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

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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.

10 Sweet Facts About Napoleon Dynamite

© 2004 Twentieth Century Fox
© 2004 Twentieth Century Fox

ChapStick, llamas, and tater tots are just a few things that appear in Napoleon Dynamite, a cult film shot for a mere $400,000 that went on to gross $44.5 million. In 2002, Brigham Young University film student Jared Hess filmed a black-and-white short, Peluca, with his classmate Jon Heder. The film got accepted into the Slamdance Film Festival, which gave Hess the courage to adapt it into a feature. Hess used his real-life upbringing in Preston, Idaho—he had six brothers and his mom owned llamas—to form the basis of the movie, about a nerdy teenager named Napoleon (Heder) who encourages his friend Pedro (Efren Ramirez) to run for class president.

In 2004, the indie film screened at Sundance, and was quickly purchased by Fox Searchlight and Paramount, then released less than six months later. Today, the film remains so popular that in 2016 Pedro and Napoleon reunited for a cheesy tots Burger King commercial. To celebrated the film's 15th anniversary, here are some facts about the ever-quotable comedy.

1. Deb is based on Jerusha Hess.

Jared Hess’s wife Jerusha co-wrote the film and based Deb on her own life. “Her mom made her a dress when she was going to a middle school dance and she said, ‘I hadn’t really developed yet, so my mom overcompensated and made some very large, fluffy shoulders,’” Jared told Rolling Stone. “Some guy dancing with her patted the sleeves and actually said, ‘I like your sleeves … they’re real big.'"

Tina Majorino, who played the fictional Deb, hadn’t done a comedy before, because people thought of her as a dramatic actress. "The fact that Jared would even let me come in and read really appealed to me," she told Rolling Stone. "Even if I didn’t get the role, I just wanted to see what it was like to audition for a comedy, as I’d never done it before."

2. Napoleon's famous dance scene was the result of having extra film stock.

At the end of shooting Peluca, Hess had a minute of film stock left and knew Heder liked to dance. Heder had on moon boots—something Hess used to wear—so they traveled to the end of a dirt road. They turned on the car radio and Jamiroquai’s “Canned Heat” was playing. “I just told him to start dancing and realized: This is how we’ve got to end the film,” Hess told Rolling Stone. “You don’t anticipate those kinds of things. They’re just part of the creative process.”

Heder told HuffPost he found inspiration in Michael Jackson and dancing in front of a mirror, for the end-of-the-movie skit. But when it came time to film the dance for the feature, Heder felt "pressure" to deliver. “I was like, ‘Oh, crap!’ This isn’t just a silly little scene,” he told PDX Monthly. “This is the moment where everything comes, and he’s making the sacrifice for his friend. That’s the whole theme of the movie. Everything leads up to this. Napoleon’s been this loser. This has to be the moment where he lands a victory.” Instead of hiring a choreographer, the filmmakers told him to “just figure it out.” They filmed the scene three times with three different songs, including Jamiroquai’s “Little L” and “Canned Heat.”

3. Napoleon Dynamitefans still flock to Preston, Idaho to tour the movie's locations.

In a 2016 interview with The Salt Lake Tribune, The Preston Citizen’s circulation manager, Rhonda Gregerson, said “every summer at least 50 groups of fans walk into the office wanting to know more about the film.” She said people come from all over the world to see Preston High School, Pedro’s house, and other filming locations as a layover before heading to Yellowstone National Park. “If you talk to a lot of people in Preston, you’ll find a lot of people who have become a bit sick of it,” Gregerson said. “I still think it’s great that there’s still so much interest in the town this long after the movie.”

Besides the filming locations, the town used to host a Napoleon Dynamite festival. In 2005, the fest drew about 6000 people and featured a tater tot eating contest, a moon boot dancing contest, boondoggle keychains for sale, and a tetherball tournament. The fest was last held in 2008.

4. Idaho adopted a resolution commending the filmmakers.

'Napoleon Dynamite' filmmakers Jerusha and Jared Hess
Jerusha and Jared Hess
Frederick M. Brown, Getty Images

In 2005, the Idaho legislature wrote a resolution praising Jared and Jerusha Hess and the city of Preston. HCR029 appreciates the use of tater tots for “promoting Idaho’s most famous export.” It extols bicycling and skateboarding to promote “better air quality,” and it says Kip and LaFawnduh’s relationship “is a tribute to e-commerce and Idaho’s technology-driven industry.” The resolution goes on to say those who “vote Nay on this concurrent resolution are Freakin’ Idiots.” Napoleon would be proud.

5. Napoleon was a different kind of nerd.

Sure, he was awkward, but Napoleon wasn’t as intelligent as other film nerds. “He’s not a genius,” Heder told HuffPost. “Maybe he’s getting good grades, but he’s not excelling; he’s just socially awkward. He doesn’t know how much of an outcast he is, and that’s what gives him that confidence. He’s trying to be cool sometimes, but mostly he just goes for it and does it.”

6. The title sequence featured several different sets of hands..

Eight months before the theatrical release, Fox Searchlight had Hess film a title sequence that made it clear that the film took place in 2004, not in the ’80s or ’90s. Napoleon’s student ID reveals the events occur during the 2004-2005 school year. Heder’s hands move the objects in and out of the frame, but Fox didn’t like his hangnails. “They flew out a hand model a couple weeks later, who had great hands, but was five or six shades darker than Jon Heder,” Hess told Art of the Title. “If you look, there are like three different dudes’ hands—our producer’s are in there, too.”

7. Napoleon Dynamite messed up Netflix's algorithms.

Beginning in 2006, Cinematch—Netflix’s recommendation algorithm software—held a contest called The Netflix Prize. Anyone who could make Cinematch’s predictions at least 10 percent more accurate would win $1 million. Computer scientist Len Bertoni had trouble predicting whether people would like Napoleon Dynamite. Bertoni told The New York Times the film is “polarizing,” and the Netflix ratings are either one or five stars. If he could accurately predict whether people liked the movie, Bertoni said, then he’d come much closer to winning the prize. That didn’t happen for him.

The contest finally ended in 2009 when Netflix awarded the grand prize to BellKor’s Pragmatic Chaos, who developed a 10.06 percent improvement over Cinematch’s score.

8. Napoleon accidentally got a bad perm.


© 2004 Twentieth Century Fox

Heder got his hair permed the night before shooting began—but something went wrong. Heder called Jared and said, “‘Yeah, I got the perm but it’s a little bit different than it was before,’” Hess told Rolling Stone. “He showed up the night before shooting and he looked like Shirley Temple! The curls were huge!” They didn’t have much time to fix the goof, so Hess enlisted Jerusha and her cousin to re-perm it. It worked, but Jon wasn’t allowed to wash his hair for the next three weeks. “So he had this stinky ‘do in the Idaho heat for three weeks,” Jared said. “We were shooting near dairy farms and there were tons of flies; they were all flying in and out of his hair.”

9. LaFawnduh's real-life family starred in the film.

Shondrella Avery played LaFawnduh, the African American girlfriend of Kip, Napoleon’s older brother (played by Aaron Ruell). Before filming, Hess phoned Avery and said, “‘You remember that there were no black people in Preston, Idaho, right? Do you think your family might want to be in the movie?’ And that’s how it happened,” Avery told Los Angeles Weekly. Her actual family shows up at the end when LaFawnduh and Kip get married.

10. A short-lived animated series acted as a sequel.

In 2012, Fox aired six episodes of Napoleon Dynamite the animated series before they canceled it. All of the original actors returned to supply voices to their characters. The only difference between the film and the series is Kip is not married. Heder told Rolling Stone the episodes are as close to a sequel as fans will get. “If you sit down and watch those back to back, you’ve got yourself a sequel,” he said. “Because you’ve got all the same characters and all the same actors.”

This story has been updated for 2019.

Harry Potter Fans Are Waiting 10 Hours or More to Ride Hagrid’s Roller Coaster

Universal Orlando
Universal Orlando

Muggles will do anything to be a part of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

Universal Orlando opened up its newest ride this week at its version of Hogsmeade, the village that surrounds Hogwarts castle. Hagrid's Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure takes wannabe wizards and witches on a twisting, high-speed flight through the mystical Forbidden Forest.

Diehard fans began waiting overnight outside the park in anticipation of the ride, and it looks like just about everyone had the same idea. At 8:30 a.m. on opening day, the line was already eight hours long, and quickly stretched to 10 hours long by 10:30 a.m., CNN reports.

The line is worth the wait for many fans of the franchise. As Potterheads already know, Rubeus Hagrid, beloved friend of Harry Potter and the gang, has a special affinity for mysterious creatures. So who better to see the beasts of the forest with than the half-giant?

Participants on the ride can choose to sit in Hagrid’s sidecar or in the driver’s seat. The winding track includes appearances by some of our favorite wizards, like Arthur Weasley, and creatures benevolent and otherwise, such as Cornish pixies, massive spiders, and the three-headed dog, Fluffy.

Fans aren’t the only ones wanting to experience the ride. Some of the stars of the film series had a little reunion in Orlando this week to celebrate the opening, including Rupert Grint (Ron Weasley), Tom Felton (Draco Malfoy) and Evanna Lynch (Luna Lovegood).

Unlike the fans, however, they have magic (fame) to keep them from having to wait in 10-hour lines.

Happy riding, Potterheads!

[h/t CNN]

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