The Big Picture

  • It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia has become the longest running live-action sitcom by maintaining its irreverent and surprising nature.
  • Danny DeVito’s performance as Frank Reynolds is a standout and has helped keep the show fresh after so many seasons.
  • Frank Reynolds was inspired by producer Scott Marder’s father and is a major reason for the show’s success.


Now in its sixteenth season, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia has become the longest running live-action sitcom in history. While many comedy shows struggle to even make it past a few seasons without running out of jokes, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia has grown to be even more irreverent, unexpected, and surprisingly emotional as it continues. While the series’ cast members have played their roles for so long that they have become synonymous with their characters, Danny DeVito’s performance as Frank Reynolds remains the show’s standout. While Frank manages to keep sinking to new lows throughout the series, DeVito manages to keep surprising the audience by unraveling different aspects of his personality. Although it’s DeVito’s unique personality that is largely responsible for crafting the character, Frank Reynolds was inspired by a real man who has been described as “a live-action Homer Simpson.”

Its always in philly poster

It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia

Five friends with big egos and small brains are the proprietors of an Irish pub in Philadelphia.

Release Date
August 4, 2005

Creator
Rob McElhenney

Main Genre
Comedy

Seasons
16


The Real Man Who Inspired Frank Reynolds

Created by its cast members Rob McElhenney and Glenn Howerton, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia follows a group of sociopathic friends that operate an Irish pub in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. While Mac (McElhenney), Charlie (Charlie Day), Dennis (Howerton), and his sister Dee (Kaitlin Olson) often look down upon members of “civil society,” their narcissistic behavior is often revealed in the show’s increasingly ludicrous storylines. While the chemistry between the cast is terrific, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia got a boost in quality when DeVito joined the cast in its second season. While adding an established actor to a low-budget show could have felt like a cynical means of boosting its exposure, DeVito proved to be essential to the show’s dynamic. The presence of Frank, the irresponsible absent father of Dee and Dennis, is a major reason why It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia continues to feel fresh after so much time.

Despite being older than the other characters on the show, Frank is by no means a figure of authority, and shows little interest in giving his children any guidance. Frank is often the driving force behind the gang’s various hair-brained schemes, and has an aptitude for getting himself into trouble. While it’s impressive that McElhenney has managed to show different sides of the character as the show continues, Frank is loosely based on the father of the It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia producer Scott Marder. Marder revealed that the mannerisms of his beguiling, eccentric father, nicknamed “Hockey,” inspired the unique enigma that is Frank in It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.

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Frank wasn’t the only It’s Always Sunny character based on Hockey Marder, as he also inspired one of Mac’s funniest moments in the series. In the episode “Frank’s Pretty Women,” Mac is diagnosed with diabetes as a result of his perpetually unhealthy lifestyle and erratic choices. Although he is told that he needs to take insulin in order to control his blood pressure, Mac ends up using the pump to inject himself in the stomach. Marder revealed that Mac’s unsustainable dietary decisions mirrored his father, who ate “sleeves of Oreos right before bed.” Hockey opted to drink soda at every meal, as he disliked the taste of water; Marder noted that it’s “remarkable” that his father lived into his 80s.

‘It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia’ Draws From True Stories

While the show has a series of running gags that give it a sense of community, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia’s long-term success is a result of the show’s continued ability to put the gang in ridiculous new scenarios. While coming up with new gags may have been a challenge for the writers, some of the best moments of It’s Always Sunny were inspired by true stories. In the episode “The Gang Sells Out,” Frank reunites with the members of his old posse, “The Yellow Jacket Boys.” The gang was inspired by a real group called Vito and the Salutations that Hockey had briefly been a part of before he was kicked out. As a tribute to the real man, one of the members of Frank’s group is named Hockey.

Although Marder’s memories of his father added a personal touch to the series, Hockey wasn’t the only It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia character that was based on a real person. According to McElhenney, the name “Sweet Dee” was named after the wife of Rage Against The Machine’s guitarist, Tom Morello; while there aren’t many similarities between Olson’s performance and the real “Sweet Dee,” McElhenney thought it was an amusing name and kept it in mind. Two of the show’s most memorable guest stars, Liam (Jimmi Simpson) and Ryan McPoyle (Nate Mooney), were named after two guys that Day knew from college. Regrettably, Day revealed that the real McPoyle was not enthused about having his namesake being used in It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, as he had “heard from friends who were at a wedding that he’s not happy about it.”

Why Frank Reynolds Is One of Danny DeVito’s Best Roles

While he has always been one of the industry’s most prominent character actors, DeVito rose to new levels of popularity as a result of his role in It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. While he had been a prominent star in the 20th century as a result of his acclaimed work in films like Get Shorty, Batman Returns, The Virgin Suicides, and One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest among others, DeVito hadn’t been granted as many lead roles by the time he was added to the It’s Always Sunny cast. In addition to reminding his fans that he hadn’t lost an ounce of his signature creative touch, DeVito introduced himself to a younger generation of viewers.

Although it certainly wasn’t the first time he was cast as the comic relief, It’s Always Sunny emphasized DeVito’s talents as a creative collaborator. It’s hard to imagine some of the most emotional It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia moments without DeVito, as he played a significant role in crafting Frank’s personality. It’s easy to forget that in addition to being a great actor, DeVito is an accomplished filmmaker; classic films like The War of the Roses, Throw Momma From the Train, and Hoffa reveal him to be much more versatile than some may expect.

It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia is available to stream on Hulu in the U.S.

Watch on Hulu

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