One of the gags in Sunny that’s always impressed me (mainly for the fact that it seems so obvious, but I’ve never seen anyone else do it) is making a joke out of the title: There’s a cold open, some back-and-forths that set the stage for the episode’s plot, and then WHAM the title screen hits and hints at how this week’s scheme will go horribly, horribly wrong. Kind of a bleak reminder of the Gang’s ongoing spiral into self-destruction (“Frank Sets Sweet Dee on Fire” comes to mind).
Other times, when there’s an especially bizarre title, it’s satisfied to simply leave it at that (“The Gang Dances Their Asses Off”). And while all your thrown-in-the-towel English teachers told you to never judge a book by its cover, you can often tell whether an episode of Sunny is going to be good by the title alone.
Unfortunately that means that when there’s a kind of “meh” title, there’s usually a “meh” episode to follow (such as last week’s “Mac and Charlie: White Trash”). Fortunately, even a Sunny “meh” is still pretty good by “meh” standards, and that’s what “Mac’s Mom Burns Her House Down” is: not great but still pretty good.
So this week Mac’s Mom indeed burns her house down, which spurs her son’s maternal instincts (instincts that seem far more developed than her own, and I suspect the former were a direct result of the latter), and he takes her and her apparently indestructible dog in to his and Dennis’s apartment, something Dennis is obviously uncomfortable with. In the meantime, Charlie, despite his being the moral center of the Gang (did I just write that?), feels no such duty toward his own mother, who’s become a wreck since his Uncle Jack moved out. And the less said about Dee and Dennis’s paternal loyalty, the better.
So Mac and Charlie come up with the brilliant and inevitable idea to have Mac’s Mom move in with Charlie’s. Meanwhile, Frank, worried that his kids won’t take care of him when he turns into a drooling mongoloid, tries to cement his relationship with Dee, who’s nursing a cold and trying to get well for the upcoming Josh Groban concert.
Things with the moms don’t go well at first, as Charlie’s Mom can’t tolerate smokers and Mac’s Mom maintains her characteristic laconicness, with intermittent breaks for lighting up and changing the channel. Of course that hinders Mac and Charlie’s attempts to get them to bond, especially since Mac’s Mom tends to communicate in a series of grunts and coughs that only Mac can interpret, and Charlie’s Mom’s obsessive-compulsive tendency to do everything in threes (locking the door three times, turning the lights off three times) sends Mac’s Mom into fits when Charlie’s disturbs her sleep.
Frank’s efforts to bond with Dee go equally as bad until Dennis suggests he make Dee even sicker so he can be prove capable of taking care of her. This consists mainly of Frank spiking Dee’s health drink with NyQuil then tying her up in his apartment (because, as Dennis suggests, she feels too comfortable in her own apartment).
Back at Charlie’s Mom’s, things take an unexpected, albeit disturbing, turn when the two appear to bond over Mac’s Mom’s ability to treat Charlie’s like dirt and Charlie’s Mom’s fetish for having people do so. And Dennis and Frank somehow end up with the dog, who drinks the NyQuil (and a bottle of shampoo) and has a quick death scare before running off into the Philadelphia sunset. And Dee misses the concert.
Actually in retrospect it wasn’t a bad episode—not great, but pretty good (oh, that’s what I said before). The best parts are the insights into Mac and Charlie’s Mom’s lives (by the way, Charlie’s mom’s name is “Bonnie,” before you get angry at me for not mentioning it), who never struck me as particularly interesting characters but whose odd behaviors make for the episode’s best jokes—if you don’t count popping Mac’s dog’s eye back into its head (now you can get mad at me for forgetting the dog’s name [“Poppy”?]).
Frank and Dee’s subplot never quite takes off but still occupies a healthy bit of the running time. Still it’s not unwatchable, but I really wish Dee had more to do this season than standing around and trying not to look pregnant. But if the title of next week’s episode, “Who Got Dee Pregnant?”, is any indication, she will. And it’ll be great.