Humble Beginnings of ‘It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia’
Knowing how successful the series is today, it may come as a surprise that the pilot episode of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia was reportedly shot on a budget of around $100. Rob McElhenney – who viewers will recognize for his role as one of the main characters, Mac – developed the concept for the show in 2004.
According to McElhenny, the idea evolved from a nightmare he had about a terminally ill man and his insensitive friend. The original pilot was shot by McElhenny with his co-stars Charlie Day (Charlie) and Glenn Howerton (Dennis) using their own cameras. In 2005, they filmed a tweaked version of the original pilot for FX, adding Kaitlin Olson (Dee) to the cast.
When the first season of It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia premiered in 2005, the ratings were lukewarm, with just over one million viewers tuning in for the premiere. The positive critical response kept FX optimistic about the show’s potential and the network executives wanted to bring in a big-name actor to boost the ratings. They got their wish when Danny DeVito agreed to guest star in season two. In fact, DeVito enjoyed production so much that he went on to become a regular cast member. This cemented the core cast that has remained ever since.
What’s In A Name?
While Philadephia is obviously a central part of the plot now, the title and setting of the series actually underwent a change from the original plans. Initially, it was named It’s Always Sunny on TV, and the characters were intended to be aspiring actors living in Los Angeles. But the network was hesitant to pick up a series about struggling actors, as that approach had been seen many times before. From there, McElhenney decided to have the characters run a bar in his hometown of Philadelphia instead.
Of the three It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia creators, viewers may notice that there’s a split in how their characters are named. Charlie’s name comes directly from actor Charlie Day and Mac is a take on Rob McElhenny’s last name. So, why doesn’t Glenn Howerton’s character feature a variation of the actor’s name? In interviews, Howerton explained that he didn’t use his own name for his character because he wanted to distance himself from Dennis’ disturbing behavior on the show.
With the show’s long, successful run, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia has now made the cast household names. Its popularity has also drawn the attention of many other Hollywood stars, leading to tons of celebrity cameos. A few of the famous faces that have appeared in minor roles throughout the series include Keegan-Michael Key, P-Diddy, Josh Groban, Dax Shepard, Sinbad, and Guillermo Del Torro, among others.
An Iconic ‘It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia’ Episode
One of the most well-known episodes of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia is “The Nightman Cometh,” the final episode of season four. The plot revolves around an original musical that “the gang” creates and performs. It was such an instant hit that the stars were asked to put on a live performance at the Troubadour in West Hollywood.
While the performance was originally only intended to include a few songs, the plans eventually evolved to a full version of the musical, about 45-minutes in length. The show was a hit, and the cast was offered a 30-city tour for “The Nightman Cometh: Live.” The cast didn’t feel ready to commit to such an extensive tour, but to help promote the upcoming fifth season of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia they did agree to perform the musical in six cities: New York City, Los Angles, San Francisco, Seattle, Boston, and – of course – Philadelphia.
Since “The Nightman Cometh” helped propel It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia to the top of the pop culture conversation, the series has continued to pull in solid ratings. This helped it to continue a long and successful run. And in December 2021, the show officially became America’s longest-running live-action sitcom with the debut of its 15th season, surpassing ABC’s The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet (1952-1966).
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