There are sitcoms that everyone loves, and then there's It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia — a series which has managed to turn off many with its despicable characters and depraved sense of humor. From faking cancer to trying to eat a homeless person, there are no depths that are too low for the owners of Paddy's Pub. But you don’t get to thirteen seasons without making a few fans in the process.
While It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia might not pull in the biggest numbers, the show has maintained such a rabid following over the years that one has to wonder if they’ve accidentally gotten there hands on some raccoon meat. But the more likely scenario is that many people have just as twisted of a sense of humor as the makers of this FX series.
The sitcom was created by Rob McElhenney with the help of Glenn Howerton and Charlie Day, who would go on to portray Mac, Dennis, and Charlie on the series. Kaitlin Olson and Danny DeVito fill out the rest of the main cast as Dee and Frank Reynolds, and for over the last decade, fans have been happily following the bizarre misadventures of the Gang. Of course, it’s impossible to imagine anyone else in these leading roles. With over 130 episodes, there has been no shortage of supporting characters and celebrity cameo, some of which have been a lot better than others.
Here are 6 Casting Decisions That Hurt It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia (And 14 That Saved It).
20 Saved: Glenn Howerton as Dennis Reynolds
In a sea of despicable characters, Dennis Reynolds has slowly revealed himself to be the most reprehensible of them all. Dennis may have begun the series as one of the more sensible members of the Gang — albeit one with an extremely short fuse, but he’s slowly revealed himself to be a cool and calculated sociopath. One who also happens to have a heavy side of narcissistic personality disorder.
While Glenn Howerton didn’t want to name the character after himself for fear of people drawing an unwelcome comparison, that hasn’t stopped Howerton from taking the character to some extremely dark places. He's more than a little convincing when he lays out one of his manipulative plans. While his temper tantrums may be over-the-top, you never doubt the authenticity of the rage and frustration Howerton has embedded into his performance.
19 Saved: Mary Elizabeth Ellis as The Waitress
One of the most prominent recurring characters on It’s Always Sunny, the Waitress has been a part of the series since the very beginning. She is the unrequited love interest of Charlie throughout the majority of the show — though it seems like the tables have turned in recent episodes.
The Waitress is portrayed by Mary Elizabeth Ellis, who had previously worked with Charlie Day on an episode of Reno 911! The two were married shortly after It’s Always Sunny began, adding another layer of hilarity to the dysfunctional relationship between the two characters on screen.
Ellis fully commits to her performance as the down-on-her-luck waitress.
She’s an example of the tight-knit community working behind-the-scenes that has made the series such a success.
18 Hurt: Jason Sudeikis as Schmitty
While sitcoms usually lend themselves well to celebrity cameos, It’s Always Sunny has created such a distinct world that more often than not these cameos end up feeling out of place. There have been a few instances where they’ve managed to pull them off. Josh Groban popping up in one of Dee’s fantasies seemed fitting, and Dax Shepard manages to blend in fairly well into the episodes where Mac and Charlie join a cult.
In the case of Jason Sudeikis and a number of other celebrities, the cameos just end up coming across as distracting. There’s nothing inherently wrong with Jason Sudeikis playing Schmitty — an ex-member of the Gang who makes an unexpected return. The whole time, you never forget that you're watching Sudeikis, which just doesn't work for the tone of the series.
17 Saved: Mary Lynn Rajskub as Gail the Snail
Though she’s only appeared in three episodes of the series to date, Gail the Snail is definitely one of those side characters that we’d like to see more of. She first appeared back in the season five episode “The Gang Gives Frank an Intervention”, where she is the clingy cousin of Dennis and Dee who talks with a lisp and has the disgusting habit of slurping her saliva. Dennis and Dee have found that the only way to get rid of her is to dust her with salt, hence her nickname of Gail the Snail.
The character is portrayed by the talented Mary Lynn Rajskub, who is best known for playing Chloe O’Brian on 24.
This is undeniably a very different character, and it’s impressive just how committed Rajskub is to playing someone so hilariously obnoxious.
16 Saved: David Hornsby as Cricket
The Gang has dragged their fair share of individuals down into the dirt with them, but none are more apparent than Rickety Cricket. Portrayed by David Hornsby, Cricket is a former classmate of the Gang who was once infatuated with Dee. He debuted in season two as a clean-cut priest who has slowly transformed into the addicted hobo that we have today.
Hornsby has been such a prominent member of the show that last season he was given his own episode with “A Cricket’s Tale”, which cleverly intertwined the character's other brief appearances throughout the season into the story. Hornsby has also been a big part of the show behind-the-scenes as well, serving as an executive producer and a writer of nearly 30 episodes.
15 Hurt: Brian Unger as The Attorney
It’s Always Sunny has a number of supporting characters who re-emerge every few seasons, only to be dragged down by the shenanigans of the Gang once again. Brian Unger plays one such character with the Attorney, who the Gang often visits for legal advice only to contradict everything the lawyer has to say.
As a former correspondent of The Daily Show, Unger is really good at playing the straight man.
In fact, he’s too good, which makes it hard to believe that he would put up with these self-centered, narcissistic characters for more than a few episodes. Often, these supporting characters are revealed to be a little bit off in their own right, but Unger is just too normal to make his character mesh with the series.
14 Saved: Danny DeVito as Frank Reynolds
Danny DeVito first popped up in season two of It’s Always Sunny, and his casting as Frank Reynolds quite literally saved the series. While the higher-ups at FX reportedly loved the first season, not enough people were watching to warrant a second outing. McElhenney, Howerton, and Day were given the ultimatum to add a bigger name or face cancellation. While they worried how DeVito would fit into the series, the veteran actor has more than proven himself as a worthy member of the Gang.
The insane things that DeVito will do for the character are a testament to the actor’s commitment. Even more impressive is how you never feel like you're watching a performance. DeVito becomes Frank Reynolds. Even when he's not delivering lines, just watching him futz about in the background is already hilarious enough.
13 Saved: Charlie Day as Charlie Kelly
It’s Always Sunny has turned all of its leading actors into stars, but Charlie Day is the biggest breakout of them all. Since appearing on the show, Day has worked on a number of hit films, including Horrible Bosses, Pacific Rim, and The Lego Movie.
His star power has no doubt helped the show remain on the air for so long.
Thanks to Day's performance and musical talents, the character of Charlie has no shortage of memorable moments. Bird law aside, Charlie may be the least intelligent member of the Gang. In a lot of ways, he's the heart of the show. Charlie certainly has his share of questionable moments, but they often stem from ignorance rather than malice, which set him apart from the other employees of Paddy's Pub.
12 Hurt: Sean "Diddy" Combs as Dr. Jinx
Whenever Sean "Diddy" Combs pops up in a movie or TV show, he often plays a fictionalized version of himself. In It’s Always Sunny, he plays the unorthodox Dr. Jinx who utilizes alternative methods to treat his patients.
Not only is the cameo distracting, but Combs' performance is pretty flat. It almost seems like the actor is reading off cue cards, and when Dr. Jinx is seen playing the bass guitar during a musical performance at Paddy's Pub, it’s pretty obvious that Combs isn’t actually playing. The rapper may have stolen the show as Sergio in Get Him to the Greek, but whatever worked for him on that movie isn't back on display in the sitcom.
11 Saved: Artemis Pebdani as Artemis
Artemis is one of the few supporting characters who can actually hang with the Gang without her life coming apart at the seams. She first appeared up in season one, where she befriends Dee after the two meet in an acting class. She’s also had a relationship without Frank throughout her time in the series.
The character is portrayed by Artemis Pebdani, who landed the role right at the start of her professional acting career.
While she's continued to reprise her part as the fun-loving and wild Artemis, the actress has enjoyed success in a number of other shows, including Scandal and Masters of Sex. Though a number of supporting characters seem to have fallen off in recent years, Artemis has already popped up this season with “The Gang Beats Boggs: Ladies Reboot”.
10 Saved: Lynne Marie Stewart and Sandy Martin as Charlie and Mac’s Moms
Every since Danny DeVito debuted as Frank Reynolds, it was abundantly clear why Dennis and Dee are they way that they are. After all, Frank is just as self-absorbed and conniving as the twins. In that respect, we’ve also gotten to see how Mac and Charlie are a result of their childhoods by getting to know their moms over the course of the series.
Lynne Marie Stewart does a perfect job of playing Charlie’s mom, a kind-hearted woman who was far too overprotective of her son — which explains Charlie's numerous irrational fears. Meanwhile, Sandy Martin is the total opposite, as Mac's mom doesn't seem emotionally invested in her son at all — which explains Mac’s constant desire for approval. Together, the two are a perfect comedy duo, which is on full display in "Old Lady House: A Comedy Situation".
9 Hurt: Seann William Scott as Country Mac
In season nine, Seann William Scott made a one episode appearance as Mac’s cousin — who the Gang deems far cooler than Mac. Just like Jason Sudeikis as Schmitty, this is another star cameo that can’t help but feel distracting. Scott has made a career playing characters who are too cool for school thanks to movies like American Pie and Role Models. That might seem like he’s the ideal fit for Country Mac.
Wouldn’t it have been even funnier if the Gang idolized a character for no other reason than to get under Mac's skin?
With the success of It's Always Sunny, we’re sure that they could have a star cameo every few episodes. Since they’re kept to a bare minimum, it seems that even they know these roles can be a bit ostentatious.
8 Saved: Jimmi Simpson and Nate Mooney as Liam and Ryan McPoyle
The McPoyles are the perfect example of just how dark and twisted the humor on It’s Always Sunny can actually get. They are a large inbred family with the two most prominent members, Liam and Ryan, being former classmates of the Gang. They popped up in a number of episodes between seasons one and nine, where they’re often at odds with the owners of Paddy’s Pub.
Liam and Ryan are played by Jimmi Simpson and Nate Mooney throughout their time on the show. Both fully commit to the unsettling nature of these characters. They might be creepy, but that doesn’t stop them from being a hilarious comedy duo. Our only complaint is that they've been absent from the series for the last few seasons.
7 Saved: Catherine Reitman as Maureen Ponderosa
One of the weirdest characters in all of It’s Always Sunny, Maureen Ponderosa is the ex-wife of Dennis Reynolds who slowly makes her transition into becoming a cat in the later episodes of the show. Much like Rickety Cricket, her transition from seemingly normal to totally unhinged takes place over the course of a few seasons — better-allowing audiences to buy into the ridiculousness of it all.
Catherine Reitman seems totally devoted to this outlandish and often unsettling performance.
Since appearing on the show, Reitman's notoriety has only continued to grow. She currently plays the lead on Workin' Moms — a show which she also created — along with popping up as another recurring character in Black-ish.
6 Hurt: Guillermo del Toro as Pappy McPoyle
Writer/ director Guillermo del Toro was apparently such a big fan of It’s Always Sunny, that it was one of the reasons he cast Charlie Day in Pacific Rim. In return, del Toro was given this cameo appearance as Pappy McPoyle — who is most likely the grandfather of Liam and Ryan.
One problem right off the bat is that del Toro was cast to play someone who is most likely from Ireland— a fact which the director himself made fun of in a behind-the-scenes interview. This may have been the reason that Pappy McPoyle was given such an over-the-top appearance, which is really the worst part of the character. The McPoyle’s are indeed odd and unsettling, but they're still somewhat believable.Pappy McPoyle, on the other hand, looks like some deranged wizard who has no place in the series.
5 Saved: Wade Boggs as Himself
The best episodes of It’s Always Sunny usually finds the Gang confined to a single area, where their personalities can do nothing but bounce off the walls and wreak havoc on themselves and anyone in their vicinity. This is what makes “The Gang Beats Boggs” one of the best episodes in the series.
The episode finds the five Philadelphia natives trying to beat Wade Boggs' record of consuming 70 drinks during a cross-country flight.
While the Gang's antics are usually based on nothing but nonsense, this true story only adds another level of hilarity to the episodes. The cherry on top is a brief appearance by Wade Boggs himself. In an interview, Charlie Day said that not only was Boggs happy to participate in the episode, but that his real-life record was a lot more impressive than previously thought.
4 Saved: Michael Naughton as the Waiter
Michael Naughton first appeared up in “The Gang Dines Out,” where he is a server at one of the finest restaurants in Philadelphia. He's crossed paths with the Gang a number of times since, and every time the Waiter emerges worse for wear.
Just this season, Naughton appeared in “The Gang Beats Boggs: Ladies Reboot,” where he is now working as a flight attendant. Once again, the Waiter tries to get the Gang to acknowledge how they've sabotaged him in the past. But once again, the Gang can't remember who he is.
Naughton plays the Waiter with a kind of obsessive desperation beneath his everyman facade; he seems like someone who really would let the Gang get the better of him. He's also the kind of supporting character that rewards loyal fans every time he pops back up.
3 Hurt: Stephen Collins as Bruce Mathis
Stephen Collins popped up in season two and three of It’s Always Sunny, where he played Bruce Mathis, the biological father of Dennis and Dee. Bruce invests most of his time and money helping out various charities around the world, making him a polar opposite of his children. This also made Collins — who was best known for playing Reverend Eric Camden on 7th Heaven — seem like an ideal fit for the part.
In the years since, Collins has both been accused and admitted to being an abuser. The actor has obviously not appeared on the show since, but going back and watching these episodes with Collins can be more than a little discomfiting.
2 Saved: Kaitlin Olson as Dee Reynolds
With Rob McElhenney, Charlie Day, and Glenn Howerton working on the show right from the very beginning, the actors were afforded the opportunity to mold their characters as they saw fit. However, the character of Dee Reynolds was developed before an actress was cast, and she was originally meant to be the Gang’s voice of reason.
Thankfully, Kaitlin Olson nabbed the role, and over time Dee became just as hilariously pathetic as the other members of the Gang.
Being a former member of The Groundlings, Olson clearly had talent as a comedic performer — which might also explain why Dee fancies herself as a bit of an improv comic. The actress isn’t afraid to make Dee as embarrassing as possible, which adds an element of cringe-comedy to the show that’s not found in the other characters.
1 Saved: Rob McElhenney as Mac
Without Rob McElhenney, there would be no It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. The struggling actor/writer decided to put plans for the series into motion after a number of other projects fell through. With the help of Glenn Howerton and Charlie Day, McElhenney made a short episode of the series, which he used to pitch the sitcom. Over a decade later, McElhenney still serves as an executive produces while continuing to write a number of episodes.
As far as his role of Mac is concerned, McElhenney isn’t afraid to take the character in different directions.
He put on a whopping 50 pounds for season seven and Mac finally came out of the closet for good last year — just a few of the many ways McElhenney has kept the show feeling fresh after thirteen seasons.
Who's your favorite actor on It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia? Let us know!