The Gang sets a record: ‘It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia’ will become the longest-running live-action sitcom ever
The show that thrust Philly into a cultural spotlight centers on a group of friends trying — and failing — to run Paddy’s Pub. It was created by Philadelphia native Rob McElhenney.
With the premiere of its 15th season Wednesday on FXX, It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia becomes the longest-running live action comedy series ever. The sitcom beats out classic series The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, which ran for 14 seasons from 1952 to 1966.
The sitcom — ostensibly about a group of friends who own and run a Philadelphia bar but actually about a group of truly awful people — has thrust Philadelphia into the cultural spotlight, leaving many wondering if they can visit Paddy’s Pub and others wondering if the city is really full of miscreants like the “gang.”
The show, which premiered in 2005, was created by Philadelphia native Rob McElhenney, an alum of St. Joseph’s Prep and Temple University, and fellow actors Charlie Day and Glenn Howerton, who also star in the sitcom. The show centers on the group of friends trying — and failing — to run Paddy’s Pub, the fictional Irish bar in a nondescript part of the city.
When the show began, the characters were flawed, silly, and selfish, constantly trying to get one over on the other and launching schemes that included buying tanks of gasoline to resell at a higher price and charging people to witness a water stain that appeared to be in the shape of the Virgin Mary.
But as the show has gone on, the group has devolved into people who often relish backstabbing and conning their way through life. Somehow, the sitcom remains hilarious and the gang endearing to watch.
The show was borne out of boredom and a tough few years in Hollywood for McElhenney.
Then 27, McElhenney had grown tired of looking for acting jobs, picking up what work he could. Eventually, his boredom bred creativity, and he made a pilot with his friends “for the price of a couple of pizzas and the tape,” he told The Inquirer in 2005, and pitched it to a few networks. Ultimately, FX, a then-still-burgeoning network that has ended up the home of other comedy staples, bought his pilot.
Since the show’s inception, McElhenney, who grew up at East Moyamensing Avenue and Dickinson Street, has filmed as much as he can in Philadelphia. The city, he’s said, can’t be replicated.
“You can’t fake Philadelphia,” he said in 2005. “You can’t fake a feeling, and feelings come across the screen.”
When It’s Always Sunny premiered, it wasn’t always the critical darling it’s become over the years.
While Daily News critic Ellen Gray wrote that she admired “McElhenney’s energy,” she felt that the show was middling at best and didn’t have enough laughs to carry it’s often controversial topics.
“Sunny simply isn’t funny enough often enough to justify its rather labored envelope-pushing,” wrote Gray in 2005.
“Yes, its characters are frequently outrageous (and, OK, this is the first time I recall seeing ‘crack whore’ listed in credits), but often I hadn’t a clue why these guys were doing what they were doing,” she also wrote.
The sitcom — which is shot in both Los Angeles and in Philadelphia — has always been about Philadelphia, for better or worse. From the opening credits, viewers are taken on a ride across sites that include Lincoln Financial Field, Penn’s Landing, and Boathouse Row.
And Philadelphia landmarks are mentioned or seen throughout the show. The iconic Paddy’s Pub is one of the few locales that doesn’t actually exist, though McElhenney, along with co-star and wife Kaitlin Olson, purchased an Old City bar in 2010 and named it Mac’s Tavern (close enough).
The show, for all of its sometimes dark humor, has elevated Philadelphia in the eyes of the public, said Pete Caniglia, social media manager at Neff, a Philadelphia marketing agency.
“I think it’s brought a lot of Philly culture to the forefront, the show is super popular all around. Especially on social media, I’m constantly seeing ‘It’s Always Sunny’ memes,” he said.
“It shows our culture and shows what Philly is all about, said Caniglia. “The toughness of it and how fun they can be.”