As many of you know, before he was altering reality with Paul Bettany and Elizabeth Olsen in WandaVision, director Matt Shakman was putting Glenn Howerton (Dennis), Kaitlin Olson (Dee), Rob McElhenney (Mac), Charlie Day (Charlie), and Danny DeVito (Frank) through their paces for ten years and 43 episodes of FXX and FX on Hulu's It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia (2007-2017). But his resume is as impressive as it is varied, ranging from One Tree Hill, Ugly Betty, and Children's Hospital to House, Psych, The Good Wife, and The Boys (with a whole ton more we could include. But because we're Always Sunny obsessives, we're focusing on the story of how Shakman went from Paddy's Pub to White Walkers.
2017 would be a big year for Shakman, with his 40th episode for Always Sunny ("The Gang Goes to a Water Park") also starring two gentlemen by the names of David Benioff and D.B. Weiss as "Lifeguard #1" and "Lifeguard #2." Why are those important and why are you finding them so familiar? Because they're the creators of HBO uber-popular Game of Thrones who also happen to be friends with the Always Sunny creators- especially McElhenney. How all this would lead to Shakman directing two episodes of GoT's Season 7 ("The Spoils of War" and "Eastwatch") is a story best saved for Shakman – starting at the 42:38 mark of Kevin Smith and Marc Bernardin's FatMan Beyond podcast. Not to spoil anything, but let's just say it also involves James McAvoy and horse allergies- and ends to with a nice prank at McElhenney's expense (with McElhenney also showing up in a GoT episode).
In honor of Shakman's skill as a director and the waves of praise he's receiving for his MCU series, we're offering a quick, down-n-dirty list of our favorite ten Always Sunny episodes helmed by Shakman. Please note that Season 4 episode "The Nightman Cometh" isn't on this list because it has a permanent place at the top spot in BCTV's Always Sunny Hall of Fame- so think of it as having had its number retired. As for the rest? Here's our prime ten:
"The Gang Cracks the Liberty Bell" S04E11: By the time you're done watching, I dare you to not try speaking as if you have wooden teeth, too.
"The Gang Gets Stuck in the Woods" S06E11: Dennis' "Chet Utley" knife twist to Mac might be one of the cruelest things he's ever done, and we don't want to know what Tom Sizemore did to get into character.
"Dee Gives Birth" S06E12: Along with being a trip down Dee's sexual memory lane (wow), we also have a rare instance of the boys going beta to Dee's alpha at the end of the episodes- little boys looking for "momma's" approval.
"Frank's Pretty Woman" S07E01: Consider this a PSA in why you shouldn't swallow one let alone dozens of fake blood capsules, as The Gang proves that it won't hesitate to abandon a dead body if it needs to. True friendship is defined as those willing to help you bury a body, so dumping in an apartment building hallway must count.
"The Gang Goes to the Jersey Shore" S07E02: Rum ham, bum sex, crystal meth, armed robbery, psychedelic drug use, and the best night of Charlie's life make for a sweet cocktail of comedy.
"Sweet Dee Gets Audited" S07E04: Oh, you think staging the funeral for a fake dead baby is low? Well, The Gang will see your "low" and not only match it but go for broke by having a decaying animal in the coffin to add a little weight.
"CharDee MacDennis: The Game of Games" S07E07: Dennis' inability to feel pain, Mac's scheduled freakouts, excessive drinking, some shady gameplay, and more make for what seemed like a natural for The Gang: their own "board game" (that should be illegal in at least 24 states).
"How Mac Got Fat" S07E10: Don't be fooled. As great as the flashback scenes are, the highlights are the confessional exchanges between Mac and Father Cullen (W. Morgan Sheppard) as Mac proves he can test the patience of even a somewhat-saint.
"Thunder Gun Express" S07E11: Ahhh, the sweet, sweet irony of watching The Gang abandon each other so they can see a movie about a hero who never leaves anyone behind. And yet each time it happens, I laugh my ass off even more. Extra points go to Mac's attempt to steal a motorcycle and how it goes oh so wrong.
"Charlie Work" S10E04: As much as we learned to appreciate Charlie's powers during the 13th season when he helped save the Super Bowl for the Philadelphia Eagles (along with Dee's pink eye), this was the episode where we got to see Charlie in "Jason Bourne" mode. Pass a health inspection and help the rest of The Gang out with a scam that (of course) went south? That's what Charlie calls a Monday.