Fans of It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia have come to expect to be equally grossed out and entertained by the characters' bawdy behavior on a weekly basis, so it likely came as no surprise that the Paddy's Pub Gang stumbled into its own sexual harassment storyline this season in “Time’s Up For The Gang.”
Seeing as the show frequently features them all verbally and physically tormenting each other, the bigger surprise is probably that Charlie (Charlie Day), Dennis (Glenn Howerton), Mac (Rob McElhenney), Frank (Danny DeVito) and Dee (Kaitlin Olson) didn't have to attend a seminar on sexual harassment sooner, a fact executive producer Megan Ganz addresses when we spoke to her about penning the red-hot, topical episode.
"I guess it seemed impossible not to address it in some way, given the history of the characters and the fact that Sunny has never shied away from delicate subject matters," Ganz says. "The idea of a seminar in a hotel ballroom came pretty early, and it was a short hop from there to Frank wearing a robe. The episode came together pretty quickly after that. What would five terrible people do at a sexual harassment seminar? Answer: everything they’re not supposed to do."
The premise and the execution seemed pretty cut and dry at the time, but in a twist of fate, the week the episode aired (the last week of September 2018), Dr. Christine Ford testified in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee and in front of the entire nation that the then Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh assaulted her in high school. The conversation surrounding the Time's Up and #MeToo movement was more important than ever, and Ganz admits she was afraid that the episode would become a minefield.
"I did worry about it the week before the episode aired. I knew it was going to be a topical episode, but it got even more topical-er," she says. "But I was thrilled to see so many people saying that it gave them some relief from the absolute hellscape we’re currently trudging through. The best satire should be risky, so I’m very relieved that it was received well."
What would five terrible people do at a sexual harassment seminar? Answer: everything they’re not supposed to do.
Part of the outlandish plot of the episode was Dennis setting up a sexual harassment seminar at which the entire Gang reveals every possible way in which they’ve disrespected, harassed, and possibly assaulted each other and most of the people they’ve ever interacted with. Despite all that, Ganz believes they were able to create an episode like that because the fans truly care for those deplorable jerks.
"I think it’s vitally important for the success of the satire that you do love The Gang, or at least empathize with them. That’s what makes the jokes sting," she reasons. "Most of the things said and/or done by The Gang in this episode have been said and/or done by actual people. Presidents, even. Maybe we’re more like The Gang than we’d like to admit."
In fact, Ganz says this reluctant reflection is something she’s very strongly experienced herself, especially as Dee gleefully weaponized the #MeToo campaign in the episode.
"Sure, Dee is a ridiculous, cartoonish example of what misogynists think the #MeToo movement is—a vindictive woman who openly celebrates the downfall of men. But she’s also me when I saw the Bill Cosby verdict. That’s why it works," she says.
In its thirteenth year, Always Sunny is more relevant than ever, tackling other political and pop culture moments like the transgender bathroom debate ("The Gang Solves the Bathroom Problem) and Hollywood rebooting franchises with an all-female cast (The Gang Beats Boggs: Lady Reboot").
"The whole episode is kind of about how stupid the whole 'all-female reboot' is,” Ganz says. "Dee is the perfect backwards feminist to assume that just adding women to something makes it a new thing, and I like how Artemis and The Waitress call her on how lazy that is. Is that all we can offer women? We’ve had 100 years of films primarily about men, and now women are offered the reheated leftovers. Personally, I can’t wait until people get sick of the reboot thing in general. Make new things! Tell new stories. Thelma & Louise did it. 9 to 5 did it. We can do it again."
The best satire should be risky, so I’m very relieved that it was received well.
And with so many on-trend, feminist-leaning topics ("There’s an upcoming episode where The Gang dips a toe into the sticky debate on gender. They handle it about as delicately as they can," previews Ganz) it could start to look like Sunny is hopping on the bandwagon. In reality, that couldn’t be further from the truth.
"There wasn’t a conscious choice to do more episodes about women. It just happened like that. But by 'quite a few,' you mean three out of ten episodes. And we’re at least half of the population so…maybe we’ll do five feminist episodes next year?” supposes Ganz. "I’m saying that just to rile up Reddit."
It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia airs Wednesday nights on FXX. Catch up on this season ad-free by upgrading to FX+