'It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia': The Gang Spills The Beans "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" is in its 14th season, outlasting many of its peers. The show's creators and writers say the edgy comedy's success rests on its brutally self-serving characters.
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Philadelphia, Pa.: The Gang Gives Away The Secrets Of 'Sunny'

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Philadelphia, Pa.: The Gang Gives Away The Secrets Of 'Sunny'

Philadelphia, Pa.: The Gang Gives Away The Secrets Of 'Sunny'

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

"It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia," the FXX show, is now tied for longest running live-action comedy series in television history. It's one of those records with so many qualifiers it barely means anything, but the show has been around for 14 seasons. And NPR's Andrew Limbong tells us how it differs from and has outlived its competition.

ANDREW LIMBONG, BYLINE: The premise to "It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia" is kind of a throwback. "Sunny," as it's called, is just five friends - we'll call it - who work and hang out together at a bar. They get into arguments and schemes.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "IT'S ALWAYS SUNNY IN PHILADELPHIA")

KAITLIN OLSON: (As Dee Reynolds) Hey, look what I just found at the bus stop. Gruesome twosome seek exotic Europeans for week-long rental in luxurious one-bedroom apartment. Bed to be shared with owners. What? What?

CHARLIE DAY: (As Charlie Kelly) It's a good ad. You know...

LIMBONG: And that's it. The show started with a pilot three actual friends shot in their apartments in 2004, including co-creator Charlie Day.

DAY: And took a few cracks out of that. I think our first pass at it wasn't so great, so we did it a few more times. And then I think it was the third iteration of it we wound up selling to FX, and they gave us the budget to shoot a real pilot.

LIMBONG: It's a comedy that confronts heavy topics - racism, sexual harassment, death. Here's a Season 1 moment where co-creator Rob McElhenney, who plays Mac, a devout Catholic, by the way, invites Dennis to an abortion rally. Dennis' sister, Dee, steps in.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "IT'S ALWAYS SUNNY IN PHILADELPHIA")

ROB MCELHENNEY: (As Mac) You've got to come with me to one of these rallies. They're having another one on Saturday. These chicks are everywhere.

GLENN HOWERTON: (As Dennis Reynolds) I can jump on board with that.

MCELHENNEY: (As Mac) Yeah.

OLSON: (As Dee Reynolds) Are you actually going to throw away all your convictions for a chance to get laid?

HOWERTON: (As Dennis Reynolds) I don't really have any convictions.

LIMBONG: Megan Ganz is a longtime fan of the show who became a writer and eventually executive producer a few seasons ago. She says the key to making a "Sunny" episode work is writing characters who are equal parts spineless and selfish.

MEGAN GANZ: What I always liked about "Sunny" whenever it approached any sort of hot-button issue is that, ultimately, what the characters felt about it could change at any given instant depending on what benefited them the most personally.

LIMBONG: This formula has sustained the show for more than a decade and has helped build a dedicated following. The current season has averaged at more than a million and a half viewers per episode. While they never get a lot of awards attention, they get interest from critics, most asking basically the same question. How come when characters get into blackface or make a joke about abortion or child molestation there's not much outrage online? Here's Charlie Day's answer.

DAY: OK, look; there's nothing funny about child molestation, right? However, if we do an episode where a character is trying to propose to a woman by writing an entire musical without realizing that the musical seems like it's about him being molested as a child, well, suddenly, you can talk about child molestation in an amusing way 'cause there's some thought behind it.

LIMBONG: It helps, says producer Megan Ganz, that this show, unlike other shows she's worked on, doesn't feel the need to get to a third act aw-shucks moment where everyone realizes what they did was wrong and make up.

GANZ: And what's nice about "Sunny" is that it has this honesty with the viewers, which is, like, they're here because they're on a television show and they're locked in this purgatory where they have to keep doing the same things with each other. And these people can't find any other friends, which is why they're locked here and which is why you get to see them every week.

LIMBONG: That makes the always in "It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia" sound like a threat. And the purgatory could go on for yet another season.

Andrew Limbong, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF HEINZ KIESSLING'S "TEMPTATION SENSATION")

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