Jumping the Soapbox: It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia: The One Where Dennis Leaves the Show

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One of my favorite shows of all time is Its Always Sunny in Philadelphia which I actually came into pretty damn late into its run.  I was always aware of its existence, but I never really had a reason to sit down and watch it until around 2013 when I was stuck in bed for like two days due to a minor surgery I had and I needed something to watch to kill the time.  In an effort to fix that problem, I booted up Netflix, saw that it had like eight seasons, and figured why not?  To this day, I rarely go a week (and usually no more than a single day) without putting it on in the background of whatever it is I’m trying to do at the time which is more often than not writing stuff for the site (I’m watching Mac’s Banging the Waitress as I’m typing this… though less likely to be watching it while you’re reading this).  Sadly though for fans of Sunny, the latest season ended on a rather bittersweet note as it may in fact have been the final appearance of Glenn Howerton’s Dennis Reynolds who is STRONGLY considering leaving the show, despite it getting renewed for at least two more seasons.  Now as much as I’d hate to see him go, I don’t necessarily begrudge him for doing so considering they’ve already done twelve AMAZING seasons, and I hope he has all the success in the world with what he plans to do next which looks to be a show with Patton Oswalt where he plays a disgruntled and malicious high school teacher.  So what does this mean for fans of Sunny?  I have no idea!  Maybe they’ll hold out for him on the off chance this new show fails (the thirteen season has already been pushed back a year), or maybe they’ll try to solider on without him; hoping the remaining four members of the crew can somehow manage the burden of his absence.  For me though, this is a perfect chance to do some fun speculation on possible replacements for Howerton to either fill the void he left or to possibly even turn the show into an entirely new direction.  That is why I have listed my top five BRILLIANT ideas of who they should get to be the new fifth member of the crew, though unfortunately Schmitty is not one of them.  The ranking is mostly in terms of how much I want to see this person (or even persons) show up in the series, but I TRIED to keep the list as practical as possible.  As amazing as it would be to get Nicolas Cage, Scarlett Johansson, or Denzel Washington to be fifth member of the crew, I doubt they’ll be picking up Rob McElhenney’s calls anytime soon.

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5) Topher Grace

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Probably not the first name that comes to mind when trying to fill in an enormous gap on one of the most ingeniously crafted shows of all time, but hear me out!  We all know he played nerdy Eric Foreman for a decade and that he wasn’t all that great in Spider-Man 3, but his filmography since then has been, if not STERLING, at least interesting.  He’s REALLY good at playing slimy characters like in Predators and American Ultra which is more or less a requirement for a show like It’s Always Sunny, but what really makes him seem like a perfect fit is that he naturally exudes a sense of weakness and apathy in his performances which I know doesn’t sound like a complement but fits perfectly with the ethos of the show.  Everyone in that bar, except maybe Frank, has no direction in their life and is living in a perpetual state of denial about everything around them with Mac thinking he’s tough, Charlie thinking he’s quirky instead of a creep, and Dee failing to understand why she’s never achieved her goals (fear of rejection keeps her from making a whole hearted effort at anything).  Look at his performance in the recent Opening Night where his level headed cynicism is clearly a mask for his own insecurities and how the wackiness of everyone backstage continues to push him further and further over the edge.  Now imagine it was the crew that was pushing his buttons the whole time!  The guy seems to be getting regular work in films just outside the mainstream (his most recent role was in a Netflix movie) so I doubt he’s looking to tie himself down to a TV show, but that kind of character coupled with the horror show that is the crew at Paddy’s Pub could make for an interesting dynamic.

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4) Andrew Leeds, Allison Munn, and D’Anthony Palms as Jason, Kelly, and David

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Now this one is cheating a bit; not necessarily because I’m references characters who have already been in the show or even the fact that there are three of them.  It’s a cheat because I honestly don’t think that they could sustain a whole season or longer as THE NEW GUYS at the bar; rather it would be a great season opener to not only close the book on their characters (Frank screwed them over REALLY badly in The Gang Misses the Boat) but to ease us into the transition from Dennis to whoever they get to replace him.  The show has always done a surprisingly good job of maintaining continuity which is rewarding for die-hard fans of the show such as myself, and I think now would be the perfect time to remind of us of that even if it’s just for one episode.  Maybe they manage to track down Frank and try to get their revenge, but instead they find themselves among a very needy group of people that try to indoctrinate them into their way of life and to fill in the hole that Dennis left behind and they barely manage to escape before it’s too late.  I’d certainly like to see THAT episode!

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3) Dean Winters

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Who doesn’t love Dean Winters!?  He was on Oz like a million years ago, he played Tommy’s brother on Rescue Me, and he’s even managed to insurance commercials mildly interesting (oddly enough, a characteristic he shares with fellow Oz alumni JK Simmons).  Speaking of Rescue Me, I also kind of wanted Denis Leary to take this spot on the list (both pretty similar actors in terms of the roles they like to take) but I’ll give the edge to Winters who can blend in a bit better into his roles than Leary can.  While Leary is always fun to watch on screen, he’s always Denis Leary even when he’s play a fireman, a rock and roll musician, or even a political operative.  Winters on the other hand, while I’ll recognize his smug face and sexy voice from a mile away, doesn’t necessarily carry that kind of baggage in his performances, though that’s just how I tend to see it.  He’s also a bit older than the three younger members of the crew (coming in between them and Frank) which I think would be an interesting change up to the dynamic if they wish to try something different.

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2) Trevor Moore

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The Whitest Kids U’ Know may not have been to everyone’s taste but some of the sketches they did (Kid Beer, The Grapist, Opposite Day) are easily up there with the greats like SNL, The Kids in the Hall, and Monty Python.  Now each member of that crew certainly pulled their weight and brought a lot to the material (Sam was the workhorse, Timmy was the one to take abuse, and Zach and Darren were fantastic foils) but the standout to me was Trevor who had that extra level of Bill Murray style charisma which I think would make him a perfect fit for the show.  He’s probably the safest bet on this list at least in terms of replacing what Glenn Howerton brought to the table (the two share a lot of the same characteristics as Trevor Moore often did sketches as the head fool among fools), but the guy is such a great comedic actor that I’d like to see what he would do even if his direction is to be as close to Dennis as possible.  At the very least, it’d give him something to do while he tries to get that Whitest Kids U’ Know movie off the ground!

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1) Zach Ward as Davy Mara

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The episode before the season twelve finale where Dennis presumably leaves the show, we got an episode all about Matthew “Rickety Cricket” Mara and got to see his family which includes his brother Davy played by the one and only Zach Ward.  While I remember him as the dumb brother on Titus, the rest of you probably remember him as Scut Farkus from A Christmas Story; the obnoxious bully who picked on Ralphie.  The guy is seriously underrated as an actor and has a long career of surprisingly good work; including the lead role in Postal which is one of the few Uwe Boll movies that I can stand.  Okay, the movie is still garbage, but HE’S really fun in it, and he was a lot of fun in his recent appearance on Sunny.  So why should he be the replacement for Dennis?  Well on top of just being a fantastic and hilarious actor that will bring his all to that kind of role, I think it’d be a genius move as adding him to the crew would feel a lot more natural than springing some new person on us at the start of the next season.  He was already established into this world and also has a direct connection to one of the more endearing recurring characters (Rickety Cricket) which means it wouldn’t take much to bring him into the fold.  Think about it.  We pick up not long after Cricket’s episode which ends with him going back to drugs and living on the streets instead of dealing with his family, and his brother decides to hunt down the bastards who turned his brother into a bum.  One thing leads to another (probably an absurd scheme that reveals some of his own inner demons), and the next thing you know he’s trying to run the bar and keep them in line the same way that Dennis would sometimes be forced to do when the need arises.  Okay, this is getting dangerously close to fan fiction but I assume that you all get the point.  Not only is he a great actor that can bring a lot to the table, but the serendipitous nature of his part being written into the show RIGHT before a major shakeup is too good of an opportunity to ignore.

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Look!  He even knows how to play Night Crawlers!!

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Agree?  Disagree?  Have some great ideas of your own?  Let everyone know in the comments below!!

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