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The ‘It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia’ Writers Have a New Show in the Works

Rob McElhenney and Charlie Day’s experience in crafting incisively uncomfortable humor is definitely coming in handy.
Always Sunny Charlie Day Rob Mcelhenney
By  · Published on August 10th, 2018

Rob McElhenney and Charlie Day’s experience in crafting incisively uncomfortable humor is definitely coming in handy.

Standing out in the increasingly crowded arena of online streaming platforms can be difficult. Nevertheless, the fact that Apple continues to snap up incredible creative partnerships certainly makes it stand out. The tech company still has a considerable way to go before it releases anything from its extremely packed slate. Still, they’ve managed to reel us in and truly hold our attention with varying promises of stellar original content.

Perhaps banking on fantastic quality is an overly optimistic statement on my part when, in truth, we actually have so few concrete details about Apple’s mysterious streaming service. Yet the company is noticeably interested in not only securing the biggest names in Hollywood to fill its programming. They want people with commendable track records in order to ensure high-quality work. The company has signed a multi-year deal with Oprah Winfrey, is rebooting Steven Spielberg’s Amazing Stories, and will dip its toes into the animation game with a musical series from the creators of Bob’s Burgers – just to name a few pickings from a varied spectrum of potential content.

As reported by Variety, the It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia team of Rob McElhenney and Charlie Day are the latest in line to join the Apple streaming family with their new half-hour scripted comedy show. The series doesn’t have a name yet, nor do we have a clue what the plot is. What we do know is that it will be set in a video game development studio and has been given a straight-to-series order. McElhenney will star in the project, and he and Day will collaborate as co-writers and executive producers.

As far as dynamic duos are concerned, McElhenney and Day have proved themselves completely worthy of praise even if we only take their efforts on It’s Always Sunny into account. The sitcom, which currently lives on FX’s sister comedy channel FXX, could have been a notoriously difficult show to keep running for years on end. With a premise that’s so deceptively simple, It’s Always Sunny has had to tread carefully in portraying a bunch of protagonists with zero redeeming qualities and a blatant disregard for social norms.

In It’s Always Sunny, the Gang – comprised of Mac (McElhenney), Charlie (Day), Dennis (Glenn Howerton), and later on Dee (Kaitlin Olson) and Frank (Danny DeVito) – is a group of narcissistic friends who run Paddy’s Pub in South Philadelphia. They also all do a bunch of amoral things because of their own self-absorbed personalities, and they never seem to learn very much after wreaking havoc on basically anyone outside their tiny bubble.

While that sounds infuriating on paper, It’s Always Sunny is a fascinating show in terms of how it balances these characters out with social commentary. The show’s protagonists fumble through life in clownish and oftentimes offensive ways, but the show only gets better with time as it works to counteract that tomfoolery.

An important and signature facet of It’s Always Sunny is that the Gang doesn’t get to exhibit gross behavior without suffering consequences. Sure, they could be up to one of their preposterous get-rich-quick schemes, such as in the episode “Dennis and Dee Go on Welfare.” Throughout that arc, the titular characters attempt to “earn” money by getting addicted to crack cocaine in order to qualify for government benefits. The joke’s on Dennis and Dee, though, when they end up getting addicted to drugs and wasting their money buying more anyway.

A creepy classic like “The D.E.N.N.I.S. System” is another instance of the kind of socially unacceptable antics the Gang is likely to pull only to have incompetence thankfully impede their success. In the episode, Dennis’ so-called foolproof plan to seduce women is completely lost on the rest of the Gang. Each of them operates on self-centered desires, coming up with their own equally disgusting pick-up systems that result in something like this:

No wonder that no one outside Paddy’s Pub gives the Gang the time of day, but that makes It’s Always Sunny a special show. Slowly but surely, the series’ whopping 12-season run (so far!) made a name for itself for being truly intelligent beneath all the layers of eccentric and extreme behavior. The Gang may be obtuse as hell but the show itself knows how to grow and stay relevant without actually toning down its liking for controversy.

As Howerton pointed out in an interview with the Guardian early last year: “It’s one thing for the characters to be misinformed, ignorant, or bigoted. It’s another thing for the show to be misinformed, ignorant, or bigoted.” This is how It’s Always Sunny plays the long game extremely well.

And this is why a new show from McElhenney and Day presents an exhilarating prospect. Their untitled Apple project gives them the chance to explore new archetypes beyond Paddy’s Pub and hopefully offer different shades of critique. The realm of video game development is the perfect backdrop to set the show against since its environment and culture are obviously more than a little contentious. We’ve all seen varying reports of toxicity within gaming culture as a whole, and there are ample inclusion-related issues to address as well; notably, women and minorities continue to be blatantly sidelined in the industry.

Hence, in spite of a lack of information surrounding their new series, for the time being, McElhenney and Day have a whole cultural minefield at their fingertips. When we take the triumphs of their magnum opus into account, it feels like something amazing is brewing at Apple.

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Sheryl Oh often finds herself fascinated (and let's be real, a little obsessed) with actors and their onscreen accomplishments, developing Film School Rejects' Filmographies column as a passion project. She's not very good at Twitter but find her at @sherhorowitz anyway. (She/Her)