It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia makes sitcom history

Róisín Cullen

(L-R) Actors Kaitlin Olson, Danny DeVito, Rob McElhenney, Glenn Howerton and Charlie Day attend PaleyLive LA: An Evening With 'It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia' at The Paley Center for Media on April 1, 2016 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Imeh Bryant)

Thirteen seasons and 144 episodes later, the sitcom that leaves no rule unbroken and no topic untouched continues to get stranger.

The show that declared the Catholic Church “a scam” back in 2005 is now set to release its fourteenth season, leaving it in a two way tie with ‘The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet’ for the longest-running, live-action sitcom.

However, ‘The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet’ was released in a different time, a time when the family still gathered around one television in the living room, a time long before the phrase “binge watching” came into existence. It is now far more difficult to hold the public’s fleeting attention before they choose to move on to the next big Netflix series.

The show is based on a group of five toxic people who own an Irish pub in Philadelphia and share a love of manipulation and scheming. The gang’s life seems to directly contradict the idea of the American dream or present us a new dream, a dream where you travel to America, open a bar and either choose to live in an apartment where you eat cat food until you pass out or decide to share a bed with a homeless stranger.

Several things have changed since 2005. The gang no longer smoke within the bar. Charlie Kelly’s statement that “if you’re not well educated or informed you start your own party and yell the loudest” has now become a haunting insight into our current political landscape.

However, the show’s ever dedicated fan base has not wavered. The show’s dark humour and its insistence to provide an insight on taboo subjects that all American TV shows prefer to sweep under the carpet continue to be leading factors of the show’s success.

In a world of social and political uncertainty, people turn to the show’s dark humour. In a way these turbulent characters that we have learned to not love provide us with a certainty that other things do not.

Each character has stayed true to their own toxic traits. Charlie continues to eat paint, complete “Charlie work” and chases the affection of a woman that will never love him. Dennis still displays a love of control and constantly hints at the fact that he may well be a serial killer.

Mac’s hatred of woman, love of God and his insistence that the gang’s claims that he is gay could not be further from the truth continually present us with a case study on the hypocrisy we often see within religious organisations. ‘Sweet Dea’ Reynolds’ is still referred to “as the bird”.

Danny De Vito’s still enjoys the same activities he did way back in 2005, reflecting back on his time in “Vietnam”, snorting cocaine every morning and hanging out with his loyal friends that live within the sewers of Philadelphia.

But what makes this sitcom stand the test of time? Sacrificing a character’s traits and values for the promise of an extra season often signals the start of a sitcom’s downfall. When Homer Simpson changed from a lazy family man to a man that would cheat on his wife, it should have signaled the end. A prolonged, painful death is a sitcom’s greatest fear.

The show relies on the intelligence of the viewer instead of preaching on topical issues in an attempt to boast viewer numbers or to weep up during award season.

Frank constantly carries a handgun, and the gang are surprised at how easy it is to purchase lethal weapons in the Free World. “Charlie wants an Abortion” is the title of the second ever episode. The #MeToo and ‘Black Lives Matter’ movements both make appearances in the gang’s day to day schemes.

Johnathan Storm of The Philadelphia Inquirer described the show as “Seinfeld on crack.” The sitcom’s final episode may never be displayed on a large screen in Times Square, however, its dedicated team, a loyal fan-base and its insistence to tackle taboo may well earn the show its place among the greats.

Róisín Cullen

Image Credit: Indie Wire