'It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia'

A depraved, in-your-face television hit does Philly proud.

By Brian McManus 
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 2 | Posted Sep. 8, 2009

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“My kids loved the show. They watched it religiously,” says Danny DeVito of Sunny from his home in Los Angeles. “I knew they were onto something.”

DeVito’s wife Rhea Perlman was also a fan. So when he was asked to appear in 10 episodes as slovenly Frank—a recently divorced hedonist undergoing a midlife crisis, with a fascination with guns and a problem pooping the bed—he decided to “follow [his] bliss” despite protestations from “some camps.” 


“The detractors would tell me, ‘These guys haven’t done anything,’” DeVito says mockingly of those who thought he was above appearing on a show only seven episodes in, and on a network some people didn’t know existed.


DeVito knew something the detractors didn’t: Slowly, deliberately and through choice, there’s been a sea change in the way TV is made and consumed. “It’s a new world,” says McElhenney. “If you write something of interest, it can get on air and it can survive. We’re proof of that.” 


DeVito went with his gut and joined the cast. He says it’s one of the best decisions he’s ever made. And easiest. Pretty soon, Frank was a permanent fixture at Paddy’s. 


“I told these guys, I said, ‘You’re not gonna be able to go anywhere,’” remembers DeVito. “Rob said, ‘No, we got a few people that watch the show and dig it.’ And I said, ‘You’re gonna be blown away. What you guys are writing on this show is a helluva treat.’ The younger generation just got it. I knew that going in. I’d seen it in my own living room.”


“They have an incredible knack for just takin’ a situation and makin’ it their own,” says DeVito of McElhenney, Howerton and Day. “It’s a fresh take. They’re really terrific. They have a great work ethic. They put the show together. They write it. They act in it. They’re editing. I’ve always felt you never know when you’re gonna run into people who are doin’ incredible stuff. When you do, you go with it. I’m really happy I ran into these guys.”


The set of Sunny is a mutual admiration society. 


“We got really lucky in deciding we wanted to cast Danny as Frank because we didn’t have any idea that we were casting someone with our exact same sense of humor,” says Olson. “He shows up really excited to work and really excited to just hang out with us. He’s so excited about our tour. He’s kind of become our tour manager. He’s amazing. It’s like having a deranged father who kind of takes care of you and kind of jokes around with you at the same time.”


The tour Olson speaks of is the live stage production of The Nightman Cometh , Sunny’s season-four finale that hits the Tower Theater for two shows in one night the day season five premieres. (They’ll be broadcasting the premiere live at Tower as well.) 


The episode centers around a musical cooked up in the deranged, drug-addled, booze-soaked mind of Charlie, attempting to court the girl he’s stalked for four years, a waitress simply known as “the Waitress” (Charlie Day’s real-life wife, actress Mary Elizabeth Ellis). In it, Dayman—a master of karate and friendship for everyone—takes on Nightman, in a fight for control of a young boy’s soul, or “boy’s hole” depending on who is pronouncing it. 


It’s complicated. 


The first show sold out so quickly a second wasn’t really even an option.


“Philadelphia would’ve torn the theater down had we not put on a second show,” says Day, taking a break on the set of Going the Distance in New York City, where he’s currently filming with Drew Barrymore and Justin Long. 


Over the past four seasons the show has hit its stride, has built a rabid fanbase and has been picked up by FX through season seven. Day’s seen the crowds in Philly grow over the seasons while shooting. He’s felt it.

“It’s a blast,” says Day of the current success the show’s enjoying. “Getting to do the live show will be really fulfilling. We have the greatest fans. It’s shocking how devoted they are, and how well they know the show.” 


“It’s really gratifying,” seconds DeVito. “Y’know, I’ve been through this. I’m like the old man from the show with Taxi under my belt, and I remember what the phenomenon was when there were just really three networks. Now, with more choice, it’s more special, because they really have to seek you out. It means you’re really speaking to people.”


And DeVito is finding Sunny isn’t just the younger generation’s show anymore.


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1. Jenny said... on Sep 14, 2009 at 12:28PM

“Uh...where the fuck is Sweet Dee? You stupid, misogynist fuckers.”

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2. Anonymous said... on Sep 14, 2009 at 04:17PM

“Uh...read the story, dipshit. She's quoted in it.”

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