The Most Controversial Episodes, Ranked

ytsfreeSeptember 8, 2022

Controversy is certainly not needed to produce a successful all-time comedy show; however, almost every series we consider to be the best to ever exist has had their moments of controversy throughout their runs. Just ask South Park, which despite its massive success, has some of the most controversial television episodes ever produced. It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia is most assuredly one of those shows that has never shied away from controversial topics or gone to questionable lengths to obtain a laugh, and while it doesn’t quite make IMDb’s list of the twenty most controversial television shows, it certainly has its share of moments. In fifteen years, Sunny has grown from a cult hit to one of the most highly acclaimed comedy series on television. That acclaim and popularity has not always been enough to keep Sunny out of the headlines. Let’s take a look at the six most controversial episodes of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.


6 ‘The Gang Goes Jihad’

When Paddy’s Pub is threatened by an Israeli businessman developing land on their street, the gang begins to go to extreme lengths to try and run him out of town. Part of their plan includes Charlie, Mac, and Dennis making a video in the style of a Middle-Eastern terrorist tape complete with headscarves and speaking in another language. What makes the episode and this scene as controversial as it is rests on it only being released five short years after 9/11. The United States was still on high alert, and Islamophobia ran rampant through some parts of the country. A group of three white men trying to drive an Israeli man out of town, no matter what the reason, may have caused more harm than laughter, making ‘The Gang Goes Jihad’ one of the most controversial episodes of the series.

5 ‘Charlie Got Molested’

The finale of the inaugural season of Sunny sees Charlie mixed up in a false molestation accusation by two of his school friends Ryan and Liam McPoyle, against their former gym teacher in an attempt to get revenge on him for their mistreatment in school. The episode also includes a subplot of Mac being jealous that he was not attractive enough of a kid to get molested. All of that sounds absurd to read aloud and just as absurd to see on a comedy sitcom. The basis of the molestation claims is enough to embroil this episode in controversy, but FX may have helped to avoid even more problems when they persuaded the writers to switch from a Catholic Priest to a gym teacher to avoid outcry from the Catholic community as caused by some of these movies that have sparked religious controversy.

4 ‘America’s Next Top Paddy’s Billboard Model Contest’

This episode of Sunny focuses heavily on the cast of characters portrayed by Dee as she attempts to prove her comedic talents and perhaps land a spot on Saturday Night Live. Two of those characters consist of Martina Martinez and Taiwan Tammy, which feature Dee in both brown face and yellow face while imitating accents of the two cultures. We have seen backlash from various shows for white actors portraying characters of different colors and cultures, most famously Hank Azaria as Apu on The Simpsons, a role Azaria feels the need to apologize for. The characters are featured again in a later season, causing both episodes to be pulled from the series lineup on Hulu.

Related: Jamie Foxx Gives an Update On His Controversial Unreleased Comedy All-Star Weekend

3 ‘Dee Reynolds: Shaping America’s Youth’

Another episode that features a character, this time in black face, as a prominent role. As Dee is substitute teaching she takes her class to Paddy’s Pub to view The Gangs film Lethal Weapon 5. Portraying the role of Roger Murtaugh played by Danny Glover in the original Lethal Weapon, Mac utilizes black face to play this part. We obviously do not need to point out what about using black face causes controversy, as we have seen in the past from films like Tropic Thunder. The use of this controversial form of “art” caused this episode and a subsequent episode later in the series to also be pulled from Hulu.

Related: Liam Neeson Addresses His Controversial Comments on Race in Atlanta Cameo

2 ‘Sweet Dee’s Dating a Retarded Person’

Much like the episode ‘Charlie Got Molested’ you can guess where things are headed the second the title card flashes on this season three episode. In the episode, Dee is dating an up-and-coming amateur rapper in Philadelphia named Lil’ Kevin who Dennis alerts her is a mentally disabled kid they knew when they were younger. This causes Dee great distress and causes her to inevitably break up with him. With the r-word used in its various forms featured heavily used throughout the episode, as well as the demeaning way in which the characters refer to Kevin, makes this one of the more controversial episodes of Sunny.

1 ‘The Gang Turns Black’

This is an episode that could be seen more as a commentary on racial issues in America, but is nevertheless controversial for how those themes are expressed throughout the episode. After a lightening strike sends a jolt of electricity through the gang’s VCR as they are watching The WIz one night with their companion Old Black Man, they find themselves in the bodies of five black people the following morning. This musical episode of Sunny then features the characters as they navigate through a day as Black individuals, from encountering the police, to Frank’s desire to say the n-word. To discount the whole episode would be unfair, as the writers do try and have the gang seemingly learn lessons about the everyday lives of Black people in America, no matter how surface-level the lessons may be. The ending of the episode is where the real controversy erupts. During a second confrontation with the police, Charlie, who is in the body of a young Black kid, is gunned down by police who suspect him of possessing a weapon that is simply a toy train. While the cut scene of the child being shot is very quick before it cuts back to Charlie, it is nevertheless a jarring visual that snaps the viewer out of the comedic world of Sunny they are used to and into the very real world we live in. This visual alone puts this episode in the number one spot of controversial Sunny episodes, even if the point of it is rooted in a meaningful message.


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