‘Sunny’ 9.01 & ‘The League’ 5.01 Recaps: “The Joke’s on Me”

In case you hadn’t been paying attention, the FX cable network launched a new sister network called FXX this month. As far as I can tell, FXX is aimed at the exact same demographics and features most of the same type of programming as the original FX, so I’m not really sure what the point of it is. In any case, to help it get off the ground, FX has moved a couple of its most popular comedy series to the new channel. Namely, the ninth season of ‘It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia’ and the fifth season of ‘The League’ premiered there last Wednesday. At least so far, both shows appear to be unaffected by the move and are off to strong starts.

‘It’s Always Sunny’

The ‘Sunny’ premiere, called ‘The Gang Broke Dee’, opens with poor Sweet Dee in a deep depression. She hasn’t showered, she wears dumpy clothes, and she eats month-old “trash cake” while smoking. The girl is such a hot mess, in fact, that the other guys feel uncharacteristically guilty for driving her to this state and take pity on her.

Mac, Charlie and Frank hatch a plan to cheer Dee up by signing her up for open mic night at a local comedy club. As they explain, she’s hit “that sweet spot between suicidal and actually dead” where comedians thrive. Dee, not really giving a shit, agrees to do it.

Dennis, however, is the lone standout. He doesn’t believe that they should encourage Dee into thinking that she might be good at anything. Instead, he embarks on a mission to find her a man. Not a good man, mind you, or a handsome man or a smart man. Those are all out of her league. But he’ll try to find an average to below-average schlub with low self esteem who might be willing to tolerate some time in Dee’s company. Dennis is, as always, ever so considerate.

Lo and behold, Dee turns out to be a hit at the comedy club. People actually laugh at her self-deprecating jokes about her filthy vagina. She lands a scuzzy agent (Ken Davitian from ‘Borat’) who gets her more gigs, at first opening for a popular diarrhea-based comedian named Landslide, and soon headlining her own shows, where she has accumulated fans who cheer at her catch phrase: “I’m Sweet Dee and the joke’s on me.” In a whirlwind of success, a big-time talent scout sees her act and offers to fly Dee out to Los Angeles in his private jet for a featured spot on ‘Conan’. Dee can’t believe her amazing good fortune. All of her dreams have finally come true.

In a classic ‘Sunny’ twist, the joke really is on Dee. Just as she’s rushed through the curtains for her big TV break, Dee is crushed to discover that the whole thing was an elaborate prank by the other guys (except Dennis, who was kept in the dark to sell the illusion). Frank paid people to laugh at Dee’s act, hired local actors to play the agent and talent scout, and rented a jet to fly her in circles around Philadelphia for several hours. None of it was real. They claim that they wanted to prove to her that she hadn’t hit rock bottom but could actually go lower. Also, they thought it would be hilarious to rub her nose in her misery.

A shell-shocked Dee flies into a furious rage and starts trashing the bar. Having gotten her back to her old self, the guys congratulate themselves on a job well done.

‘The League’

As good as that episode of ‘Sunny’ is, it didn’t quite manage to make me double over in convulsive fits of laughter as the best episodes have. On the other hand, the premiere of ‘The League’, called ‘The Bachelor Draft’, achieved that at least twice.

The first instance occurs when Andre (Paul Scheer) starts talking about his “man cave,” which leads his supposed-friends into a line of questioning about how many dudes he can cram into his man cave, and what would happen if those dudes wanted to have cream pies in the man cave. Andre, of course, obliviously and enthusiastically plays into the set-up.

Later, the guys meet up with their friend Ted (Adam Brody), who reveals that he has AIDS – not just H.I.V., but full-blown AIDS. I know, this doesn’t sound funny, but the show twists it in hilariously perverse ways. Despite his illness, Ted seems to be perfectly fine, and even dominates the league in fantasy football. The others remark that “full-blown Ted” has a better life than any of them, and whine about the unfairness of his “AIDSvantage.” Kevin believes that his AIDS cocktail treatment has boosted Ted’s intelligence like some sort of performance enhancing drug, and steals some of the pills to take himself. But the best part is when disgusting oaf Rafi shows up and announces that he has an easy cure for AIDS. All Ted has to do is take a baby aspirin each morning and, “That shit’ll be gone in a fucking month.” Jokes in this poor taste shouldn’t be funny, but this show knows how to mine them for politically incorrect humor.

The main plot of the episode sends the group out to Los Angeles for Andre’s wedding to Trixie (Jayma Mays), just about the only woman on Earth who can match Andre’s douchebaggery. And yes, Trixie’s still allergic to his semen.

Meanwhile, Ruxin refuses to take his Sacko punishment and quits the league. When no one else will have him, he agrees to join Rafi’s “Domination League.” Naturally, this turns out to be a huge mistake, as he realizes during his initiation, which finds him wearing a bull costume (with enormous testicles) and hunted by masked psychos, including Seth Rogen and Rob Huebel.

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