It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia (2005– )
|Content Rating||TV-MA (TV-MA)|
|Awards||Top rated TV #66 | Nominated for 3 Primetime Emmys4 wins & 15 nominations total|
|Company||Bluebush Productions, 3 Arts Entertainment, FX Productions|
It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia
It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia is an American sitcom that premiered on FX on August 4, 2005, and moved to FXX beginning with the ninth season in 2013. It was created by Rob McElhenney, who developed it with Glenn Howerton. It is executive produced and primarily written by McElhenney, Howerton, and Charlie Day, all of whom star alongside Kaitlin Olson and Danny DeVito. The series follows the exploits of "The Gang," a group of narcissistic friends who run the Irish bar Paddy's Pub in South Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
The series' fourteenth season concluded in November 2019. The series was renewed for a fifteenth season in May 2020, making it the longest-running live-action comedy series in American television history, replacing The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, which ran for 14 seasons between 1952 and 1966. In December 2020, the series was renewed for a total of four additional seasons, bringing it to season 18.
The series follows "The Gang", a group of five misfit friends: twins Dennis (Glenn Howerton) and Deandra "(Sweet) Dee" Reynolds (Kaitlin Olson), their friends Charlie Kelly (Charlie Day) and Ronald "Mac" McDonald (Rob McElhenney), and (from season 2 onward) Frank Reynolds (Danny DeVito), Dennis' and Dee's legal father. The Gang runs the fictional Paddy's Pub, an unsuccessful Irish bar in South Philadelphia.
Each member of "The Gang" displays unethical behavior and traits such as excessive drinking and substance use, dishonesty, cruelty, selfishness, and egotism. Episodes usually find them hatching elaborate schemes and often conspiring against one another and others for personal gain, vengeance, or simply the entertainment of watching another's downfall. They habitually inflict mental, emotional, and physical pain on each other and anyone who crosses their path. They also regularly use blackmail to manipulate one another and others outside of the group.
The Gang's unity is never solid, and they will quickly dump any of the others for a quick profit or personal gain regardless of the consequences. Despite this, they ultimately return to their usual group dynamic due to their toxic codependency. Everything they do results in contention among themselves and much of the show's dialogue involves the characters arguing or yelling at one another. Despite their lack of success or achievements in life, they maintain high opinions of themselves and display an obsessive interest in their reputations and public images.
The Gang has no sense of shame when attempting to get what they want and often engage in activities that others would find humiliating, disgusting, or shocking. Some of these situations include: becoming addicted to crack cocaine and pretending to be mentally challenged in order to qualify for welfare; attempted cannibalism; kidnapping; blackface; hiding naked inside a couch in order to eavesdrop on people; tricking a man into giving his daughter a lap dance; forcing each other to eat inedible items; huffing paint; foraging naked in the sewers for rings and coins; impersonating police officers in order to get free goods and extort civilians; sleeping with each other's romantic interests; seducing a priest; secretly feeding someone their dead pet; plugging their open wounds with trash; grave robbing; setting a room full of people on fire and locking the door to avoid an uncomfortable Thanksgiving meal; stalking their crushes; fantasizing about killing each other; taking out life insurance on a suicidal person; orally siphoning gasoline; and pretending to have AIDS in order to get priority access to water park rides—among many other scenarios.
During the Season 7 episode "The Gang Gets Trapped," in which The Gang breaks into a family's home and has to hide from them when they return, an angry monologue by Dennis captures the essence of The Gang's modus operandi:
We immediately escalate everything to a ten... somebody comes in with some preposterous plan or idea, then all of a sudden everyone's on the gas, nobody's on the brakes, nobody's thinking, everyone's just talking over each other with one idiotic idea after another! Until, finally, we find ourselves in a situation where we've broken into somebody's house – and the homeowner is home!
Except for certain rare occasions, Paddy's Pub does not do well financially. There are often only a few customers inside at a time, if any, and those present sometimes "appear to be serving themselves." Passersby avoid the bar because of the numerous stabbings (and deaths) that have occurred there. The Gang has been known to close Paddy's for extended periods without warning. When the bar is open, they shirk their respective jobs' responsibilities and choose to drink instead. Paddy's is able to stay in business because of Frank's financial backing; he earns his money the following ways: through a sweatshop in Vietnam, from backdoor dealings with shady and lurid characters, from various businesses he started as a young man, from government bailouts, and from tax fraud. In addition, money is saved through paying Dee less than minimum wage, and, at one point, "getting some slaves."
Cast and characters
- Charlie Day as Charlie Kelly – Charlie was a co-owner of Paddy's Pub, but traded his capital investment for "goods and services," half a sandwich, and other undisclosed compensation. He is a childhood friend of Mac, and high school friend of Dennis and Dee. He is also the roommate of Frank, who may or may not be his biological father. Charlie does most of the actual work and maintenance (referred to as "Charlie Work") at the pub. He is unable to properly read or write, and is an alcoholic substance abuser often seen huffing glue or paint, as well as eating various items not meant for human consumption, such as cat food. He lives in squalor with Frank in a run-down, vermin-infested apartment and has deep-seated psychological problems. Charlie has unresolved anger issues, often screaming to get his point across. In spite of his general lack of intelligence, Charlie is a naturally gifted musician and a self-proclaimed expert in 'bird law'. He also has an unhealthy obsession with "The Waitress," a recurring character who finds Charlie repulsive and shows no interest in him until the Season 12 finale.
- Glenn Howerton as Dennis Reynolds – Dennis is a co-owner of Paddy's Pub and Dee's twin brother. Easily the most psychopathic of the five friends, Dennis is narcissistic, superficial, hypersexual, selfish, and abrasive. He graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a minor in psychology. His predatory nature is often depicted through numerous attempts to seduce various women; which, when successful, result in him gaslighting and emotionally abusing them in order to win over their favor before inevitably dumping them once he has had sex with them (a method which he proudly labels "The D.E.N.N.I.S. System"). It is strongly hinted at times that Dennis may be a serial killer, though this remains ambiguous. In season 10, he is diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, though he frequently denies this and believes himself to be completely rational, and is convinced that he is in complete control of everything and everyone around him, going as far as to label himself a ‘golden god’. In the season 12 finale, he discovers he has an infant son and moves to North Dakota to raise him. He returns to Philadelphia in season 13, supposedly supporting his family from a distance.
- Rob McElhenney as Ronald "Mac" McDonald – Mac is one of the co-owners of Paddy's Pub and also acts as the bouncer. He is Charlie's childhood friend and Dennis's high school friend and later roommate. The son of a convicted felon who has been in prison for much of Mac's life, he frequently attempts to demonstrate his toughness and refers to himself as the "sheriff of Paddy's". Deeply insecure, Mac seeks the approval of those around him, especially his father, his apathetic and emotionally absent mother, and Dennis. He suffers from body dysmorphia and has been depicted at various weights throughout the course of the series: prior to the beginning of Season 7 he gained 60 pounds (27 kg) and was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, and when he finally returned to a healthy weight he admitted he missed supposedly coming across as 'scary' to people. By the time Season 13 arrived, he was noticeably ripped and physically stronger. He often brags about his hand-to-hand combat skills, but typically flees from physical confrontation and is usually depicted as the most cowardly of the gang. Mac is a Roman Catholic, though he often espouses strong Christian fundamentalist opinions, despite his often amoral behavior, such as casual sex with numerous women, including Dennis's and Dee's mother. Though it is frequently insinuated Mac harbors homosexual feelings, he maintained an adamant denial of any such proclivity, much to the gang's annoyance, until he comes out in season 12. Later episodes reveal that Mac is sexually attracted to his best friend, Dennis.
- Kaitlin Olson as Deandra "Sweet Dee" Reynolds – Dee is Dennis's twin sister and the waitress at Paddy's Pub. Though initially depicted as 'the voice of reason' within the group, over the course of the series she gradually loses any sense of moral fortitude that she once had and is frequently shown to be just as prejudiced and depraved as her male friends. Dee wore a back brace in high school, leaving her with the nickname "The Aluminum Monster," and she is constantly referred to by the gang as a bird, due to their perception of her as a giant, awkward, avian creature. She majored in psychology at the University of Pennsylvania but did not graduate. Dee lives alone in an apartment. Though often the butt of the gang's jokes, she frequently involves herself in their schemes, perhaps due to her constant need for approval and attention from her peers. She does not hold any ownership stake in the bar - perhaps due to the gang's various prejudices against her, but also in part to her desire to become a professional actress/comedienne (an ambition that when she is committed to achieving, she consistently fails to achieve due to her debilitating stage fright and her general lack of any apparent talent). In multiple episodes, it is referenced that Dee set her college roommate on fire, and is often portrayed as the most physically violent of the group. Despite expressing outward disgust at her brother's more predatory behavior, later episodes reveal Dee to not be above such behavior herself, including having her own version of his famous "implication".
- Danny DeVito as Frank Reynolds – Introduced in the second season, Frank is the legal father of Dennis and Dee, and may be the biological father of his roommate Charlie. He used to be a successful businessman with a long history of illegal operations and dealings with sordid characters, but chose to abandon that life and redeem himself after leaving his "whore wife." He has since embraced his "feral" nature and describes himself as "fringe class". Despite his substantial financial resources, he chooses to share a decrepit studio apartment with Charlie, where they live in squalor and sleep together on a pullout couch. The two have similar interests, such as playing the inexplicable game of Night Crawlers and foraging naked in sewers for valuables. Frank is also a severe compulsive gambler, seen betting on everything from grade school basketball to Russian roulette. He styles himself a master manipulator and frequently takes the lead in the group's schemes. He always arms himself with at least one loaded handgun (and does not hesitate to brandish or even discharge one when provoked) and often snorts cocaine as part of his daily routine.
Charlie Day, Glenn Howerton, and Rob McElhenney met each other while struggling to find acting gigs in Los Angeles. The show came out of a short film idea written by McElhenney and Howerton "where a friend came 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." This was then developed into a pilot called It's Always Sunny on TV and was shot on a digital camcorder and filmed in the actors' own apartments. They expanded the central cast to four people living in Los Angeles, "a group of best friends who care so little for each other," Howerton said.
It was believed the pilot was shot with a budget of just $200, but Day would later comment, "We shot it for nothing...I don't know where this $200 came from...We were a bunch of kids with cameras running around shooting each other and next thing you know, we're eleven years in and we're still doing the show." This pilot was shopped by the actors around various studios, their pitch being simply showing the DVD of the pilot to executives. After viewing the pilot, FX Network ordered the first season. The show was budgeted at $450,000 an episode, less than a third of a network standard, using Panasonic's DVX100 MiniDV prosumer video camera. The original concept had "the gang" being out-of-work actors with the theme song being a cha-cha version of "Hooray for Hollywood," however there were too many shows at the time with a similar premise. "The network came to us and said, 'We don’t want a show about actors,' and we said, 'Fine, let’s put it somewhere else,'" McElhenney explained. "I'm from Philly, let's put it in Philly, and we'll make it about a bar, because that's a job where you can have lots of free time and still have income that could explain how these people can sustain themselves." Prior to Kaitlin Olson joining the show, the character Sweet Dee was originally played by Jordan Reid, who at the time was the girlfriend of McElhenney, but was recast after they broke up.
After the first season, FX executives were worried about the show's low ratings and demanded that changes be made to the cast. "So, John Landgraf, who's the president of FX, he called me in for a meeting and was like, 'Hey, no one's watching the show, but we love it,'" McElhenney recalled. "'We wanna keep it on, but we don't have any money for marketing, and we need to add somebody with some panache that we can hopefully parlay into some public relations story, just so we can get people talking.'" FX began suggesting actors such as Danny DeVito that could boost the show's profile. "It's not that we were reticent to the idea of adding Danny to the show," Howerton recalled, "It's that we were reticent to add a name to the show. You know, because we kinda liked that we were no-names and it was this weird, small thing, you know." Initially, McElhenney refused, saying "No, I just don't think we wanna do that, and they were like, 'Oh OK, well, you know...the show's over.'" Realizing they needed to change the trajectory of the show to please the network, McElhenney, Howerton, and Day became open to adding a new cast member who was familiar to the public. DeVito joined the cast in the first episode of the second season, playing the father of Dennis and Dee.
The show is shot in both Philadelphia and Los Angeles. The exterior of Paddy's Pub is located at the Starkman Building on 544 Mateo Street in Los Angeles.
On April 1, 2016, the series was renewed for a thirteenth and fourteenth season, which matched The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet with the most seasons for a live-action sitcom in American television history. On April 9, 2020, McElhenney announced that writing had begun for season 15, and in May 2021 that filming had begun for it.
|First aired||Last aired||Network|
|1||7||August 4, 2005||September 15, 2005||FX|
|2||10||June 29, 2006||August 17, 2006|
|3||15||September 13, 2007||November 15, 2007|
|4||13||September 18, 2008||November 20, 2008|
|5||12||September 17, 2009||December 10, 2009|
|6||14||September 16, 2010||December 16, 2010|
|7||13||September 15, 2011||December 15, 2011|
|8||10||October 11, 2012||December 20, 2012|
|9||10||September 4, 2013||November 6, 2013||FXX|
|10||10||January 14, 2015||March 18, 2015|
|11||10||January 6, 2016||March 9, 2016|
|12||10||January 4, 2017||March 8, 2017|
|13||10||September 5, 2018||November 7, 2018|
|14||10||September 25, 2019||November 20, 2019|
Broadcast and syndication
The first season ran for seven episodes with the finale airing September 13, 2005. According to McElhenney, word of mouth on the show was good enough for FX to renew it for a second season, which ran from June 29 to August 17, 2006. Reruns of edited first-season episodes began airing on FX's then-parent network, Fox, in June 2006, for a planned three-episode run—"The Gang Finds a Dead Guy," "Gun Fever" (which was renamed "Gun Control") and "Charlie Gets Molested" were shown. The show was not aired on broadcast television again until 2011, when FX began offering it for syndication.
The third season ran from September 13 to November 15, 2007. On March 5, 2008, FX renewed It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia for a fourth season. On July 15, 2008, it was reported that FX had ordered 39 additional episodes of the series, produced as seasons five through seven of the show. All five main cast members were secured for the entire scheduled run. The fifth season ran from September 17 to December 10, 2009. On May 31, 2010, Comedy Central began airing reruns. WGN America also began broadcasting the show as part of its fall 2011 schedule.
The sixth season ran from September 16 to December 9, 2010, comprising 12 episodes, plus the Christmas special. The seventh season ran from September 15 to December 15, 2011, comprising 13 episodes. On August 6, 2011, FX announced it had picked up the show for an additional two seasons (the eighth and ninth) running through 2013. On March 28, 2013, FX renewed the show for a tenth season, and announced that it would move to FX's new sister network, FXX.
In April 2017, Kaitlin Olson announced that It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia would go on an extended hiatus. In an interview with TV Guide, she said, "We ended up pushing our next season a year because we were all busy with separate projects this year. So at the end of this coming shooting season of The Mick, I'll step right into Sunny after that."
On October 2, 2017, the show premiered on Vice on TV.
The series is available for streaming on Hulu except for the episodes "America's Next Top Paddy's Billboard Model Contest", "Dee Reynolds: Shaping America's Youth", "The Gang Recycles Their Trash", "The Gang Makes Lethal Weapon 6" and "Dee Day", due to scenes involving blackface. The same episodes are missing from Netflix in the UK.
Performed by Heinz Kiessling (30 seconds)
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The show uses recurring orchestral production music selections. "We had a music supervisor called Ray Espinola and we said, 'Give us everything you have in a sort of Leave It to Beaver with a big band-swing kind of feel,' and the majority of the songs are from what he sent over," Charlie Day explained. "When you set it against what these characters were doing—which often times can be perceived as quite despicable, or wrong—it really disarmed the audience. It just became our go-to library of songs." The theme song is called "Temptation Sensation" by German composer Heinz Kiessling. Kiessling's work ("On Your Bike" and "Blue Blood") can also be heard during various scene transitions throughout the show, along with other composers and pieces such as Werner Tautz ("Off Broadway"), Joe Brook ("Moonbeam Kiss") and Karl Grell ("Honey Bunch"). Many of the tracks heard in the series are from Cafe Romantique, an album of easy listening production music collected by Extreme Music, the production music library unit of Sony/ATV Music Publishing. Independent record label Fervor Records has also contributed music to the show. Songs from The Jack Gray Orchestra's album Easy Listening Symph-O-Nette ("Take A Letter Miss Jones," "Golly Gee Whiz," and "Not a Care in the World") and the John Costello III release Giants of Jazz ("Birdcage," "Cotton Club" and "Quintessential") are heard in several episodes. The soundtrack, featuring most of the music heard on the show, was released in 2010.
Soundtrack track listing
|1.||"Temptation Sensation (Main Title Theme)"||Heinz Kiessling||The Heinz Kiessling Orchestra||2:53|
|2.||"Derby Day"||Werner Tautz||The Heinz Kiessling Orchestra||2:39|
|3.||"Blue Blood"||Heinz Kiessling||The Heinz Kiessling Orchestra||2:54|
|4.||"On Your Bike"||Heinz Kiessling||The Heinz Kiessling Orchestra||2:15|
|5.||"Take the Plunge"||Heinz Kiessling||The Heinz Kiessling Orchestra||3:10|
|6.||"Hotsy-Totsy"||Heinz Kiessling||The Heinz Kiessling Orchestra||2:18|
|7.||"Off Broadway"||Werner Tautz||The Heinz Kiessling Orchestra||2:31|
|8.||"Coconut Shy"||Heinz Kiessling||The Diamontinos||2:25|
|9.||"Honey Bunch"||Karl Grell||The Ralph Manning Orchestra||2:44|
|10.||"Glitterati Party"||Werner Tautz||The Heinz Kiessling Orchestra||2:51|
|11.||"Singles Soiree"||Richard Faecks||The Rüdiger Piesker Orchestra||2:09|
|12.||"Pink Deville"||Paul Rothman||The Ole Olafsen Band||2:34|
|13.||"Captain's Table"||Heinz Kiessling||The Heinz Kiessling Orchestra||2:44|
|14.||"Starlet Express"||Werner Tautz||The Heinz Kiessling Orchestra||2:31|
|15.||"Final Fling"||Heinz Kiessling||The Heinz Kiessling Orchestra||2:29|
|16.||"Sweetheart Serenade"||Werner Tautz||The Heinz Kiessling Orchestra||2:54|
|17.||"Tea at Tiffani's"||Werner Tautz||The Heinz Kiessling Orchestra||2:28|
|18.||"Moonbeam Kiss"||Joe Brook||The Rüdiger Piesker Orchestra||2:21|
|19.||"Grand Central"||Werner Tautz||The Heinz Kiessling Orchestra||3:15|
Reception and legacy
It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia has received critical acclaim. Emily Nussbaum of The New Yorker praised the show, calling it "not merely the best sitcom on television but one of the most arresting and ambitious current TV series, period." Gillian Flynn of Entertainment Weekly reviewed the first season negatively, commenting, "t is smug enough to think it's breaking ground, but not smart enough to know it isn't." Brian Lowry of Variety gave the first season a positive review, saying it was "invariably clever and occasionally a laugh-out-loud riot, all while lampooning taboo topics." Later seasons of the show have received favorable ratings on review aggregator Metacritic, receiving 70/100, 78/100 and 85/100 for seasons 4, 5 and 6 respectively. The show has become a cult hit with viewers and is often compared in style to Seinfeld—particularly due to the self-centered nature of its main characters. The Philadelphia Inquirer reviewer Jonathan Storm wrote, "It's like Seinfeld on crack," a quote that became widely used to describe the series, to the point that FX attached the tagline, "It's Seinfeld on crack."
In 2014, Entertainment Weekly listed the show at number 7 in the "26 Best Cult TV Shows Ever," with the comment that "it's a great underdog story ... If it sounds too dark for you, consider that there's an episode about making mittens for kittens, and it's adorable." In 2016, a New York Times study of the 50 TV shows with the most Facebook Likes found that Sunny was "more popular in college towns (and most popular in Philadelphia)."
In 2015, Rolling Stone rated the top 20 greatest and funniest It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia episodes, stating "for 10 seasons, the series had mined comic gold from the execrable behavior of the owners of Paddy's Pub." They claimed the two-part season 4 episode, "Mac and Charlie Die" is the sitcom's greatest episode yet. In 2019, the BBC called the show "the best US sitcom." They praised the show's unique outlook and ability to range from nihilistic humor to genuine heartfelt moments.
According to Matt Fowler of IGN, the series "broke new ground" due to its sociopathic depiction of "The Gang". It was also ranked 63rd in IGN's list of the top 100 TV shows of all-time.
The Nightman Cometh live
In September 2009, the cast took their show live. The "Gang" performed the musical The Nightman Cometh in New York City, Boston, Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Philadelphia. Mary Elizabeth Ellis and Artemis Pebdani also appeared in the performance as The Waitress and Artemis. Actress Rhea Perlman (wife of Danny DeVito) assumed the role of Gladys.
Creator Rob McElhenney said that Live Nation originally approached the cast about doing the show at 30 cities, but in the end the cast settled on 6. Co-developer Glenn Howerton described the show as "essentially an expanded version of the actual episode of "The Nightman Cometh," which was the final episode for season four. There are some added moments, added scenes, added songs, and extended versions of songs that already existed." Two new songs were included in the performance and a longer running time allowed for greater improvisation by the actors. The performance was also preceded by a preview screening of a season five episode.
The Los Angeles performance, filmed at The Troubadour, was included as a bonus feature on the season four DVD box set.
A Russian adaptation of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia premiered in Russia on the television channel TNT on May 12, 2014. This version is titled В Москве всегда солнечно (V Moskve vsegda solnechno, It's Always Sunny in Moscow) and like the original, centers around four friends, who own a bar called "Philadelphia" in Moscow.
A book based upon It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia was released on January 6, 2015, titled The Gang Writes a Self-Help Book: The 7 Secrets of Awakening the Highly Effective Four-Hour Giant, Today.