From small shop to big biz

Hollywood's New Leaders 2012: 'It's Always Sunny in California' crew

Rob McElhenney, Charlie Day, Glenn Howerton
Executive producers/writers/actors, “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia”
Talk about return on investment. Nine years ago McElhenney, Day and Howerton (now 35, 36 and 36 respectively) shot their original presentation pilot for $300 on a camcorder. Today, “Sunny” is one of the most successful comedies in cable history, reportedly becoming a $300 million business. Now in its eighth season, it was the first comedy series to gain backend syndication from one basic cable network to another (FX to Comedy Central), was a big hit on Hulu, and has three more seasons remaining, which will make it the longest-running live-action comedy on cable.

Ironically, the team’s financial production model — and cornerstone of the FX original comedy brand — “was totally by default,” admits McElhenney. “Our ignorance was our greatest asset. We weren’t informed enough about the way things really work to limit ourselves, and just figured it out as we went. Keeping the low-cost model allowed us to stay on for the first few seasons when no one was watching, which was crucial to the show’s success and building an audience.” The secret to the trio’s formula: “Communication, especially with creative discussions. Heated arguments often yield the best results, and we never want to rest on our laurels,” adds McElhenney. “We’re developing more series and we’re all writing movies.”

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