14 Frank Facts About It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia

Patrick McElhenney, FXX Networks
Patrick McElhenney, FXX Networks

There’s only one reason to compare the largely amoral bar keepers that populate FXX’s It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia with the serene ‘50s vibe of The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet: With its 13th season premiering on September 5 and a 14th season already ordered, It's Always Sunny will soon tie Ozzie as the longest-running live-action comedy sitcom in the history of television.

Before that milestone, the gang of Paddy’s Pub still has a 13th season to get through without succumbing to the effects of sniffing gasoline. Check out some facts on the show’s history, its alternate-universe Dee, and how the production almost killed national treasure Danny DeVito.

1. THE PILOT COST $100.

Series leads Rob McElhenney, Glenn Howerton, and Charlie Day were unknowns when they produced a pilot in 2004 titled It’s Always Sunny on TV about three struggling actors competing for the role of a cancer patient. Intended to be more of a calling card than a polished production, the shot-on-video episode cost less than $100 to make. After shopping it to different networks, they found a supporter in FX president John Landgraf: he gave them $400,000 to shoot a proper pilot with an actual crew. (The setting was changed to dive bar Paddy’s Pub in Philadelphia.)

2. ROB MCELHENNEY CONTINUED WAITING TABLES DURING THE FIRST SEASON.

Despite FX’s endorsement, Sunny still had just a third of the budget of a typical network sitcom and was so strapped for cash that the actors shared a trailer. Rob McElhenney made such a meager salary for the season that he continued waiting tables at a West Hollywood cafe after he finished shooting for the day.

3. THERE WAS A DIFFERENT DEE.

The original camcorder pilot was missing both the bar and actress Kaitlin Olson, who plays “Sweet” Dee Reynolds—the prototype Dee was played by Jordan Reid, then-girlfriend of McElhenney, who was expected to continue on when the series was picked up by FX. But according to Reid, her break-up with McElhenney led to her being recast on the show. Saturday Night Live actress Kristen Wiig was considered before the part went to Olson—who later married McElhenney.

4. DANNY DEVITO SAVED THE SHOW.


Getty Images

After a brief six-episode first season, Sunny was neither a critical darling nor a commercial success. Low ratings prompted FX to mandate that the show cast a “name” actor in order to attract attention for a second season. Danny DeVito knew FX’s Landgraf and agreed to meet with McElhenney; after talking about the show—and noting his kids were fans—DeVito accepted the role of absentee dad Frank Reynolds.

5. HULU ALSO SAVED THE SHOW.

While DeVito provided a stay of execution, the ratings were still mediocre. It wasn’t until FX released episodes on DVD and on the streaming service Hulu that people were able to sample the series, leading to the show becoming one of the service's most watched offerings. Demand for reruns eventually grew so popular that Comedy Central shelled out $33 million for the rights.  

6. THE LIVE MUSICAL HAPPENED BY ACCIDENT.

For a loose stage adaptation of a season four episode titled "The Nightman Cometh," the cast toured six cities in 2009. A kind of Always Sunny: The Musical, Day performed several original numbers the trio had written for the episode where his character, Charlie, attempts to seduce the otherwise-unnamed Waitress (Day’s real wife, Mary Elizabeth Ellis) with song. The tour came about after a West Hollywood nightclub erroneously advertised the group would be doing an entire production as opposed to just a couple of numbers.

7. MCELHENNEY’S PLAN WAS FOR EVERYONE TO GET FAT.


FX

As regular Sunny viewers are aware, the normally-fit Rob McElhenney decided to cultivate 50 pounds of mass for the show’s seventh season as a response to his theory that everyone on television gets progressively better looking. He ate 5000 calories a day—most of it from nutritionally viable sources like chicken and vegetables, some of it from ice cream—to achieve his smooth, seal-like appearance. McElhenney’s original idea, however, was to have the entire cast add bulk while DeVito would lose a dramatic amount of weight. No one was on board with this plan.

8. FRED SAVAGE DIRECTED SEVERAL EPISODES.

Betraying his wholesome The Wonder Years roots, actor/director Fred Savage has directed several episodes of Sunny; he’s also listed as a producer. Savage sought out work on the show, he told NPR, because he saw his own “worst qualities” in the characters; McElhenney hired him because he “needed to know if he really loved Becky Slater or if it was just Winnie all the way.”

9. MCELHENNEY AND KAITLIN OLSON OWN A REAL BAR IN PHILADELPHIA.

After a few of McElhenney's high school friends floated the idea of buying a bar, he and Olson agreed to fund Mac’s Tavern, a sports bar in Philadelphia that opened in 2010. Dishes include Mac's chili and Sweet D's turkey BLT. In 2017, bar management Facebook-shamed a couple that left without paying for their meal.

10. THERE’S A REAL GREEN MAN.

Or men. Charlie Day told Vice in 2010 that his character’s habit of dressing in a green Lycra body suit for sporting events was inspired by a friend of McElhenney’s who did the same thing for Philadelphia Eagles games. The show went on to inspire at least two Vancouver sports fans to show up at hockey games in the same outfit.

11. GLENN HOWERTON WANTED TO BE SUPERMAN.


Getty Images

Before Sunny premiered in 2005, Glenn Howerton made the usual audition rounds. One of the casting calls was for Bryan Singer’s Superman Returns, the 2006 film that eventually starred Brandon Routh. In addition to pursuing the role of Clark Kent, Howerton told CHUD.com he also auditioned for the Peter Quill role in 2014’s Guardians of the Galaxy. He's now on the NBC sitcom A.P. Bio, which led to speculation that Dennis might be missing from future episodes of the show. Ultimately, he's set to appear in the majority of the 13th season.

12. THERE’S A RUSSIAN ADAPTATION.

It’s Always Sunny in Moscow is a Russian remake of the show first discovered by Reddit and Philadelphia’s City Paper in 2014. The latter ran the landing page of the show through Google Translate and provided a summary: “Four young heroes …They went to school together. They have their own business—a pub ‘Philadelphia.’ But revenue it almost does not work. All their hopes and plans—love and money—are crumbling, when confronted with reality. The reason for this—their selfishness, laziness, and stupidity.” The faithful adaptation aired for 16 episodes.

13. THEY ALMOST KILLED DANNY DEVITO.

DeVito has made it clear he rarely says no to anything the show asks of him, from being stuck in a playground coil to emerging naked from a sofa. Being so agreeable has sometimes led to problems, as in the case of a scene for season 11 when the cast was depicted holding hands under water. Described as "buoyant" by Charlie Day, DeVito needed to be weighed down so he would sink. After the scene was complete, the cast was able to rise to the surface: DeVito remained stuck halfway down and needed to be assisted up by safety divers. He was apparently so upset he left for the rest of the day.

14. THEY'RE SHOOTING ON THE SEINFELD LOT.

#alwayssunny #season13 #seinfeld

A post shared by RobMcElhenney (@robmcelhenney) on

For a decade, Always Sunny shot on a Fox studio lot in California. (Exteriors are shot in Philadelphia.) For the 13th season, the production went to a lot in Studio City, California, where McElhenney pointed out that their stage was once the home of Seinfeld. In an Instagram video, McElhenney featured a plaque that hangs near the entrance to commemorate the history of the location.

8 Provocative Facts About the X Film Rating

iStock/tolgart
iStock/tolgart

When the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) introduced the modern movie ratings system in 1968, they couldn’t have known that one of their classifications would become the calling card of pornography. The X rating, intended to denote films not suitable for anyone under the age of 17, went from being attached to Academy Award contenders to filling video store spaces located behind saloon doors. Fifty years after its debut, we’re taking a look at the most infamous letter in moviegoing history.

1. ACCEPTING THE RATING WAS VOLUNTARY (KIND OF).

In 1968, the MPAA and its president, Jack Valenti, introduced a four-tier system to classify films. G was suitable for all audiences; M was the equivalent of PG (which replaced M in 1970), indicating that juveniles should consult with a parent before attending; R was intended for adults, or children only with a guardian present; X marked films that shouldn’t be seen by adolescent eyes. But the MPAA never forced a film studio to submit to its decision. It could release a film with no rating at all. The problem? The MPAA’s arrangement with the National Association of Theater Owners meant that an unrated film would almost certainly have difficulty finding a theater to screen it.

2. A ROBERT DE NIRO MOVIE WAS THE FIRST TO GET SLAPPED WITH AN X.

Immediately after the introduction of the new MPAA system, the advisory board got its first bona fide sample of an X-rated submission: Director Brian De Palma’s Greetings, a 1968 film starring Robert De Niro as a New Yorker confronting the possibility of being drafted, garnered the rating due to its sexually explicit content, including nudity that would likely earn an R rating today. (De Palma would later run afoul of the MPAA multiple times; 1980's Dressed to Kill, 1981's Blow Out, and 1983's Scarface were all threatened with an X before being edited.)

3. FILMMAKERS COULD GIVE THEMSELVES THE RATING.

Dustin Hoffman and Jon Voight in Midnight Cowboy (1969)
Dustin Hoffman and Jon Voight in Midnight Cowboy (1969)
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Though it was quickly going to become taboo, there was a time when an X rating for a mainstream film was a badge of honor and an effective marketing tool that signaled a film was being made for discerning moviegoers—not just viewers looking for titillation. Arthur Krim, the head of United Artists, willingly gave 1969’s Dustin Hoffman and Jon Voight film Midnight Cowboy an X of his own volition even after he realized the MPAA would give the film an R designation. (The MPAA later applied an R to the movie in 1971.)

4. IT WAS WELCOME AT THE ACADEMY AWARDS.

The X rating was not an impediment to critical or commercial acclaim. In 1970, Midnight Cowboy won Best Picture at the Academy Awards; Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange, released in 1971, earned four Oscar nominations, including one for Best Picture; Bernardo Bertolucci's Last Tango in Paris (1972), starring Marlon Brando as a sex-obsessed American in France, got two nominations, including Brando for Best Actor.

5. THE XXX MARK MAY HAVE STEMMED FROM AN ALCOHOL DESIGNATION.

A neon XXX sign
iStock/07_av

In the hyperbole of film marketing, studios and advertisers didn’t believe one X was enough. Some films, like 1968’s Starlet!, were advertised as having an unofficial XXX designation to signify it was even more intense than other adult-oriented films. The label may have come from an old practice of denoting the strength of beer with a X, XX, or XXX label.

6. PORN TOOK OVER THE RATING DUE TO AN MPAA OVERSIGHT.

A rating of X in 1969 was no big deal. By the mid-1970s, it signaled to audiences that they were about to watch an anatomy lesson. That’s because the burgeoning adult film industry of the 1970s was screening films in theaters—VHS was not yet a household acronym—and blared advertisements with promises of “XXX” salaciousness. The MPAA never reviewed these films, and titles like 1972’s Deep Throat and 1978’s Debbie Does Dallas used the mark freely. The reason? The MPAA never bothered to copyright X as it applies to film ratings, allowing anyone to use it. In short order, the X rating became synonymous with pornography and grew into a scarlet letter for films. No reputable theaters would book such movies, and few newspapers would take ads for them.

7. PEOPLE COLLECT X-RATED FILMS.

The seedy, lurid films that applied their own X (or XXX) ratings in the 1970s and 1980s have developed a small but devout following of collectors who have a “strong desire to own, preserve, and reclaim erotic history,” according to one aficionado who spoke with The New York Times in 2014. These specialists focus mostly on the 16mm and 35mm films that were produced prior to the advent of VHS.

8. ONE STUDIO SUED OVER IT.

Antonio Banderas and Victoria Abril in 'Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!' (1989)
Antonio Banderas and Victoria Abril in Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! (1989)
The Criterion Collection

When the MPAA gave an X rating to the 1989 Pedro Almodóvar drama Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!, Miramax decided to sue, claiming such a label would harm the film financially. The studio lost the suit, but it signaled the end of the war.

In 1990, a year that saw 10 movies get slapped with an X, the MPAA overhauled the ratings system. It dropped the X in favor of NC-17, which it hoped would distance films with artistic merit from pornographic material. And this time, the pornography industry couldn't co-opt it: Learning from its past mistake, the MPAA trademarked the designation.

Stranger Things's David Harbour Shared Some Season 3 Spoilers—With Absolutely No Context

Matt Winkelmeyer, Getty Images
Matt Winkelmeyer, Getty Images

While Netflix likes to keep the details of Stranger Things a mystery, David Harbour, who plays Detective Hopper, likes to have fun with his fans.

Harbour posted a cryptic image to his Instagram which, while it clearly contains Stranger Things Season 3 spoilers in both the photo and the caption, does not give away any “context,” hence leaving us with very little real information.

Harbour did share that he has wrapped filming on season 3 of Stranger Things—and that we can kiss his mustache goodbye.

The mysterious post raises a number of questions. In the photo, Harbour rocks a hat that supports a local Hawkins business. The hat reads, "Gary's Plumbing & Heating, Warming Hawkins, IN since 1972."

We’re not sure if the hat is referencing the Gary already in the show, as he is the coroner, but we can’t wait to find out.

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