With situations that are simply outrageous and characters that are despicably endearing, “Sunny” is quite possibly the funniest show on television.
The show features “the gang,” consisting of Dennis, Dee, Mac, Charlie, and Frank who operate Paddy’s Pub, an Irish bar in downtown Philadelphia—once rated “the worst bar in Philly.” Paddy’s seems to not have much of a clientele, and whenever it starts to see any level of success, “the gang” finds a way to ruin it within 28 minutes.
“The gang” is a vile concoction of alcoholic and virtually sociopathic personalities, unethical, ignorant, and narcissistic. The main cast includes these five well developed characters:
Dennis Reynolds (Glenn Howerton) started off the series as the player, completely in love with himself. His highest aspiration in life is to have as much sex with as many women as possible, and he was originally pretty good at it. He devised a system for getting laid called the D.E.N.N.I.S. System, each letter representing a step in the seduction process which he tries to pass on to the other men in the gang. As the seasons progress though, Dennis becomes more unhinged, deranged and obsessed with his image that women become less susceptible to his charms and more creeped out instead. We find that the popularity he supposedly enjoyed in his youth existed mostly in his imagination. By season 10 it becomes evident that Dennis is really starting to crack up.
Dee Reynolds (Kaitlin Olson), the fraternal twin sister of Dennis is the awkward girl who still hasn’t grown into herself. She still has unfulfilled dreams of being an actress and comedian, a theme which makes for several mishaps along the course of the series. She’s rude to her customers, and can’t seem to get involved with a man who doesn’t have a myriad of problems without screwing it up. As the series progresses, Dee is shown to be quite verbally abusive to her lovers, and she becomes even more delusional about her star qualities. The gang treats her like garbage, unconcerned with her thoughts or problems and she is proclaimed at one point by Mack to be “the useless chick” of the gang.
“Mac,” Ronald McDonald (Rob McElhenney)— Early in the series Mac is essentially a wannabe meathead and fitness poseur obsessed with building body-mass and admiring men’s physiques. He pretends to be a skilled athlete and martial artist, but proves time and again to have fewer skills than anyone else. From the beginning he displays a religious pose that becomes more important to him as the series progresses, although it is clear he has a fairly superficial understanding of the doctrines of his faith. In the first season there is enough evidence to question if Mac is fully comfortable with his sexuality and as time goes by it becomes more and more obvious that he is struggling with some homosexual tendencies which with his religious convictions reveals a rather conflicted personality. His father is a convicted drug dealer
Charlie Kelly (Charlie Day) is the moron amongst the idiots. Other than being a partner in Paddy’s Pub, he has nothing going for him, so the gang made him the pub’s janitor. An almost illiterate slob, Charlie is often opining over and sometimes stalking the coffee shop waitress introduced in the first episode. As it turns out, Charlie is a naturally skilled musician responsible for writing some of the series’ most popular songs like “Dayman.” While Charlie is apparently the least put together member of the gang, as his character develops we find out that he is in many ways the foundation that holds the entire enterprise together, though he never receives any recognition from any of his friends.
Frank Reynolds (Danny DeVito) is Dennis’ and Dee’s stepfather and possibly the biological father of Charlie. A former high-power corporate CEO turned lousy con-man, he first appears in season 2 and scams his way into partial ownership of the Pub. Frank is financially independent from past business dealings, and embezzles money from Paddy’s Pub. Perhaps the most depraved character on Sunny, Frank is determined to see just how weird he can get with the last remaining year of his life. He moves into Charlie’s apartment and the two develop a strange bromance. Being independently wealthy from his business years, Frank is the financer for the gangs many schemes which allows for some rather pricey adventures.
The gang is remarkable in that the members always manage to make the wrong decision, ethically and economically in every situation. In one episode Dee and Mac try to raise a baby they found in a dumpster. Another time Dennis and Dee purposely become addicted to crack in order to qualify for welfare. They destroy an immigrant family’s house by trying to perform an “extreme home makeover” after becoming inspired by the book “the Secret.”
In “The Gang Exploits a Miracle” Frank leads the gang into trying to profit from a restroom water stain that resembles the Virgin Mary. This episode introduces one of the most dynamic side characters, Rickety Cricket (David Hornsby). Cricket is an old acquaintance from high school who enters the pub as an ordained Catholic Priest, to investigate the “miracle.” In short order his life is ruined by his unrequited love of Dee, driving him into a life of homelessness.
The gang has also attracted the attention of a local lawyer, whom after experiencing first-hand their deceitful and shameless behavior has taken to occasionally making sport out of litigating against them.
In It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, the standard sitcom structure doesn’t apply. The classic format calls for 20something minutes of mishaps, and satire that will all be wrapped up in the end with the lives of the main cast back to normal and okay. At the end of each episode, the gang usually receives the karmic retribution they have earned, or at least they lose everything for which they were aiming. No matter how bad the outcome, it’s difficult to feel sorry for any of them.
There are no happy endings in “Sunny,” just hilarious unfortunate consequences.