Culture Matters:

Now the Longest Running Comedy Series: ‘It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia’

by Joseph Azevedo | Dec 18, 2020

More hours are being spent on the couch than on the road now with everyone in quarantine and working from home. We have seemingly replaced commuting in cars to bingeing TV. Streaming platforms are taking advantage of this new reality by churning out as much original content as they can. Older, forgotten shows are getting rebooted or renewed for additional episodes exclusively for their respective platforms. The show “Friends” has a reunion special confirmed to be exclusive to HBOMAX in 2021. Similarly, Disney+ already released new original episodes of the once canceled animated series “Star Wars: The Clone Wars.” If these networks continue this trend, who will have the longest running series? Currently, the longest running animated television series goes to “The Simpsons” (Fox) with 32 seasons followed by “South Park” (Viacom/HBO) with 23 seasons. On the other hand, “Law and Order: SVU” (NBC) has 22 Seasons making it the longest running scripted drama series. As for scripted comedy the record now belongs to “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” which, according to Brandon T. Harden’s article, just got renewed for four more seasons thus making it the longest running live action scripted comedy series on television with 18 seasons.

The 15th season of “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” will premiere on FXX on an unspecified date in 2021 and the following day on FX on Hulu. Interestingly, FXX and Hulu fall under the Fox/Disney umbrella. The show follows a neurotic group of friends who run a bar in South Philadelphia and get into all sorts of greasy shenanigans-funded by the father of two of the characters. Some might complain that 18 seasons of this obnoxious comedy is too many. But you can’t argue with success as evidenced by the thriving careers of the cast. Rob McElhenney now has his own show “Mythic Quest: Raven’s Banquet” which is exclusive to AppleTV. Charlie Day has had major screen roles and did voice acting work with Disney/Pixar. Kaitlin Olson has also had success with Disney and Pixar in her role as Destiny in “Finding Dory.” Glenn Howerton starred in his own show “A.P. Bio” which premiered in September on NBC’s Peacock streaming platform. And finally, the legendary Danny Devito’s career continues to flourish at 76.

According to Harden, “The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet,” previously held the longest running series record with 14 seasons (1952 through 1966). It’s ironic that The Mouse Empire now owns “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” (thanks to its recent Fox acquisition) and that it is has lasted this long on television. Pop on any episode and it’s very likely you will see scenes of drunken debauchery like a fully nude and sweaty Danny Devito hastily emerging from a leather couch during a holiday work party. Or it’s the episode where the gang solves the mystery of who pooped the bed; naturally, it was Danny Devito’s character Frank. The writers and actors have no comedic limits which might explain its rabidly loyal fan base who continually watch reruns and post “Always Sunny” memes on social media.

It would be wise for Disney+ to incorporate the “Always Sunny” gang into its rumored R-Rated section if they want to expand their adult viewership. The cast is clearly getting older, but they still plan on continuing the show for as long as possible. Creator/co-star Rob McElhenney took to Twitter claiming that “Sunny was originally pitched as a 36-season arc. So happy to be halfway done.” Tim Molloy in his article notes that McElhenney didn’t appreciate how characters in other shows “always get better looking in later seasons, as storylines get syrupier and their stars get richer.” For its seventh season, McElhenney decided sudden weight gain or “cultivating mass” would be a “perfect way to mock other sitcoms and capsize the relentless vanity of his character, Mac.” A clever alternative to the current methods implemented in wardrobe and makeup popularized in productions today. Danny Devito’s character Frank summarized this moment of uncertainty best by telling fans “Well, I don’t know how many years on this Earth I got left. I’m gonna get real weird with it.” Apparently, he’s spending it filming more “Always Sunny,” and it has already been really weird. Well done gang.