x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Sunny side up for sitcom

About to start its seventh season, It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia has proved a runaway success.

About to start its seventh season, It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia has been a runaway success, writes Greg Kennedy

More than 2.5 million people "like" It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia -which has its season seven premiere on OSN tonight - on Facebook.

Not bad for an American television sitcom that shot its pilot episode for US$85 (Dh312).

These social media followers are but the tip of the iceberg of the millions of fans who love to wallow in its vulgar black comedy with the devotion of a doomsday cult. Word of mouth has spring-boarded this FX (FOX Extended) cable show into the global phenomenon it is today, and it shows no signs of stopping with seasons eight and nine already green-lit.

Yet there's a deft comic genius at play here in Paddy's Pub, a family-run establishment in hard-scrabble south Philly. In fact, you could call this show the anti-Cheers, where no one cares about your name and where the sitcom is deconstructed into what the Hollywood script guru Robert McKee, the author of Story, would term The Negation of the Negation — taking comedy to the limit of the dark powers of human nature.

Here, the grubby businessman Frank Reynolds (Danny DeVito) holds court with his grown twin children, the narcissistic Dennis (Glenn Howerton) and the talentless "Sweet Dee" (Kaitlin Olson), and hapless son Charlie (Charlie Day). The in-your-face pub owner Mac (Rob McElhenney) rounds out "the gang".

"So instead of making the characters as likeable as possible, we've always tried to make them as unlikeable as possible," McElhenney told a Los Angeles press conference recently.

"When you see it, it looks really cheap," adds Day. But the low production cost is what persuaded FX to give this creative crew the ownership and freedom to tell their Sunny stories. "And I think audiences found it refreshing to see a sitcom that didn't feel as though it had been through that network machine and got watered down."

The depraved schemes, half-baked arguments and absurdly underhanded plots of these dysfunctional losers not only cross the good-taste line - they snap it.

Season 7 invites viewers to tune in to see the gang prepare for the apocalypse, hit the beach at the Jersey Shore, produce a child beauty pageant and take a walk down memory lane at their high school reunion.

What attracted DeVito to join Sunny in its second season, in his first sitcom role since Taxi, was the passion of the cast, who also created the show.

"They're writing the show, and they're producing the show, and they're editing the show, and they're there on the stage with you," he says. "And that adds a whole other element to it ... It's a great ride. It's a wonderful experience. I can't wait to go to work every day." Before joining the cast, he says: "I met with them, and we had a couple of very strong precepts that we set down. First of all, I wasn't going to be just a tackedon character, which they did really great. And, you know, second of all, my trailer was going to be bigger than theirs." Parents beware: this is not a programme to watch with the children and OSN rates it PG15.

It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia is broadcast on Mondays on OSN Comedy and on Tuesdays on OSN Comedy +2