I am a huge, huge fan of It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia. Usually, when a new season lands, I rush to it faster than Mac does into Paddy’s when bringing in news, terrible news.
Yet something strange has happened recently. The show’s record-breaking fifteenth season landed at the very end of last year.
It’s now the beginning of March.
Two whole months later.
Two months later and I’m only just now finding my way to the new season—and instead of tearing through the whole thing in a day or two like I would usually, I’m doing so at a snail’s pace of an episode here and there every few days, whenever I don’t have anything better to do.
That’s just unthinkable.
What could possibly be causing this aberrant phenomenon.
Well, I won’t sugar coat it: It is partly due to the fact that I do think the show’s quality has dipped a fair bit over the past three or four seasons. An insanely high bar it may well be to be measured against, but nevertheless, season thirteen onwards has been struggling to live up to the show’s glory days (its peak: seasons two through to ten—what a long peak!).
I don’t think the quality by itself would be enough to cause such a lapse in my voracious hunger for Sunny material, however.
And it’s true. There is an even more significant reason why I’ve not exactly felt compelled to catch up with this season.
The damn podcast.
Starting late last November, not long before the fifteenth season of the show itself dropped, I saw a notification pop up on my phone that said that the guys from the show—Glenn Howerton, Charlie Day, and Rob McElhenney—had launched a podcast that was going to be, essentially, just the three of them in a room, talking about It’s Always Sunny. They would be re-watching the show and providing behind-the-scenes memories and other thoughts on the show, going all the way back to August 2005(!) and starting with ‘The Gang Gets Racist’, progressing episode by episode all the way up until the present.
As it stands, I am now so hooked on the It’s Always Sunny podcast—and I’m getting so much out of it that I would usually get out of the show itself—that my need to watch the show has basically evaporated.
That’s right, guys (because, Glenn, Charlie, Rob, I know you care and even more so are definitely reading this), your amazing creation is currently being overshadowed by your newer amazing creation!
A word about podcasts: For the longest time, my position was that I didn’t get them. More specifically: I didn’t understand where people fit them in. It’s hours and hours, endless hours, of content. Where do people listen to it all?! Granted, I don’t drive, and my commute to work has always mostly either been by bike or very short—though even when it has been longer and I have had some headphones time, that’s always been allocated as precious music time!—but still. I didn’t understand it. The only podcast I’ve ever managed to listen to—and I really have to reach back into the mists of bygone eras to find something—was Ricky Gervais, Stephen Merchant, and Karl Pilkington’s podcast, The Ricky Gervais Show. This was before Gervais mutated into the strange and aberrant form I don’t really recognise today, and I adored that podcast. I used to listen to the radio show that spawned it before that too. So I did once devote a fair bit of time to listening to people talk. But then that all happened when I was in my teens and early twenties. You know, when a person has time. Now? I just couldn’t see how the hell it was doable.
That’s all changed now.
I finally understand.
I get it now. Podcasts can be fitted in just fine into adult life. You just have to really want to be listening to them. When you start from that principle, you fit it in where you can, and you just make it work. It’s like the gym. A little here, a little there, ends up adding up to a greater whole, and stuff gets done.
It’s no surprise then, considering my love for the show, that it was an It’s Always Sunny podcast that broke through. My investment in that show—recent marginally waning enthusiasm notwithstanding—remains off the charts. When I saw that podcast title, and who was hosting it, my curiosity was piqued immediately. It doesn’t matter how much of a promise the show might have had, though—there’s no way it would have sustained its presence in my routine if it wasn’t any good. The novelty would have worn off pretty quickly.
As it happens, the show is good.
Really fuc*ing good.
With Sunny (among many other shows) writer and producer Megan Ganz behind the scenes—and in the room, though not often on the mic—as producer, the It’s Always Sunny podcast is composed of, as previously stated, Glenn Howerton, Charlie Day, and Rob McElhenney, sat around a table, shooting the sh*t, sometimes hilariously replicating some of the interpersonal dynamics seen on the show, and sometimes delightfully subverting them.
Most often following a weekly schedule, the guys have just hit their twenty-first episode, and things just keep getting better. They started out with just audio, but with the sixteenth installment—the one about the second season classic, ‘The Gang Runs For Office’—they added video, and just like that the essential listening became essential viewing. It’s still perfectly doable to take in the show with sound only, and obviously that goes a long way towards being able to absorb it while doing other things, but the visual component adds a hell of a lot.
As with most things, your mileage will vary depending on how invested you are in the characters at the centre of this-or how funny and charming you find them-but it has to be said that to me the funny and charm levels are off the charts. Howerton, Day, and McElhenney are clearly all captivating personalities, even just by themselves. Together, they are electric. Considering the fact that all three have had a major hand in shaping the voice of the show we know them from, none of this should come as a surprise. Sunny is one of the tightest written, most personality-driven shows around. Listening to them conjur humour from thin air in the podcast makes it abundantly clear where all that comes from.
Though the official remit of the podcast is to deliver a dissection-via-reminiscence of each episode—and I really think that for Sunny fans, this is necessary listening/viewing, as the behind-the-scenes stories are as gut-busting as they are interesting—the guys are not shy of completely tangential discursive moments. In fact, some of the best parts of the podcast so far have come from precisely this conversational riffing, sparked by whatever happens to be on any of the guys’ minds—whether it be Howerton’s rage at people’s inability to park properly, or McElhenney’s insecurity at being able to get away with wearing a cap with a straight brim. They are relatable, endearing, and great virtual company. From the banal to the absurd, the guys make pretty much everything amusing. Perhaps the best example of this is the (so far) only call-in episode they have done. Even though it broke fully with the show’s ostensible mission—they didn’t centre the podcast around any particular Sunny episode—I really hope they do another. The collective chaos agent that is the public combined with the guys’ quick wit and absurdist streak is a tremendously winning formula. Plus, Charlie Day’s immediate assumption of a pitch perfect parody radio host persona is a treat to watch.
Sometimes arguing, sometimes reinforcing and pushing, but always bouncing off each other in fantastic ways, the three way (sometimes four—Megan rocks) conversation that makes up this podcast is, to me, pretty much perfect entertainment. Whether Sunny-related or not, the guys’ stories are in and of themselves hilarious and interesting, but the Sunny fan will get an extra kick out of them, not just because of the information about the show’s production contained within, but because in the guys’ dynamic you can catch glimpses of where the beautiful twisted beast that is Sunny came from. I’m not saying it’s as exhilarating as watching Paul McCartney coax Get Back out of the formless ether, but I’m also not not saying that.
I could honestly watch these guys talk about anything, for hours and hours. I would single out Glenn Howerton, just because it is a boundless joy seeing him channel Dennis Reynolds (one of the greatest sitcom characters of all time) to varying degrees in real life, but really the magic lies in the electricity between these guys. No wonder they gave us something as brilliant as It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia.
Do yourself a favour and tune into this podcast.