It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia Series Recap


Charlie Kelly and the Reynolds

In its eight seasons on the air, It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia has gone from being an underground hit to a cult favourite to a popular and much loved forerunner of the television comedy. As its greatness is owed entirely to its superb cast—with Glen Howerton, Rob McElhenney, and Charlie Day being the shows primary writers as well as its televisual figures—the stories, which are mostly incidental and episodic, are not integral to the either the show’s atmosphere or comedic presence. As such, I will not use this article to tell of episode plots or recurrent narrative themes; I will use it to identify and expound on the central qualities of each of the five main characters of the show.

As a preamble, I will note that the show is based around the running of Paddy’s Pub, where the gang “works”—the three young men own the establishment together. When the show began, the comedy was centred around awkward circumstances. The first episode has many awkward moments where the gang—most notably Mac (Rob McElhenney)—unknowingly makes racist remarks in front of a homosexual black man. There are pauses of silence, and this awkward silence fuels the laughs. As the characters became more defined and Danny Devito joined the cast as Frank, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia went from a comedy of awkward instances to a comedy of aggravations. The characters do not develop, they degrade, and as they have degraded and their one-dimensional character traits have became more explicit, the level of frustration that each one exercises at each others’ expense has risen. For example, the more idiotic Charlie has become, the more intense Dennis’ (Glen Howerton) frustrated remarks to Charlie’s idiocy has become. Booze filled moments of fury are what fuels the comedy today. So, what do they get frustrated with?


Charlie Kelly (Charlie Day), the janitor of the bar, is nearly illiterate and writes symbols in place of real words. His stupidity and ‘wildcard’ antics have gotten the gang into more trouble than Dennis the Menace on the first day of school. He is in love with the Waitress, who has been banged by both Dennis and Frank, and is constantly made of for her plainness. Charlie lives with Frank, they sleep in the same bed, and are now technically married—this ridiculous plot was merely so that Charlie reaps the benefits of Frank’s insurance. His illiteracy drives everyone crazy; however, despite being extremely foolish, he has some moments of great brilliance. He’s a fantastic musician, and tends to get what he wants, such as when he uses the beautiful and rich brunette to make the Waitress jealous.

Frank Reynolds was once a rich CEO. After getting divorced, he decided to move in with his kids Dennis and Dee (Kaitlin Olsen) in order to relive the filthy bygone days of his youth. When he first entered the mix, he wore a business suit and acted classy; by now he has banged more prostitutes than one can count, been interventioned, and hosted Russian Roulette betting for Vietnamese gamblers. He is as disgusting as a pig, and it’s quite amazing what he will do both to his own body as well as others’.

Dennis Reynolds is the vain, narcissistic and possibly sociopathic mastermind behind the gang’s plans. His attention to detail, sexual exploits, and self-expressed lack of feelings makes him the perfect serial killer, but he instead uses his skills to manipulate people for his own deluded need for social betterment. He constantly makes fun of his twin sister Dee, and of all the characters he is the quickest to anger. When he’s not videotaping himself having sex he is working his D.E.N.N.I.S system to manipulate girls into having sex with him. He keeps a psychological dossier on each of the members of the gang, and has been documenting Dee’s behaviour since the second grade.

Mac is a total badass. He has the ability to make ocular pat-downs in order to assess a person’s threat level. He clears them for access if they pass the pat-down. Showing off his Karate chops in his sleeveless shirts, Mac acts as the self acknowledged bouncer of Paddy’s Pub. He’s been best friends with Charlie since he was a little boy and his father went to jail. Coming from a catholic family, he has a perverse relationship with the Lord where he twists words up—even makes words up—to justify his actions through the workings of Jesus Christ. Mac is a complete asshole and is constantly making offensive remarks.

Dee Reynolds, twin sister of Dennis, is similarly vain; however, Dee is also extremely insecure. She has plenty of sexual partners, and is willing to do the sickest things in order to impress people and gain popularity. She thinks that one day she will become an actor or comedian, but she’s neither funny nor able to act. Dee classically overcompensates for her insecurities by acting confident—I.e. bitchy—but her lack of hotness just leads her into awkward self-destructive circumstances. The guys typically make fun of her as a group and blame everything in the bar on her extraordinarily long bird legs.

There you have it. Once one understands the characters of the show, the stories simply become a backdrop for their performances. As the characters degrade rather than develop, they have become more defined as the show has progressed, making the recent seasons as strong as the show has ever been—an obviously unique quality for a long running comedy series. This season is set up to be as interesting and funny as any other season of the series, and while the episodic structure means one can jump in at any point, I recommend watching at least a few earlier season episodes so that one can familiarize oneself with the characters and how they have “developed.”

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Kamran Ahmed

Staff Film Critic. Visit my personal blog at Aesthetics of The Mind
Kamran's areas of interest include formalism, realism & reality, affect, and notions of the aesthetic. With experiences as a TA, an event panelist, a presenter at conferences from UofT to Harvard, and a writer of a self-authored film blog, Kamran would like to share with others his profound interest in the profilmic in the hopes of inspiring, in them, a similar love for film.