It’s crazy to think that a low-budget comedy with a punk-rock mentality from the earlier days of the FX Network has somehow turned into the channel’s flagship program. It’s also about to enter its fourteenth season and will therefore share the record for the longest-running live-action comedy series. Against all odds, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia has proven itself to be a massive success. It helped to launch the careers of its entire cast and ushered in a more twisted brand of comedy into the mainstream.
It’s Always Sunny has subtly changed over the course of its decade-plus run, but it’s always remained the same at its core and has never forgotten what it is. As both the series and the creators and cast have grown throughout the years, it’s only natural that It’s Always Sunny has taken a number of risks and made ambitious plays, introducing more wacky characters and storylines. The series may have an exceptional core cast of characters that is the opposite of bloated, but it has also introduced many bizarre supporting characters to help flesh out the series.
With that said, here are the 20 New Character Additions That Saved It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia (And 10 That Hurt It)!
30 Saved: Ernie
Ernie is a character who is so integral to It’s Always Sunny that you may not have even noticed that he’s quietly been present through much of the series. Ernie is simply a barfly who is always seen in the background of Paddy’s Pub.
During the show’s earlier years, there was much more of an effort to crowd the background of the bar with derelicts to help sell the dive bar aesthetic. Sadly, David Zdunich, who portrayed Ernie, passed away in 2009. However, in memoriam of the actor and his character, a picture of him still hangs up in the bar to this day.
29 Saved: The McPoyles
It's Always Sunny went a bit overboard with the McPoyles. The McPoyles act a lot like the family from Texas Chain Saw Massacre, if they were transported into a comedy and things only became progressively weirder.
The McPoyles are a milk-loving bunch of lunatics who are a persistent thorn in the gang’s side. It’s truly impossible to predict what these characters will get up to next. Just when you think you’ve met all of the clan, another one pops up (Pappy McPoyle was even played by Guillermo del Toro). The McPoyles are often too much to handle and, thankfully, the show has started holding them, though they’ll probably never completely leave the series.
28 Hurt: Pop-Pop
Heinrich “Pop-Pop” Landgraf is Dee and Dennis’ grandfather and he basically spends his limited appearances in the series confined to a hospital bed on life support. Pop-Pop may seem like an ordinary elderly loved one, but the show slowly reveals that in his younger years, he was not only an esteemed Nazi, but also a personal friend of its previous leader during WWII. It’s certainly a discouraging light to paint the character in.
Dennis and Dee have to deal with their grandfather in “Pop-Pop: The Final Solution”, when they must decide if they should take him off life support or not, a decision that they hand over to the Lawyer.
27 Saved: Duncan & Z
Duncan and Z are too raggedy vagrants who Frank inexplicably meets under a bridge and then befriends. Frank tries to inject these strange personalities into the gang's activities in "Charlie Kelly: King of the Rats", though they also make an unusual appearance in "Dee Gives Birth" as musicians of sorts.
Z has popped up a few more times in the series, even as recently as season twelve, so the show may not be done finding unusual uses for this character. Frank shows off so few of his friends that these two make for a satisfying reveal.
26 Saved: Josh Groban
Musician Josh Groban has turned into an interesting running joke throughout the course of It’s Always Sunny. Dee and Artemis have both voiced their love for the singer during the show (and have even gone so far as to call themselves “Grobanites”), but in the fantasy-heavy “The Gang Saves the Day”, the series takes this one step further.
Dee’s fantasy sequence in the episode sees her become a celebrity who is even married to Josh Groban (before she inevitably divorces him for Brad Pitt). Groban appears in the episode, lovingly by Dee’s side, and it’s a rather fun gag.
25 Hurt: Mac’s Mom
There’s nothing necessarily wrong with Mac’s mother, it’s just that there’s really not a lot to this one-note character — actually, calling her a half-note character might even be more appropriate. Mac’s mom likes to smoke and to grunt, and that’s about it.
This isn’t exactly a character who's going to spill into flowing monologues. You could probably count the amount of words that she’s said throughout the course of the show on one hand. It’s her simple nature that makes her so reliable, but that’s about it. Mac’s mom is often played in contrast in Charlie’s mom, which creates quite the volatile dynamic.
24 Saved: Da Maniac
The gang have a knack for making friends with unstable homeless characters, and Da Maniac is one of the better examples of this. Da Maniac is laden with problems and handicaps, most notably a heavy case of paranoia and PTSD.
When the gang puts together a wrestling scheme, they enlist the efforts of Da Maniac (playing into the fact that he’s played by former wrestler, Roddy Pipper). However, it soon becomes clear that his skills might not be worth the hassle. Da Maniac strangely returns in “Mac and Dennis Buy a Timeshare” when the gang ropes him into their Invigaron pyramid scheme, though he turns out to be an incredible salesman in the area.
23 Saved: Bruce Mathis
During the earlier seasons of It's Always Sunny, when Frank is still new to the show, the series dips its toe into a few storylines that deal with Dee and Dennis’ somewhat complicated family tree. Bruce Mathis turns out to be Dennis and Dee’s biological father and, when the two make an effort to reconnect with him, they realize that he’s basically the opposite of Frank and themselves.
Bruce is selfless, caring, and giving with his money, and this clash in personalities is frankly too much for the group to bear. After Dennis and Dee’s mother passes away, Bruce comes back into their lives, but they make things even worse between them. He even calls them “the most horrible people alive.”
22 Hurt: Barbara Reynolds
Barbara Reynolds, Frank’s ex-wife and the mother of Dee and Dennis, may not appear in many episodes, but she’s still easily one of the most wicked characters to appear throughout It’s Always Sunny.
Barbara is a callous and selfish character who’s clearly transplanted many of her undesirable qualities onto her own children. Barbara wreaks emotional havoc on the gang when she starts up a “relationship” with Mac and gets under everyone’s skin. In the show’s third season, it’s revealed that an unsuccessful neck lift surgery leads to Barbara’s end, but perhaps it’s a good thing that the show didn’t get more time to experiment with this brutal character.
21 Saved: Principal Brian McInytre
Brian McIntyre is a high school principal who enters the gang’s orbit when he hires Dee as a substitute teacher and Charlie as a janitor. Problems quickly arise for both Charlie and Dee, and the beleaguered McIntyre is the one who consistently has to reprimand them and try to comprehend their nonsense. McIntyre gets worn down more and more and this is made all the better by the fact that Dave Foley plays the character.
McIntyre returns in “Gun Fever: Still Too Hot”, albeit as a middle school principal. He explains that his tenure led to him transferring schools rather than an outright termination.
20 Saved: The Lawyer
The Lawyer (Brian Unger) has very much functioned as the perplexed straight man to the gang’s antics on many occasions. The gang always has a skewed perspective on the current stiatuon, but it’s typically even more extreme when the efforts of a lawyer need to be brought in.
This lawyer is usually forced to rein in the gang’s incorrect understanding of the legal system. He’s helped them work through wills, patents, divorces, and even "bird law" at one point in season eleven. It’s likely that we haven’t seen the last of this character, and after the pesky bird attack that he last faced, he may have a decidedly different look whenever he returns.
19 Hurt: Rex
Rex enters the series as a male model who wishes to be featured on an upcoming billboard for Paddy's Pub. The episode frequently exploits his physical appearance and this remains the joke that continually gets repeated whenever the character returns.
He’s attractive and Mac has a crush on him, but that has diminishing returns. Rex even makes an appearance as a buff angel in Mac's fantasy sequence in "The Gang Saves the Day." As a result, Rex has remained a fairly shallow character on the series, though he serves his purpose well enough whenever it's necessary.
18 Saved: Gail The Snail
Gail is the loathed cousin of Dee and Dennis who manages to be even more destructive and depressing than they are. Gail is delightfully played by Mary Lynn Rajskub, who really embraces the character’s unabashedly gross nature.
She develops a highly misguided “relationship” with Frank and nearly perishes in a fire that the gang baits for many of their more hated associates on one cathartic Thanksgiving. Gail has appeared in the show’s most recent season, so clearly she lives, but with the right amount of salt, she’ll probably stay away for good.
17 Saved: Peter “Schmitty” Schmidt
Schmitty was a member of the gang’s group back during their high school days, and while he was beloved by most of them, he and Charlie had a somewhat contentious rivalry. The two of them used to live together and Charlie often felt like he was the brunt of Shmitty's jokes.
This fear resurfaces in “The Gang Gets A New Member”, when the gang kicks Charlie out of the group in favor of Schmitty. However, Schmitty soon proves to be too impressive and threatens Dennis and Mac’s confidence, so they eventually ditch him and return to Charlie. Schmitty offers a fun, new energy to the gang. It also doesn’t hurt that Jason Sudeikis is such a charismatic actor.
16 Hurt: Maureen Ponderosa
Maureen Ponderosa was Dennis’ high school girlfriend, but when they reconnect later in life, her life has taken a huge turn. Dennis brazenly marries Maureen and just as quickly divorces her after he grows tired of her. This saddles Dennis with an impressive debt, which Maureen uses to get a number of cosmetic surgeries.
These surgeries eventually take a turn for the disturbing, as she starts to receive treatment to become a “cat lady.” This drives Dennis crazy, especially when she takes him to court. However, her transformation is also the cause for her demise, as she falls off a roof after exhibiting cat-like behavior.
15 Saved: Ingrid Nelson
Another dysfunctional face from the gang’s high school years, Ingrid Nelson was very much the unpopular yin to Dee’s yang. In high school Dee was plagued with an embarrassing back brace and Ingrid was morbidly obese. Dee only hung out with her because she could make herself feel better by putting Ingrid down. It’s a rather tragic relationship that shows us that even in their younger years, the gang was still quite horrible.
However, the tables are drastically turned when it turns out that Ingrid is now a successful fashion designer and Dee’s efforts to destroy her life ultimately fail. Ingrid also appears at the gang’s high school reunion.
14 Saved: The Waiter
Michael Naughton, aka the Waiter, may not seem like an important character on It's Always Sunny, but he’s actually one of the better running jokes that the series has kept returning to throughout the years. The Waiter is a recurring presence who’s frequently the butt of the gang’s jokes wherever he's around them.
It’s like the universe is always working against him, and what’s even better is the fact that the gang never seems to remember him, yet they always make a strong impression on him. The waiter appears twice in the show’s thirteenth season to receive derision on an airplane and at the Super Bowl. Unfortunately, it seems like he can't escape the callous gang.
13 Hurt: Jojo
To be fair, the issues with Dax Shepard’s Jojo have more to do with the plot of the series, but at the same time, Jojo feels very much like an extension of the cult that Mac and Charlie get roped up in.
“A** Kickers United: Mac and Charlie Join a Cult” places the brash, eager personalities of Mac and Charlie in a situation where they unsuspectingly find themselves in a Scientology-like organization. The cult is full of many extreme characters, with Jojo being the most notable figure. Shepard has a lot of fun with his character, but he’s still dragged down by the baggage of the episode itself.
12 Saved: Artemis Dubois
Artemis is one of the more reliable secondary characters on It’s Always Sunny. If Dee has any sort of major friendship in her life, it would be her strange bond with Artemis. Artemis initially entered the series as Dee’s acting partner, but she’s quickly become more extravagant and absurd as the show has gone on.
If the gang is a lot to handle, then Artemis tends to go overboard. After all, there’s a reason why she can’t be featured all of the time. Curiously, Artemis has shifted from being Dee’s friend and has instead become a strange bedfellow for Frank. The two have a highly unconventional relationship.
11 Saved: Luther MacDonald
Luther MacDonald is a rather frightening individual who spends much of the series in prison, although he makes it out on parole on a few occasions. Luther’s aggressive, manipulative behavior explains a lot of Mac’s repressed nature. He constantly works to make his dad proud of him, whether that means smuggling contraband into prison or simply keeping him in his life.
Mac’s complicated nature with his dad leads to an interesting dynamic. Most recently, Mac opens up to his dad more than he ever has before when he comes out to him. However, his father’s lackluster reaction hints that there’s still more for these two to work out.
10 Hurt: Charlie’s Mom
Charlie’s mom seems like a kind lady, but she’s just been such a perpetual victim of abuse and shoddy behavior that she just can’t stand up for herself anymore. Charlie’s mom often gets depicted as someone who’s irrationally protective of Charlie, but there are such clear signs of PTSD going on here that it’s hard to laugh.
Perhaps the best presentation of this pain happens when Charlie’s mom moves in with Mac’s mom. The episode taps into how sad Mrs. Kelly is and how she’s often on the cusp of a severe mental breakdown. It’s Always Sunny is known for being dark, but the plight of Charlie's mom takes this one step too far.
9 Saved: Jack Kelly
Jack Kelly, Charlie’s uncle, is definitely one of the more ridiculous characters in the series. However, his strange personality was perhaps meant to overshadow the awful things that It's Always Sunny has implied that he’s done to Charlie.
Jack Kelly is a bumbling lawyer who is extremely sensitive about his tiny hands. He is so hypersensitive, in fact, that he is often seen wearing larger hands to cover up this small hands. His inept nature in the courtroom often sees him go up against the more acclaimed Lawyer. Jack often wants to get closer to Charlie, which is creepy, since it’s heavily indicated that the lyrics from “The Nightman Cometh” are based on Jack’s history with Charlie.
8 Saved: Country Mac
Country Mac, Mac’s cousin, is introduced in “Mac Day”. In the episode, it's a bit of a shock to see how he is actually the ultra-cool figure that “City Mac” strives to be. It also doesn’t hurt that Seann William Scott is the perfect choice for this role, as he adds the right amount of macho dopiness.
Country Mac pulls off all of the stunts that Mac cannot, but he’s deeply humble and loves his cousin, even if Mac resents him for this. The gang eventually decides to swap their Mac with Country Mac. However, soon after the decision is made, Country Mac drops from heart failure. It seems like his aggressive lifestyle eventually caches up with him.
7 Hurt: Carmen
To the show’s credit, Carmen was introduced during It's Always Sunny earlier seasons, when the show was still trying to shock its audiences. As a result, Carmen, the show's first trans character, represents a less aware and less respectful version of It’s Always Sunny.
Carmen was mostly used as a joke on the series, since Mac was attracted to her, except for her male anatomy. The series eventually becomes more progressive and gives her character a a much better story (with Dee becoming the surrogate for her baby), but things weren't easy for Carmen in the beginning. Though it's doubtful that It's Always Sunny meant to seriously poke fun of Carmen, there are still some cringe-worthy moments involving her characters.
6 Saved: Gladys
It’s unclear how the gang knows Gladys, but she’s been an unsuspecting component in a few of their schemes. Gladys is perhaps best remembered as the elderly woman who plays piano throughout Charlie’s production of “The Nightman Cometh”. She adds a welcome, detached vibe to the performance.
She also reappears in “The D.E.N.N.I.S. System”, when Dennis uses her as his fake grandmother to garner sympathy. Gladys’ oblivious nature to what’s going on is much of her charm, but she also has a tendency to tell long-winded stories from her younger years that add a surreal quality to her, too.
5 Saved: Matthew “Rickety Cricket” Mara
It’s hard to remember that this shattered husk of a man started the series as an honorable preacher. Matthew “Rickety Cricket” Mara undisputedly has the worst fate of any character on It's Always Sunny. In fact, it seemed to become a running joke to chip away little by little at the character's sanity each time he appeared. Substance addiction, homelessness, facial scarring, and damaging wounds turned the character into a veritable hunchback who simply didn't know how to function properly in society anymore.
In season twelve’s “A Cricket’s Tale”, Rickety Cricket is offered a chance at redemption. However, he turns it down in a crushing way. What’s even worse is that all of this started because of a crush on Dee.
4 Hurt: Ben Smith, The Soldier
There have been a number of characters who have been subjected to Dee’s manipulative behavior and her ability to string people along. However, it's particularly painful in the case of Ben, since he seems to genuinely have his heart in the right place and he's a war veteran.
Dee toys with Ben’s heart when they first meet. However, the series soon reveals that Dee continued to manipulate him for a long time until she pushed him to a breaking point. However, even after this point, Ben continues to pop up in It's Always Sunny, as it appears that he’s never been able to get over Dee.
3 Saved: The Waitress
If the devolution of Rickety Cricket is depressing, then the downfall of the Waitress is a close second. Mary Elizabeth Ellis’ Waitress has been present in It's Aways Sunny since the show’s pilot as the unrequited love interest of Charlie. Charlie always pines for her and she always turns him down, since she seems to prefer Dennis.
The Waitress is a recovering alcoholic and almost gets married at one point. However, in the show’s later seasons, Charlie is finally able to win her over. Not only do the two get together, but they’re now approaching parenthood. Their dynamic has completely flipped, and while she is now in a darker place, the Waitress has always been an interesting character.
2 Saved: Frank
Now that It’s Always Sunny has thirteen seasons under its belt, it’s easy to forget how different the series was during its earlier years. For instance, the biggest change from the show’s first season involves Frank, as he was only introduced later in the series. Frank has become an integral part of the program, as his character is often involved in many inappropriate situations that wouldn't be as successful with other characters.
It’s incredible how much Danny DeVito throws into his performance. In fact, it's become hard for some fans to separate DeVito and Frank Reynolds. At this point, it’s impossible to picture the show without Frank, which is a testament to his impact.
1 Hurt: Bill Ponderosa
There may not be a single redeeming quality about Bill Ponderosa. Dee initially tries to manipulate him and convince him to be unfaithful to his wife, but things quickly go off the rails.
Bill turns into Frank’s degenerate party animal friend. The two constantly abuse various forms of contraband and alcohol. Bill even hits on underage girls and seems to become upset with anyone he comes in contact with. When Bill learns that his sister Maureen has passed away, he has no sympathy for his sibling. Every time Bill appears, fans despise him even more.
Are there any other new character additions that hurt or saved It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia? Let us know in the comments!