If this year’s Emmy nominations were a disappointment to you, the guys who make “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” get where you’re coming from.
The FXX comedy first premiered in 2005 (originally on FX), and over the following 11 seasons and 123 episodes, it’s garnered a loyal and fervent fanbase — but never much in the way of awards attention.
That inspired Season 9’s “The Gang Tries Desperately to Win an Award,” in which executive producers Rob McElhenney, Charlie Day and Glenn Howerton vented their frustrations about the awards race, and the fact that the closest they’ve come to an Emmy is three nominations for Outstanding Stunt Coordination for a Comedy Series or a Variety Program.
In the episode, the gang tries to get their bar considered for a city-wide bar competition, and the parallels to the awards season circus could not be more clear. As each of them tries a different approach to winning over the forces which rule over Emmys consideration, the show’s feelings regarding its perennial shafting become intensely clear.
During a recent visit to the set of “Sunny” Season 12, Indiewire asked McElhenney, Day, Howerton and co-stars Kaitlin Olson and Danny DeVito about what went into declaring publicly that they don’t care about winning Emmys… except maybe they kind of do? Their answers say an awful lot about the awards race — as well as what kind of show “Sunny” really is, at its core.
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Looking back on “The Gang Tries Desperately to Win an Award,” especially right now in the craze of Emmys season — how do you guys feel about it?
ROB McELHENNEY: Is this the craze of Emmys season?
CHARLIE DAY: We wouldn’t know.
McELHENNEY: Yeah, we wouldn’t know!
DAY: It still feels like some sort of high school party that we’re perpetually not invited to.
GLENN HOWERTON: That episode was our way of saying it sucks and it hurts to not win an award, but we also don’t care, but we do, but we don’t because we know. Everybody knows. It’s just like winning a trophy, it shouldn’t be about that.
KAITLIN OLSON: Yeah, it isn’t about that. But then it’s like, “Well, wait, hold on a second. How come?” And then it’s like, “Well who cares, it doesn’t matter.” I love that it goes back and forth.
HOWERTON: We oscillate between the two. On the one hand, you’re like:
OLSON: “We don’t care!”
HOWERTON: I really honestly don’t care.
OLSON: That’s the whole point, why we started doing this in the first place: we don’t care. But then yes, you’re like, “Well hold on now.”
HOWERTON: On some level, you see someone else win an award and you’re like, “Come on!” You just can’t help it.
OLSON: We’re human.
DAY: I think [“The Gang Tries Desperately to Win an Award”] points out the different styles of television that seem to, for no rhyme or reason, be celebrated, and point out our own sort of inherent flaws in what we do and in what other shows do, and sort of turn the whole thing on its head, because it is ultimately sort of a ridiculous practice.
McELHENNEY: Yeah, and we also wanted to be clear that we also happen to really love most of the shows that end up getting celebrated at the Emmys, and we watch those shows too, so–
McELHENNEY: So it’s not even that we–
DAY: Some. Some.
McELHENNEY: Not all.
DAY: Some. Some are clearly better-
McELHENNEY: Some are better than others.
DAY: But it’s all subjective, so who’s to say?
What would winning an award mean to you guys now, at this stage in the game?
HOWERTON: Look, I would like to say that I would be like, “Yeah, sure, whatever.” But it would mean a lot. It would be amazing.
OLSON: Winning an award, I think, is about being recognized. I don’t think that we need that to feel valued or appreciated. Among our peers and our fans in this town, we definitely do feel appreciated. And we’re also living our dream job. These guys created their own show. They’re doing exactly what they want and I’m doing exactly the character I want to be doing and I get to have some creative over it. We’re proud of ourselves. We’re proud of each other and we’re nice people. And we get to have families.
HOWERTON: It would be awesome, but it’s not one of those things where it forms my entire opinion.
OLSON: It wouldn’t validate what we’ve done. We get that other places.
HOWERTON: It would just be a nice little icing on the cake.
Certainly having FX constantly handing out multiple season orders must help.
OLSON: That’ll do it.
HOWERTON: Knowing that people are watching the show and still loving it and knowing that there are entire generations of…I mean, it’s amazing to me when an 18, 19 year old comes up to me and says that they love the show and that they’ve seen every episode. It’s like, “You were 7 years old when we started.”
DANNY DeVITO: We don’t win any awards on this show — that’s like part of our milieu. It would be really odd if we did.