Give Thanks for “Sunny in Philadelphia” and a chat with Rob and Glenn

This Thanksgiving, M&C TV is thankful for FX’s programming; “Sons of Anarchy” for drama, and “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” for comedy.

“It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” has grown like a sturdy weed and flourished on the network that gives it plenty of room to skewer all the topics of the day with a band of merry sad bastards.

Season five was capped off by a very noir-silly Christmas tale that shows off not only the glistening rump and loins of a naked Danny DeVito, but the comedic chops of Kaitlin Olson as Sweet Dee. 

Olson has percolated to comedic heights in The Gang of Paddy’s Pub.  Without her the show would fall flat.  Sweet Dee and Charlie’s (Charlie Day) scenes have always killed, and the pivotal season three episode, “The Gang Sells Out” had some of my favorite Dee and Charlie high volume moments. 

In their latest DVD Christmas special, “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia: Its A Very Sunny Christmas,” The Gang revel and recoil in the ghosts of Christmas past, as Dee, Frank, Charlie, Mac and Dennis contemplate traditions and trace back the whys of their Yuletide memories, reminiscing on how those holiday moldy chestnuts came to be. 

If you appreciated “Scrooged,” “The Ref,” “Bad Santa” and cheered for the Abominable Snowman in the classic 1964 “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” you’ll love “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia: A Very Sunny Christmas”

FX’s series “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” is set to the plucky string instrumental strains of a Sixties sitcom like “Family Affair,” and features Mac (Rob McElhenney), Charlie (Charlie Day) and Dennis (Glenn Howerton) as three best friends who own Paddy’s Irish Pub in Philadelphia, along with Dennis’ sister Dee (Kaitlin Olson) who works as the bartender.

Then along came Frank (Danny DeVito) in season two. DeVito is always at his best when he plays a completely vile character.  Frank makes Louie from Taxi look like a girl scout.

Recently I asked Rob McElhenney what his favorite DeVito moment was in the series.  “I shot a scene with him in Philadelphia where it was probably 7:30 in the morning, and he was drinking all this fake beer – we have this fake beer that we drink [on set].  And in this scene, he’s supposed to be walking down the street.” 

Rob continued, “The scene sort of just kept evolving and evolving and at one point, it was a two and a half pages of dialogue.  Then we continued to run it and try different things, which we usually do on the show.  It eventually evolved into him pouring beer all over himself and kind of just regurgitating it onto his shirt and into the air.  And it seems to be one of the fan favorites as well.  I just remember having a really interesting time shooting that.”

Fans of the show understand that every topic is game, from saving dumpster babies, soliciting corporate takeovers, cracking America’s Liberty Bell, solving North Korean situations to using the World Series as a traffic ticket defense – The Gang’s inherent fatal flaws will ruin everything.

Glenn Howerton summed it up for me on the inspirational well from which they draw upon.  “There’s always interesting things to deal with as long as American culture continues, we’re going to find something to work on.”

The FX network has given them great leeway to run with the ideas in their writer’s room.   I asked Glenn if they had ever had any red flags raised over the show’s themes.  “I think people get it.  I think people understand that we’re not doing anything different than any other good comedy has done through the history of time or good comedian.  We’re in hot topic issues.  That’s what good comedies do.” 

Howerton also shared his memorable DeVito scene from the Christmas DVD. “We did a scene that I think a lot of people already know about which is him popping out of a couch nude.  I have to say that was a pretty extraordinary experience, especially considering that on the very first take, he was actually wearing a pink merkin with a purple codpiece on top of it.  That was pretty memorable.”

The Christmas special was a labor of love inspired by a collective of shared memories for McElhenney, Day and Howerton, who penned the episode.

The action begins with Mac and Charlie amped up for The Gang to dive into the Christmas spirit, as Dee and Dennis corner Frank,  orchestrating a Christmas past, present, and future intervention.

Traditions are revered by Mac and Charlie, who compare notes as they recall childhood Holiday moments.  Doubts soon set in.  Without revealing too much delicious detail, their errant parents put the best face on felonies and vice crimes for the dim lads.

Howerton shared their inspiration. “Those great old Christmas specials that we all grew up watching on television as kids.  That was one major aspect of it and I think we like the idea of doing our own version of that.  But I think with the Mac and Charlie storyline, we also liked the idea of creating our own brand-new, never done before sort of Christmas special.  So in a way, we like the idea of doing both.  One storyline is basically a callback to one of the most famous Christmas tales of all time, A Christmas Carol, and then the Mac and Charlie storyline, which is really original to us.”  

Note the date on this article may be incorrect due to importing it from our old system.