Though 'It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia' has been on for nine seasons, the show has only once been nominated for an Emmy (a Primetime Emmy for "Outstanding Stunt Coordination for a Comedy Series or a Variety Program" at that), and tonight's episode pokes fun at the show's lack of awards and at trying desperately to get an award.

The gang are all at Paddy's when Frank brings in a list of the bars nominated for the best of the year, and note that they've never been nominated. After some hemming and hawing, they reveal they do want to win an award, so they agree to "play the game" even though Dennis suggests it means nothing to him.

They go meet with the Restaurant and Bar Association representative (Roger Bart), and Frank starts by trying to offer the rep a bribe, but when he won't go out for lunch with Frank, the gang are about to spit when the rep reveals that the only reason they've never been considered before is that their entry form usually comes back covered in urine, racial slurs and fecal matter.

After they leave Dennis suggests they're too fringe, and the industry doesn't get them, while Charlie looks to win the best song award. Charlie goes to work on his number while everyone else goes to Sudz, their competition, which they find bright and fake. Frank plans to bribe the manager, while Dee, Dennis and Mac check out the environment. Their bartender is Greg and he's loaded with personality and lame jokes, and while ordering Greg has interactions with a black bartender named Maxwell and a waitress who's having boyfriend problems. They then deconstruct the bartender's actions, and note that it's weird he has one black friend. Frank meets with the manager (played by 'The Office''s Oscar Nuñez), which goes horribly. The others grow to like Sudz, and how they like it seems to be riffing on 'The Office' specifically. Frank says the manager complained that he's been to Paddy's, that it's just people yelling over each other, so Frank says they need to up their game and have an industry night, to which Dennis responds by saying they need to tweak their image.

Back at the bar Dennis wants them to have funny banter. Dennis also wants Dee to act pretty and benign (because funny women are threatening), and wants her to have a "will they or won't they" relationship with Mac. He also hands out banter cards, which they rehearse, and it goes poorly because Mac is too used to being hard, while Dee has bad timing. Frank then says they need to go darker because of a burlesque club he went to, while Mac wonders if it's location, but Dennis counters that there's another bar nearby that's already won a ton of awards (and I wonder who that is, because it's not 'The League'). Frank then asks if it's them, but no one thinks that. Charlie then reveals his "best song," which seems a riff on Randy Newman. After the song, Frank locks him in the basement because he doesn't like it.

For the party, Paddy's is transformed into more of a Sudz-esque bar, and for their industry night the manager from Sudz and the the Restaurant and Bar association rep are there, as is a regular Z (Chad Coleman) who looks pretty tough. They think about replacing him, but they don't want too many black characters as black bars don't win awards. Dee is lit up brightly, which she likes, but Mac hasn't mastered the PG banter, and Dee hasn't mastered timing. And when the two try to have romantic banter it ends in Mac trying to strangle Dee. Charlie then breaks free, but he's totally high on spray paint and then Z's black friends show up, which freaks out Dennis, who tries to steer everyone to the back room. But when he opens the door, they walk in on Frank being sodomized by a woman. Charlie then starts to play, but it's a new song where he tells the patrons to go f--- themselves. Mac, Dennis and Dee then decide to kick everyone out. The gang then says they don't need validation... but that they still really want an award.

I'd guess this is going to be their "For Your Consideration" episode next year at the Emmy's, and it's a very good one to give them. With a lot of meta jokes about 'Philly' itself and television in general, this does a good job of being funny, and directly about other things without going off the deep end. It's making references, but the references aren't the joke, and the laughs are strong.In fact, after last week's bum episode, this suggests this ninth season could be one of their best, because this was a great episode, and one of their best yet.