If Jerry, Elaine, George and Kramer existed today as twentysomethings on basic cable, you’d have something pretty close to FX’s “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.”
The slacker comedy centers on four friends who own a dive bar in Philadelphia. The self-centered pals engage in all sorts of politically incorrect absurdities, given away by episode titles like “The Gang Gets Racist,” “Charlie Wants an Abortion” and “Gun Fever.”
FX executives brought back the critically hailed show after a ratings-challenged first season, this time injecting it with some star power in the form of Danny DeVito, who will play the father of Dennis (Glenn Howerton) and Dee (Kaitlin Olson).
Soon after he arrives on the scene with news that he’s going to divorce their mother, DeVito’s character quickly discovers he enjoys the degenerate lifestyles of the guys and joins the club.
Recently, series creator/showrunner/ co-star Rob McElhenney was in the middle of editing the second season, due June 29. He and co-stars Charlie Day and Howerton — both exec producers, as well — have two episodes wrapped and eight to go.
“None of us were built for sitting in a dark room 13 hours a day,” he jokes. He, Day and Howerton were struggling actors before McElhenney was struck with the idea to write a show for him and his buddies. A couple of hundred dollars and one pilot later, they were sitting in front of former FX chief Peter Liguori getting a series pickup.
Aside from a penchant for tackling taboo subjects, McElhenney isn’t quite sure where the ideas come from. “We sit around and drink beer and talk about what’s funny. Then we put it on TV,” he says. “The biggest compliment we get is when people tell us that their friends talk the way the characters do — not to say that those people are a bunch of losers.”
Even with the bonus cachet of DeVito — and soon a billboard promo in Times Square — McElhenney insists no shark-jumping will ensue. “None of us know the correct way to do this TV show, really,” he says. “The show came out of so much desperation, a point where we had nothing to lose, so we just try to remember that in every step of the process.”
Season two episode titles suggest no edge will be lost: These include “The Gang Goes Jihad,” “Dennis and Dee Go on Welfare” and “Mac Bangs Dennis’ Mom.” (The latter will include a guest gig by Anne Archer, playing the mom.)
Says McElhenney: “We’re picking up right where we left off.”
Best episode: “Underage Drinking: A National Concern.” The gang gets caught up in the high school politics of the underage drinkers who begin to frequent the bar. Mac is so desperate to go to prom that he decides to go “stag.”
Funniest character: Charlie (Day), the most neurotic of the bunch, who at one point fakes having cancer to gain the attention of a longstanding crush.
What should happen next season: Dee needs to hook up with one of the guys.