There are sitcoms like King of Queens and Everybody Loves Raymond where characters usually don’t take things too far, and then there’s It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. This 2005 sitcom created by Rob McElhenney and Glenn Howerton plows through the rules established by earlier shows and presents a shocking comedy where the characters truly don’t care about one another or anyone else. The series has operated for 15 seasons and features five characters who remain the same delusional narcissists while the world progresses around them. Despite breaking boundaries other series had yet to approach and operating on a small budget, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia has grown to be one of the longest-running live-action comedy shows in America.
Even though It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia emerged as a low-budget project with no known actors, Rob McElhenney always expected it would be a hit. McElhenney tells Matt Goldberg of Collider that the show is “completely different, not something you’re seeing anywhere else” with “characters you’ve never seen before.” put simply, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia follows five sociopathic friends who operate an Irish bar named Patty’s Pub in South Philadelphia. “The Gang” is always developing various schemes to take advantage of other people and each other. The show stars Mac, played by Rob McElhenney, siblings Dennis and Dee, played by Glenn Howerton and Kaitlin Olson, Dennis and Dee’s father Frank, played by Danny Devito, and Charlie, depicted by Charlie Day. Let’s have a look at where the show started and how far it has come.
The Always Sunny Idea
Rob McElhenney admits he knew that he wanted to develop something that was the complete opposite of any series like friends. While the characters in friends must face conflicts and grow, McElhenney’s characters appear to refresh every episode and remain in their problematic ways. This characteristic of the show, McElhenney tells Rolling Stone, allows “so much more freedom” since the writers “don’t have to service any particular relationship at any given time.” McElhenney was motivated to develop a show of his own back in 2005 because he, along with fellow struggling actors Charlie Day and Glenn Howerton, was not having much luck getting roles in LA.
McElhenney tells The New York Times that It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia began as a short film written by McElhenney in which a “friend [comes] over to another friend’s house to get sugar, and the friend tells him he has cancer, and all the guy can think about is getting his sugar and getting out of there.” McElhenney, Day, and Howerton starred in the project as three struggling actors tiptoeing around Day’s cancer diagnosis.
Once the three actors shot the initial “home movie,” they were motivated to produce a second installment and quickly realized they had the material for a longer series. From there, the creators took matters into their own hands and produced a TV pilot for next to nothing.
The So Called $200 Sunny Pilot
According to The Washington Post, the It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia pilot was shot on a camcorder in the apartments of McElhenney, Howerton, and Day. While the approach was cheap, the quality fit into the mockumentary style of The Office and Curb Your Enthusiasm. When speaking to CBS’s Stephen Colbert, Charlie Day claims that the three of them shot the pilot “for nothing” and that he’s not sure where the rumor of the pilot’s $200 budget came from. After putting together the pilot, McElhenney presented the home video on DVD to a variety of executives and the team at FX ordered the first season. The premise was quickly edited from three struggling actors to a group of characters who own and manage a bar.
While FX was enthusiastic about the show’s first season, the production company wanted to add to the cast after the series received low ratings in its initial release. One addition ended up being the beloved Danny DeVito, who provided the boost that FX was looking for. Initially, McElhenney, Howerton, and Day were resistant to adding a big name to the show because they liked the idea of a show involving a completely unknown cast, but FX insisted. Fortunately, DeVito was the perfect fit and adds to the quirky dynamic of the series.
It’s Always Sunny Lives On
It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia shows no signs of stopping. Rob McElhenney reveals in an interview with NME that he will make the show “forever” if he is allowed to. He says that “if they keep paying [him] and the audience keeps watching it and still love it, why would [he] Stop?” Although additional seasons have been delayed due to the COVID pandemic, as of late 2020, the series has been approved for four more seasons. Season 15 premiered in late 2021 and all seasons are available for streaming on Hulu.