PASADENA, Calif. — How long can the gang of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia continue to get up to mischief?
There may be no end in sight for the series created by St. Joe’s Prep grad Rob McElhenney, who stars with fellow producers Charlie Day and Glenn Howerton as well as Kaitlin Olson and Danny DeVito.
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With the series entering its 14th season later this year on FXX, I asked John Landgraf, CEO of FX Network and FX Productions where he was in thinking about a 15th, and about what the long-running comedy, which started out on FX, meant to helping develop the brand of a network that marks its 25th anniversary this summer.
“I could never have predicted [when Sunny started] that it would be the longest-running live-action sitcom in television history,” Landgraf said on Monday during a session at the Television Critics Association’s winter meetings. “That’s just crazy.”
Part of the early strategy for FX was to produce things people wouldn’t find on more familiar channels, he said.
“We started with the notion of, if we’re channel 248 on DirecTV, why would anybody watch the same thing? Why would they go to Channel 248 to watch what they could get on Channel 2, 4, or 7? They just wouldn’t, right? Therefore, we have to give people a unique reason to come to a place that was, at least at that time, less familiar to them on their dial.”
Part of that was “deconstructing” a genre, as The Shield, for instance, did with police dramas.
“I’d say Sunny was … the first successful deconstruction, and reconstruction,” of a situation comedy," Landgraf said.
“But the thing that’s amazing about it is that those five really hilarious degenerates at the center of it are the most active schemers you have ever seen. They care so deeply about stuff that no one should care about, they go so far out of their way to achieve nothing that they drive the story,” he said.
As a result, they’ve taken on all kinds of issues and continued to push themselves, Landgraf said, citing McElhenney’s character’s “crazy, awesome dance sequence” from last season. “From my standpoint, they made some of the best episodes of Sunny that I’ve ever seen this year. And I think that’s my answer to you."