Small Screen: Sunny gang always game for something new

LOS ANGELES — Quick, imagine an artistic link between the insanely funny It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia and bleakly dramatic True Detective.

The FXX sitcom, inspired by a long, unedited shot in the HBO series last year, fashioned its own long tracking shot for last Wednesday’s episode (10 p.m.).

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True Detective followed Matthew McConaughey in and out of frenzied danger for six seamless minutes. The FXX sitcom spends an uninterrupted seven-plus minutes on a scene that’s equally manic but minus the gunplay: It involves a desperate bid to save Paddy’s pub from flunking a health inspection.

Glenn Howerton, who plays Dennis and is an executive producer of the comedy about a group of loser pals, said they were “pretty inspired” by the bravado of True Detective and found an episode that’s served by the approach.

“Of course, this was months before Birdman came out,” Howerton said, referring to the Oscar-nominated film from Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu that has the look of a two-hour tracking shot.

“Inarritu was like, ‘Well, check this out,’ ” Howerton said, ginning up a mock competition between the filmmaker and the Emmy Award-winning crime saga.

It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, now in its 10th season and set for two more, is always game for something new.

“We strive every year to make every episode an experience,” said Howerton. “Episode to episode, you don’t know what you’re going to get.”

The show’s first year reflected the influence of other comedies, especially the U.K. version of The Office and Curb Your Enthusiasm, he said, but it has its own character now.

And certainly its own special characters. Played by series creator Rob McElhenney, Charlie Day, Kaitlin Olson and Howerton, they are self-deluded underachievers with a knack for choosing the wrong path in life. Danny DeVito co-stars.

With 100-plus episodes taped so far, it’s tough for Howerton to pick out an especially outrageous Dennis misstep. Then he recalls the time that Dennis and his twin sister, Olson’s Sweet Dee, used cocaine so they could convincingly pose as addicts to get welfare — and end up hooked on crack.

“Hilarity ensues,” Howerton said, wryly. He said the show strives to make the characters’ misbehaviour understandable, if not admirable, and they routinely reap the consequences of their actions.

The Always Sunny gang has branched out with, of all things, an advice book, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia: The 7 Secrets of Awakening the Highly Effective Four-Hour Giant, Today.” Howerton credits writer Dan Dunn as the “driving force” behind the faux guide, which lists the show’s characters as authors.

“In their minds, they’ve already accomplished great things and have a wealth of experience to share with the world,” Howerton said.

But if a reader takes the tips seriously?

“I hope no one actually does that,” he said.

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