With its return to TV this week, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia starts its 13th season and further cements its place as one of the . The run would be impressive for a beloved old–school family comedy, or even a modern network hit, but for It's Always Sunny—FX’s abnormally profane and occasionally disgusting saga of five deplorable Philadelphians who run a bar and cause trouble all over the greater Philadelphia area—it is a little bit insane. Not only has It's Always Sunny made it this far, it’s still damn good, with guest appearances coming up this season from stars like Mindy Kaling, an incredibly devoted fan base that has been stressing for months over whether or not Dennis (Glenn Howerton) , and in preceding episodes to boot.
A lot can be said for It's Always Sunny’s success—it straddles the line between ” and there’s no doubt it has one of the most committed groups of starring cast members in TV today (the show famously started when Howerton, Charlie Day, and Rob McElhenney got tired of auditioning for pilots and instead . They, Kaitlin Olson, and Danny Devito have remained fiercely loyal to the show, even while pursuing other projects). But there’s another element that the show owes a considerable amount to: the city where it takes place.
Among the cities of the world, Philadelphia is chronically slept on. As sitcom settings go, Philly is not as bustling as New York City, or as small–town as Scranton, PA, or even as weird as (yet). It’s rare to see non–residents singing our praises anywhere else in the nation, and it’s even rarer to see positive depictions of Philly on film and TV. Or—let’s be real here—any depictions. Sometimes it feels like the world thinks we’re stuck in the '80s and that our streets are brimming with prize fighting boxers and terminal AIDS patients, with some sports riots thrown in every now and then for excitement.
Maybe that’s the reason that so many of us are intensely loyal to It's Always Sunny. As much as water ice and Wawa runs, It's Always Sunny has become a Philly icon—and where some places might balk at claiming a show that pushes the boundaries of acceptable, so far, Philadelphians—native, transplants, and from the top down to the bottom—celebrate it. Penn frats—who have made fictional appearances and supplied exterior shots for the show—pun on It's Always Sunny for the invites they put in freshmen hallways (“It’s Always NSO in Philadelphia”), and it’s hard to get through a night out on campus without seeing a bro in a “Paddy’s Pub” or “” shirt. Across the city, locals drink at the bar or remix Eagles fans going wild to the It's Always Sunny. Even the official Visit Philly website proudly claims the comedy series and features an . It's Always Sunny has shown the city love, and the City of Brotherly Love, grateful for the recognition, has shown it back.
But we don’t only love It's Always Sunny because it’s simply set in Philadelphia. Part of the reason that Philly has embraced the show so wholeheartedly is—we can admit it—we see ourselves in it. Hopefully, none of us are trying to emulate the show’s terrible main characters (or if we are, hopefully none of us come close)—but just like 30 Rock or Portlandia portrayed their respective inspirations so playfully and on the nose, It's Always Sunny captures something authentic about the spirit of Philadelphia. It's Always Sunny has been hailed elsewhere for capturing , but if you’ve ever found yourself spending your evening in an off–campus dive bar, listening to an argument on the SEPTA, or getting cheered on by complete strangers as you stumble down Broad Street, then you know why the world loves It's Always Sunny and we, Penn students, love it most. For thirteen seasons, it’s been the one show on TV that’s as crazy as we are.