Longevity is always the expectation for a TV sitcom (at least here in the States), but I have to imagine it's a blessing and a curse in almost equal measures for the folks who write and produce them. After a certain number of years, it has to get increasingly difficult to come up with new stories and new scenarios for the same group of people who are presumably in the same place they were when the show started (or some slight variation on it, maybe). If there's one sitcom that has risen to this challenge the best, though, it's actually the one that also most readily comes to mind as the best example of an anti-sitcom.

Now into its twelfth season, It's Always isn't without its fair share of weak episodes...but it's also not without its fair share of conceptually inspired, adventurous entries, as well. "The Gang Recycles Their Trash" will always be one of the most impressively postmodern takes on a group's own material I've maybe ever seen, and it's tough to not be impressed by a show that manages to turn out what might very well be its best episode by a long shot ("Charlie Work") ten season into its run. At this point, the show's more recent seasons (though hardly its most consistent) have been a steady mix of standard sitcom stories and more high-concept episodes, whether that means the gang turning into a group of Black people for a musical episode or...spending an episode recreating a Lethal Weapon movie which requires two of the main characters to be in blackface for most of its runtime. Neither episode makes the viewer feel particularly comfortable while watching, and both are examples of a concept stretched just a little bit too thin. Unfortunately, the same applies to "Making Dennis Reynolds a Murderer."

The conceit is made clear as soon as you read the title, and the content of the episode is a mixture of The Jinx and Making a Murderer with perhaps just a little bit of The Night Of thrown in for good measure. Ostensibly, this episode accomplishes two goals: it pits the group and their behavioral tics against the backdrop of a murder investigation (mostly to successful results), and it offers an indictment of the types of true crime docudramas that the writers of this episode seem to see as being exploitative of both subject and audience. The latter goal doesn't really reveal itself until the very end of the episode, at which point everything we've seen is revealed to have been produced and edited by Mac and Charlie (perhaps the two characters least likely to have been able to actually accomplish this), who simply deliver these very literal criticisms by way of telling Dennis how they intend to produce and present their new documentary series. It's about as lazy as satire gets, and in an episode that actually uses lampshading to its benefit for the majority of its runtime.

Clumsy finishing moments aside, "Making Dennis Reynolds a Murderer" mostly works as a moderately-funny episode of Always Sunny. As usual, many of the best moments come from the writing staff having a deep love and thorough understanding of its characters. Mac's reliance on "shared humor." Dee's vocal warmup before shooting a talking-head interview. Charlie revealing that his mental state, which seems to be more regressive than usual, is the product of a ton of cat tranquilizers. These are the moments that work, especially when they're used to reveal or explain why the gang happens to be doing something that is straight out of either The Jinx or Making a Murderer. In short, this is a mostly-good episode of a mostly-great TV series. Always Sunny is at its best when it uses its characters as tools to escalate situations beyond any point they could realistically go (Dennis burning "I AM LEGEND" into a competing bar's lawn, Artemis staging an elaborate performance as she tries to determine who actually pooped the bed), and this episode simply doesn't manage to reach those heights.