With season 14 set to premiere on Wednesday, September 25, FXX's It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia is now tied with ABC's The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet as the longest-running live-action comedy series. Now that's a title Mac (Rob McElhenney), Dennis (Glenn Howerton), Charlie (Charlie Day), Dee (Kaitlin Olson), and Frank (Danny DeVito) would be more than happy to hang behind the bar – and one they're expected to hold on their vey own very soon. Safe to say things are pretty good for The Gang from Paddy's Pub – and from the sounds of FX CEO John Landgraf, the network would like things to keep going "pretty good" for two more seasons (at least).
To celebrate this major milestone, Variety sat down with The Gang and others to discuss the show's success and the road it's taken to get there. Here are some of the highlights (you can check out the full article here):
● FX Entertainment president Eric Schrier was one of the executives lucky enough to screen the pilot episode – and he knew ven then what the network had:
"I think what was so great about it was that it was an alternative version of a sitcom, where you had these crazy characters that said and did all things totally politically incorrectly. But there was a smarter understanding behind the show. They were dealing with societal issues, so there was this great combination of a highbrow side of it masked with a very broad-based lowbrow side."
● DeVito shared a great anecdote to demonstrate how the biewing audience for the show has grown and diversified over the seasons:
"I've experienced this where 11-year-olds will come up to me on the street. Almost the same fans as 'Matilda'! I expect them to say, 'I'm such a big fan of "Matilda,"' but this kid goes, 'My favorite was the water park episode!' I think of it, and I say to myself 'Holy s–t, I was running around in that one talking about having AIDS to get to the front of the line of a water slide.'"
● If there's one regret McElhenney has about starting up the series, it's that he didn't enjoy the process more soon enough:
"When we started, I was 25 or 26, and I so desperately didn't want to wait tables anymore that I was willing to do anything and everything to make sure that this was going to succeed. We just killed ourselves to make sure that it held up to a certain standard, which I'm proud of doing, but at the same time it wasn't as enjoyable as it could have been if we lightened up a little bit."
● Howerton explained why he waited so long to direct an episode – not that he hasn't wanted to:
"The reason I haven't done it before, besides the fact it's hard to do because we shoot multiple episodes at one time, is I have a tremendous amount of respect for directors and what that takes. I never wanted to just jump into it like, 'Oh, I could do this.'"
● One of the downsides to being on a show as popular as It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia is that other studios and network executives are always looking for "the next Always Sunny" from them when they pitch new projects:
"Rob and I went through that with our Apple show. There's always some expectation that they're going to get 'Sunny,' but then there is always the hope that they are going to get us as a cast. 'Sunny,' beyond the writing, is us performing and the chemistry that we have together. So there is the hurdle of saying, 'Well, you're not going to get that, but you are going to get something great.'"
– Charlie Day
Olson runs into the same problem: she's offered roles that are pretty much "Dee Lite" and not nearly as well-written as the original:
"I would love to play some other characters in some different endeavors, but it's nice to be able to come back here because I realize how great we have it. I really feel like I hit the jackpot. It's hard to imagine another show ending up as fun and as special as this one."
Previously, McElhenney posted a teaser that's clearly from the upcoming episode that finds The Gang putting up their apartments as AirBnB options – of course, to better their love lives (more on that below). What makes this episode particularly special? It's also one of two episodes Howerton is set to direct this season.
Our two favorite parts? They make sure everyone knows where the the "shitter" is located prior to arrival – Frank's email address (which we tried sending a message to but it didn't work):
McElhenney also gave us a look inside the editing room at a scene he referred to "as Sunny as it gets." Without spoiling what you're about to see, here are a few things to keep in mind: Mac is still way too submissive to Dennis, Frank's behind on getting his teeth sharpened, Dee finds herself on the losing end of a comment once again – and a familar face returns:
Previously, McElhenney confirmed filming on the season was complete (trailer soon?!?). But better than that, in the video below we see that even after 14 seasons-and-counting, McElhenney, Howerton, Day, Olson, and DeVito still find ways to make each other laugh – and that speaks volumes for the show's incredible success:
Here are some highlights from the show's Television Critics Association (TCA) set visit early last month, offering some clues to what fans can expect:
● For McElhenney, one of the reasons the show has lasted this long is that the fanbase knows the series isn't a "how to" guide to life:
"Our audience knows where we're coming from. We very rarely get blowback because our audience is savvy enough to know we're not advocating bad behavior, we're satirizing it."
●While the show isn't afraid to tackle some major social issues – Olson believes their approach to the topics creates a unique character for the television landscape: a woman who not only recognizes the misogyny around her but is willing to get angry – very angry: "We're showing how ridiculous is to talk to someone like that."
● So what can fans expect this season? Well, we know Dolph Lundgren… but as John Thundergun?!? We are getting a "film noir" episode – as well as episodes dealing with global warming, a Waiting for Godot-themed outing set in the middle of a laser tag game, and The Gang putting up their apartments as AirBnB options to better their love lives (with Howerton set to direct this episode and an additional one).
● As for Mac getting a boyfriend at some point next season, McElhenney only response? "Maybe." As for Mac being a changed, better person after last season? Don't hold your breath:
"He's pretty much exactly the same. Our characters might change — but they don't evolve. He's not a better person."
● One thing that bothers Day? That people still see the show as "dirty" – even after over a decade on the air:
"There's a fundamental misunderstanding of what our show is. I hate that our show is dismissed as filthy. I don't think we're dirty…We are trying to say something about us as Americans."
DeVito put it much more bluntly when it comes to It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia: "It's not a dirty f***ing show!"
Developed by McElhenney and Howerton, and written/executive produced by McElhenney, Howerton, and Day, It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia was FX's first comedy hit before moving over to FXX – a fact that FX CEO John Landgraf does not take lightly when he explained at the Television Critics Association (TCA) why the series has been so successful for so long – even after all this time: "It was the fist successful deconstruction and reconstruction of a sitcom," praising the leads as "five really hilarious degenerates who are most active schemers" as well as the main reason for the show's success – while also acknowledging the various "social issues" that the series addressed so effectively in the past.