing the funny. No episode from season twelve earned a five rating from me. Take this for what you will, but the most traditional episode of the season, “The Gang Goes to a Water Park,” was my favorite.
Strongest Episodes: The Gang Goes to a Water Park, Making Dennis Reynolds a Murderer
Weakest Episodes: The Gang Turns Black, A Cricket’s Tale
10. Season One – 2.85
Season one has the disadvantage of containing the fewest episodes at only seven, so the variance in scores really makes the average not as representative of the actual overall quality. It’s also worth noting that season one was before Danny DeVito’s Frank joined the cast, and he definitely brought things to a new level of insanity. Oddly enough, I consider the pilot episode to be the strongest of the whole season, which helps explain how three unknowns were able to get their show on the air. The tone of the show was well established from the get-go, but storylines have definitely gotten more insane as the years have gone by.
Strongest Episodes: The Gang Gets Racist, Charlie Has Cancer
Weakest Episodes: Charlie Wants an Abortion, The Gang Finds a Dead Guy
9. Season Six – 2.85
Season six is absolutely one of the weaker seasons of Sunny, which is odd considering the seasons before and after it are very strong. This was before the show went down to only ten episodes per season, but the previous normal of thirteen to fifteen still makes episodes scoring a one or two hurt a lot more. This season actually had several episodes that I ended up scoring a four, but there were no fives and more than a few ones and twos. That all really adds up to making this season a “below average” one.
Strongest Episodes: The Gang Buys a Boat, Who Got Dee Pregnant?
Weakest Episodes: Mac Fights Gay Marriage, A Very Sunny Christmas
8. Season Eleven – 2.90
After the mediocre season ten, I was pleasantly surprised by season eleven of the show. It’s far from the best, but there were several great episodes thrown in there. The biggest thing that held this season back was the episode “Being Frank,” which makes a strong argument for being my least favorite episode of the show. This episode was told entirely from the first person perspective of Frank. It’s a solid idea, and again shows that the creators are thinking outside of the box as the show goes on, but it just wasn’t very funny. But season eleven also includes “Mac and Dennis Move to the Suburbs,” an amazing riff on married life and paranormal movies. It’s one of my new favorite episodes.
Strongest Episodes: Mac and Dennis Move to the Suburbs, Chardee MacDennis 2: Electric Boogaloo
Weakest Episodes: Being Frank, Frank Falls Out the Window
7. Season Nine – 3.00
Season nine actually doesn’t contain any episodes that I scored a five, but it also contains very few twos and several fours. The show got pretty self-referential in season nine, with “The Gang Tries Desperately to Win an Award,” which is an obvious reference to how Sunny has been jipped out of several Emmy nominations. They also started making “sequel” episodes to some early favorites, like the season nine episode “The Gang Makes Lethal Weapon Six.” There was also the cool episode “The Gang Saves the Day,” which has each character imagining how they would stop a robbery. Mac’s kung fu solution and the adorable and heartfelt animation of Charlie’s imagined future with the waitress were brilliant.
Strongest Episodes: The Gang Saves the Day, The Gang Makes Lethal Weapon 6
Weakest Episodes: The Gang Gets Quarantined, Gun Fever Too: Still Hot
6. Season Two – 3.00
Season two marked Frank’s first appearance, and the show would never be the same. The show hadn’t totally found its stride, but there are still some great episodes mixed in there. It definitely didn’t stick the landing, as I gave twos to all four of the last episodes, but early on, the show was going strong. Things hadn’t gotten completely off the rails yet in terms of storylines, and instead the show was focused more on dark comedy, poking fun at the welfare system, religion, drug use, and the political machine. Also special props to season two for introducing us to Rickety Cricket, one of the best and most used recurring characters.
Strongest Episodes: Dennis and Dee Go on Welfare, Charlie Gets Crippled
Weakest Episodes: The Gang Exploits a Miracle, Charlie Goes America All Over Everybody’s Ass
5. Season Three – 3.00
Even through it was a three-way tie for fifth place, season three comes out on top due to the strength of its best episodes. It also has the advantage of containing the most episodes of any season at fifteen, which makes its less than stellar episodes have a smaller negative impact on the whole. With the exception of the disappointing season six, seasons three through eight mark the golden age of It’s Always Sunny, with most of the best episodes being contained in those five seasons. There was usually one not so great episode in there somewhere, but overall the show had a great sense of consistency during this time. This season in particular had two episodes that scored a five, as well as two other very strong fours.
Strongest Episodes: The Gang Dances Their Asses Off, Bums: Making a Mess All Over the City
Weakest Episodes: Mac is a Serial Killer, Dennis and Dee’s Mom is Dead
4. Season Eight – 3.10
I’ve seen some people online that are kind of down on season eight, but I just think there are so many gems in there. In the later seasons, the quality of the show definitely started to dip a bit and there were fewer standout episodes, but season eight actually contains two of my personal favorite episodes. Oddly enough, only two of the total ten episodes scored a three, with most sitting at two or four. That made the final average score highly variable and highlights the lack of consistency in the later seasons, but season eight still came out strong. Also special shout out to the episode “The Gang Recycles Their Trash,” which was a great take on the popular “clip show” format of sitcoms.
Strongest Episodes: The Gang Gets Analyzed, Reynolds vs Reynolds: The Cereal Defense
Weakest Episodes: Charlie’s Mom has Cancer, Pop Pop: The Final Solution
3. Season Seven – 3.15
Season seven was a breath of fresh air compared to season six, and really put the show back on track for a few years. The two-part finale “High School Reunion” was a great way to end the season strong, as well. High school reunion episodes are pretty common on sitcoms starring adult characters, but Sunny did it in their own messed up style. Season seven also contains probably my second favorite episode, “Chardee MacDennis: Game of Games.” We also got some backstory on Frank in the episode “Frank’s Brother,” and Mac spent the whole season being fat. It was so random, and yet so funny.
Strongest Episodes: Chardee MacDennis: Game of Games, Thunder Gun Express
Weakest Episodes: Frank’s Brother, Frank’s Pretty Woman
2. Season Four – 3.15
Season four narrowly wins the tie breaker with season seven because it contains unequivocally the best episode of It’s Always Sunny, “The Nightman Cometh.” Everything about that episode is complete brilliance. However, the biggest reason it doesn’t take the top spot is because it also contains probably the worst episode of the show, “The Gang Cracks the Liberty Bell,” an episode that puts the gang back in the days of the American Revolution. It was a solid idea, it just didn’t translate to a very funny episode. I’ve also seen a lot of people online that don’t like “Who Pooped the Bed?,” but I personally love that episode and its obvious homage to Clue. It’s also definitely my favorite appearance by Artemis, another fan favorite recurring character.
Strongest Episodes: The Nightman Cometh, Who Pooped the Bed?
Weakest Episodes: The Gang Cracks the Liberty Bell, Sweet Dee has a Heart Attack
1. Season Five – 3.25
The weird thing about season five being the best overall season is that it actually contains no episodes that I scored a five. But, it also contains no ones, only two twos, and the highest amount of fours in any season. There are just so many memorable bits contained in season five, including Charlie’s Kitten Mittens, the Birds of War, the gang’s doomed road trip, and Dennis’ method of getting girls. It’s just all around the most consistently great season of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, and that’s why it takes the top spot on this list.
Strongest Episodes: The D.E.N.N.I.S. System, Paddy’s Pub: Home of the Original Kitten Mittens
Weakest Episodes: The Gang Gives Frank an Intervention, The World Series Defense
Despite the use of irrefutable science in making this list, it’s still just my opinion. So leave a comment with your ranking of the seasons, and let’s hope the show stays strong for many seasons to come! Thanks for reading!
Be sure to check out my ranking of the top 10 episodes of It’s Always Sunny!