It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia decided to pivot from its standard cringe comedy to the lighter fare of rom-com for the Season 14 premiere. Well, actually, "The Gang Gets Romantic" is still as cringey as as always, but the rom-com references in the It's Always Sunny Season 14 premiere absolutely nail the genre. Even though you wouldn't think the gang at Paddy's Pub spends much time watching rom-coms, it's perhaps a testament to how well-established these movies are that Mac is so focused on setting up a meet-cute. Through his antics, It's Always Sunny at least attempts to get romantic while lovingly parodying the genre — and proves that the gang has still got it in Season 14.
To achieve the perfect rom-com style meet-cute, the gang sets up Airbnb schemes that they think will lead to romance. Mac and Dennis go the friendly mixup route with Mac double-booking the room they have rented out. With their bus station flyer, Frank and Charlie are less concerned with the charming aspect of a meet-cute and instead, want to lure "young bohemians with no sexual boundaries" for group sex. Dee briefly gets a shot at being the romantic lead, but mostly stays in the wings (as is fitting for her bird status).
Love does find two members of the gang unexpectedly. And while
It's Always Sunny stayed true to its roots, here's how the show managed to honor the rom-com genre.
The meet-cute — or "meat cube," if you're Charlie — is perhaps one of the most well-known strategies of having
a couple quickly meet in a rom-com. Rom-coms have even started to reference this trope directly, like in The Holiday. Dennis and Mac's initial Airbnb scheme — or "trap," if you're Dennis — doesn't work out when the unsuspecting Lisa brings her husband Greg. So Mac sets up another "chance" encounter involving Dee and Greg meeting over the last plunger in a hardware store.
In the end, the only meet-cute that succeeds is Charlie and Frank meeting their Austrian doppelgängers Niki and Alexei. Thus, the meat cubes end up becoming the most romantic aspect of the episode.
After first meeting, the two romantic leads rarely like each other — and most times, they kind of despise each other. So while Dennis feels like their plan is failing when Lisa and her husband Greg fight in their Airbnb, Mac claims this banter is how it should be in the first act of a rom-com.
Later, when Dee is pushing for her meet-cute with Greg to work, she accepts his rejection as part of the second act in a rom-com format. "There we go. Pushing away his soulmate, right on structure," she claims. Too bad, Sweet Dee doesn't realize she's only a diversionary plot twist at best.
Male leads are often accepted no matter how amoral their behavior, but the same doesn't go for female leads. (Refer to Walter White and
Skyler from .) And, as Dee notes, a rom-com lead Breaking Bad must fit this stereotypical mold. "The female love interest can't be a cheater because that makes her unlikable," Dee proclaims.
"Unlikable" female protagonists are relatively new in entertainment and thankfully, this phenomenon of likability mattering in terms of a character played by a woman has mostly come and gone in dramas. But it sure still matters in rom-coms — with the exception being Julianne in My Best Friend's Wedding. And even then, she was played by America's Sweetheart Julia Roberts.
Speaking of Julia Roberts, Charlie unabashedly channels the jewelry box scene from
Pretty Woman. Danny DeVito does his best Roberts impression when he erupts in laughter after Charlie closes the meat cube box on his hand. Charlie doesn't let the reference go unnoticed by directly stating he was inspired by the 1990 film.
LGBTQ Representation In Rom-Coms
In a rare move for
It's Always Sunny, Mac earnestly expressed his sexuality through dance in "Mac Finds His Pride." And now that he's living more authentically, Mac is ready to find love in the rom-com spirit. While rom-coms featuring same-gender relationships do exist, they are few and far between. Dennis questions how a major rom-com with a gay lead would be accepted in the U.S. when he says, "It won't play in Middle America, but screw it — we'll jam it down their throats 'til they enjoy it."
Mac also brings up this lack of LGBTQ representation in rom-coms when he professes his intentions to Greg. "Maybe it won't play in Middle America and maybe it's not even ready for the mainstream, but it will win a ton of awards and it'll get a sh*t ton of attention ... for the liberal press," Mac says, undoubtedly referencing the non-comedic
Brokeback Mountain. Here's hoping Billy Eichner's upcoming rom-com gets the accolades Mac predicted.
Dennis deejays Mac's proclamation of love to Greg with some rom-com staples. "In Your Eyes" by Peter Gabriel from
Say Anything, "Kiss Me" by Sixpence None the Richer from She's All That, and "(I've Had) The Time of My Life" by Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes from Dirty Dancing all play.
Unfortunately, none of these songs are appropriate since, in another classic movie trope, Mac and Dennis have a major misunderstanding due to their eavesdropping. After thinking Teddy was either Greg or Lisa's lover, they learn he was their son who died of leukemia. There's the cringe for ya.
The Grand Romantic Gesture
Frank and Charlie realize they love Niki and Alexei right as they are about to leave Philadelphia on a bus. Like an airport run, their rush to the bus station is an example of a grand romantic gesture. More specifically, TVTropes notes this action is called a
"Race for Your Love."
But Frank and Charlie aren't the only ones showing off their love in a big way. "It was me, it was always me," Mac professes to Greg, which seems to riff off Kristin Scott Thomas'
Four Weddings and a Funeral line, "You, Charlie. It's always been you." And Niki from Austria is no stranger to rom-coms either since he instructs Charlie and Frank to meet them at the bus station again in one year's time — similar to meeting at the Empire State Building in An Affair To Remember and the film that was an homage to it, Sleepless in Seattle.
Bruce Springsteen's "Secret Garden" plays as a sort of theme for Tom Cruise and Renée Zellweger's love story in
Jerry Maguire. So while Jerry Maguire is a hybrid of genres, the song is still fitting as Charlie and Frank watch Alexei and Niki leave on the bus. And Frank takes the Jerry Maguire reference one revolting step further when he says, "He had me at gash, Charlie. He had me at gash" — mimicking the infamous line, "You had me at hello." It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia is about as far from a romance as you can get. But the Season 14 premiere was a reminder that the gang certainly are experts in the comedy aspect of romantic comedies.