'It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia' still on the fringe

Bill Harris, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 5:50 PM ET

You'd think the cast of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia would be burned by now.

The show, which airs Thursdays on FX Canada, has been on the air since 2005. But when you look around the TV landscape and see a slew of current cable comedies that don't use any sunscreen, an argument can be made that It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia was a hot commodity long before anyone else was even warm.

"In some respects, I still consider us a small niche show," says creator and co-star Rob McElhenney, who plays Ronald (Mac) McDonald. "I still think we are a little bit fringe, which I enjoy.

"Are we considered a monolith? Semi-monolith. I'll take it."

It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia focuses on five famously flawed characters who manage a run-down Irish pub in Philadelphia called Paddy's. Besides McElhenney's Mac, there's Frank Reynolds (Danny DeVito), Dennis Reynolds (Glenn Howerton), Deandra Reynolds (Kaitlin Olson) and Charlie Kelly (Charlie Day).

The characters always are prone to the elaborate scheme and are more than willing to double-cross each other. It's crude and sexual and extreme and all those types of things that weren't nearly as widespread on TV a decade ago.

"I don't necessarily think of it in terms of breaking ground, but I just knew it was important to us to do things that weren't being done, and discuss aspects of American culture that weren't being discussed on sitcoms," McElhenney says.

"So from that perspective, I think we always felt we were doing something fresh. I wouldn't necessarily say we were breaking new ground, considering it's still 20 minutes of comedy television. But from the perspective of talking about things that aren't being talked about, I would say that always was our mantra."

But certainly McElhenney must recognize that, tonally speaking, there are a lot of shows on TV now that are kind of like It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, whereas they're didn't used to be.

"Absolutely," he says. "Imitation is the best form of flattery, so I'm happy to serve."

McElhenney has his own inspirations, too, especially when it comes to being at the helm of such a long-running series.

"Certainly Seinfeld, which is my favourite show of all time," McElhenney says. "You can watch every single one of those episodes - save for maybe the pilot, which wasn't so hot - and really see something fresh and original every time. So that's a big inspiration for us.

"Of course, you can kind of interchange our episodes, because the characters never grow or learn or change or evolve."

Hey, maybe that's the key to keeping a sitcom on the air for so long.

"I feel like we are doing our best work," McElhenney says. "I think that's also a function of only doing 10 episodes a year.

"If I'm not on camera, sometimes you can hear me laughing in the monitors, with the headphones on, laughing. Sometimes we (the cast) are the only ones laughing. The crew is not laughing, the director is not laughing. Nobody else is laughing. Just us. And that's when I know we have something really special."

bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

 


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