Announced today: Season 8 of the greatest comedy on cable television will begin in October, 2012. If you're not familiar with this incredible series, I suggest you call in sick tomorrow and spend the next 30 hours getting caught up. However, if you haven't that kind of time, here's 15 episodes to get you almost up to speed.
01: Season 1 Episode 1 - "The Gang Gets Racist." This is essentially the pilot episode though not the one (rumored to have been shot for 200 bucks in Charlie Day's apartment) that the creators sold to FX. That episode would later become "Charlie has Cancer." This episode is important because it sets up The Waitress as the love of Charlie's life and the inability of the gang to make decent decisions or just be nice to each other. Also, keep in mind Dee's lofty acting career goals and Dennis' vanity. 02: Season 1 Episode 3 - "Underage Drinking: A National Concern." In which the gang reverts to the high school versions of themselves when they choose to start serving minors at Paddy's. Some choice quotes: "Tim Murphy had sex with your prom date." "This is classic Tammy." 03: Season 2 Episode 3 + 4 - "Dennis and Dee Go On Welfare" and "Mac Bang's Dennis' Mom." I'm cheating a little here because these aren't technically a two-parter, but they're so close, I can't recommend one without the other. In Part 1: Dennis and Dee leave the bar in a huff after their father, Frank (new series regular Danny DeVito) buys half and takes over management. They attempt to follow their big dreams but after collecting some Unemployment Insurance opt to drink all day and get addicted to crack instead. In Part 2: Mac is propositioned by Dennis and Dee's mom and Charlie convinces him to sleep with her so that he can blackmail himself out of being blackmailed by Dennis who, after being hired back at the bar to do Charlie Work, threatens to sleep with The Waitress unless Charlie tells him he doesn't have to do Charlie Work anymore. Don't worry; nobody's plan works as planned. 04: Season 3 Episode 1 - "The Gang Finds a Dumpster Baby." If you're not intrigued by that title alone, there's no much else I can tell you except that I think it's the series strongest single episode from a story telling perspective. 05: Season 3 Episode 5 - "The Aluminum Monster vs. Fatty Magoo." In which Frank, Dennis, Charlie, and Mac go into the garment business when Dee swears revenge against her old high school frenemy. Perpetually underrated Judy Greer plays Ingrid Nelson AKA Fatty Magoo and you'll wonder how far Dennis will go to prove himself a winner. Hint: all the way. 06: Season 3 Episode 9 - "Sweet Dee's Dating a Retarded Person." Just watch it. 07: Season 3 Episodes 12 + 13 - "The Gang Gets Whacked." The first official two-parter on the list is also a return to drug addiction for some members of the gang. Also, meet Rickety Cricket AKA Street Rat AKA Matthew Mara. Sadly there wasn't room before for a good Cricket episode. He's an important side character for the rest of the series though, so this isn't the last we'll see of him. 08: Season 4 Episode 3 - "America's Next Top Paddy's Billboard Model Contest." Effectively spoofing America's Next Top Model, The Bachelor, YouTube, and the culture of fame in general, this episode is one I return to whenever I need to remember why Frank is no longer turned on by mules. 09: Season 4 Episode 5 + 6 - "Mac and Charlie Die." Back in season 3 there's a wonderful episode called "Dennis Looks Like a Registered Sex Offender" and in it we meet Mac's Dad, recent parolee, Luther. This is the bookend to that story, wherein Mac and Charlie, convinced that Mac's Dad will show up and kill them. The two options are to kill themselves or fake their own deaths. They opt for the latter, after much discussion, and hilarity ensues. Their deaths affect the rest of the gang in unusual ways as well. 10: Season 5 Episode 4 - "The Gang Gives Frank an Intervention." First of all: greatest teaser of any episode in the entire series (so far) and one of the best guest stars in Mary-Lynn Rajskub as Gail the Snail AKA The Garbage Pail Cousin of Dennis and Dee. Lastly, some secrets come out in a nice tie-in to one of the other episodes on this list. You won't want to miss it. 11: Season 5 Episode 5 - "The Waitress is Getting Married." There's too much to talk about here except for, Meet Artemis! Dee's friend from acting class. She's been around since season 2, showing up occasionally to do something brash and inappropriate. Here, her talents convalesce when she attends a party at Dee's as Frank's new booty call. Surprisingly, she's the least embarrassing one there. 12: Season 6 Episode 3 - "The Gang Buys a Boat." Unfortunately I chose not to include "Paddy's Pub: Home of the Original Kitten Mittens." in this listing, but it definitely deserves honorable mention. Someday, I suggest having a viewing party of all the episodes featuring Brian Unger as the lawyer. Now, I only bring this up as there's a throw-away line at the beginning of this episode about "Dick Towel money" and that reference will be lost on you. 13: Season 6 Episode 9 - "Dee Reynolds: Shaping Americas Youth." This isn't one of the best episodes of the series, or even this season, but that's only because the whole plot is a set-up for Lethal Weapon 5, the sequel Mac and Dennis made themselves. I can't--won't--say more than that. 14: Season 7 Episode 7 - "Chardee MacDennis: The Game of Games." Answers the age old question of what amoral narcissists do when there's nothing to do. 15: Season 7 Episode 12 + 13 - "High School Reunion" and "High School Reunion Part Two: The Gang's Revenge." In which everything we've learned over the past 7 years reaches its inevitable conclusion. We finally learn Mac's first and last name and the Aluminum Monster returns. There are many, MANY other episodes worth watching (literally all of them) but this is a good starter pack of thematically linked stories that show what the series can really accomplish when they aren't just trying to solve the world's crises. -M. Lightle-