IT’S ALWAYS SUNNY IN PHILADELPHIA — “The Gang Turns Black” – Season 12, Episode 1 (Airs January 4, 10:00 pm e/p) Pictured: (l-r) Glenn Howerton as Dennis, Charlie Day as Charlie, Rob McElhenney as Mac, Kaitlin Olson as Dee, Danny DeVito as Frank. CR: Patrick McElhenney/FXX

IT’S ALWAYS SUNNY IN PHILADELPHIA returns to FXX for a 12th season tonight at 10/9c. The insane show about a bunch of Philly’s worst people/bar-owners began in 2005 and has outlived almost every show that came with it – only a handful (GREY’S, SUPERNATURAL, BONES, CRIMINAL MINDS) have lasted as long, while fellow 2005 show PRISON BREAK has already been gone long enough to be rebooted this Spring. It’s the longest running FX/FXX show in history; with the renewal through Season 14, it will likely rank as the longest running (in years, not episodes) live-action comedy series.

A show this long in the tooth has absolutely NO RIGHT to still be firing on all cylinders.  It defies creative science (is that a thing?) that a 6th episode of a 12th season should stand out as my favorite episode they’ve done. But here we are. Season 12 kicks off tonight with one of the more ambitious episodes that the gang has ever attempted.  Sure, they’ve done musical interludes, and have The Nightman Cometh under their belts, but tonight’s body-swapping song-and-dance half hour tries to teach the gang a lesson that they have absolutely no interest in learning, while surprises pop up left and right including a new house guest that’s never really explained.

Perhaps that’s why the show continues to be funny – these idiots never learn; they always, always, always get burned, but never grow, change, or make any strides towards being real human beings.  Even still, I’m always surprised at how things play out. On another show we may have watched for over a decade, you hope for redemption, you hope for change, but this gang of these people, you want to keep seeing them fail.

The guys (creator Rob McElhenney, Glenn Howerton, and Charlie Day) along with their creative team have gotten more adventurous, switching up the format of the show week after week, having found comfort in the stability of a decade-old show that allows them to throw stuff at the wall and see what sticks. Body-swapping, reality television, documentary send ups, mediation, water parks, Valentine’s Day – the only consistent through line is the rag tag bunch of morons who will never get it together (surprisingly, this season sees them change and make some strides towards human decency, but they always throw Cricket (David Hornsby) in there to course correct the gross train).

In a world full of bland, boring comedies that outlive their welcome, IT’S ALWAYS SUNNY is a very, very beautifully insane and familiar face that I never want to live without.