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One of the Biggest TV Shows of All Time Started on a Budget of Just $100

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Who doesn’t love It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia? It’s set to become to longest-running live-action comedy series of all time, making it to its 19th season with the cast becoming major celebrities. But did you know it started on a budget most people would think impossible?

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It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia was created by Philadelphia-born actors and writers Rob McElhenney and Glenn Howerton.

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They filmed the pilot of the show Charlie’s Got Cancer with friend, Charlie Day, before pitching the show in 2004. At the time they had very little budget and so, with costs only going on the camcorder the pilot was filmed on, and pizza, the very first episode of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia cost just $100.

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The original premise of the show was a little different.

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While we all know the show about loveable losers running Paddy’s Pub getting into trouble, the pilot was in a very different situation. While trying to come up with the show they decided to write about what they knew, so the plot of the pilot is about actor friends all competing for the same role. The characters remained mainly the same though, and luckily the network loved the show!

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Charlie’s Got Cancer saw Day, Howerton, and McElhenney all auditioning for the role of a terminally ill patient.

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The 26-minute long short had the character of Day (who shared his same first name in the show) even going as far as pretending to have cancer to increase his chances of getting the role – something many fans of the show could certainly see the bartenders do in the show that’s now lasted 18 seasons.

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As unknown actors and writers, the trio needed a little more star power to attract viewers so in season 2 (in 2006) Danny Devito joined the cast.

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Devito was introduced on our screens as the father of Dennis (Glenn Howerton) and Dee (Kaitlin Olson, who had joined the cast when the show was picked up but was originally played by Jordan Reed in the unaired pilot). He was a fan of the show and has remained committed to it throughout the years.

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The set has been a home for romances over the years.

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Kaitlyn Olson’s character wasn’t convinced with the actress in mind — as with the other leads — but once she joined the show the cast’s chemistry was undeniable. Olson and McElhenney married in 2008 after beginning to date while filming the show. They’ve since had 2 children.

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That’s not the first Always Sunny marriage though.

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Mary Elizabeth Ellis was brought onto the show from the very first season to play ‘the waitress’, a woman Charlie Day’s character is obsessed with and pursues over the years. The 2 characters eventually do get together and become engaged but this is only for a brief period of time. In reality, the 2 have known each other since 2001, dated for many years, and were married in 2006.

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From humble beginnings, a mainstay of American comedy was born.

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In season 15 the show cost $1.5 million per episode – a significant amount more than the $100 budget of the pilot and continues to be a favorite. The original trio, Howerton, Day, and McElhenny have continued to write, direct, and star in every series.

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It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia has racked up a lot of praise.

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It’s been nominated for Primetime Emmy’s and has won a People’s Choice award for favorite cable TV comedy. Both Charlie Day and Danny Devito have been nominated for Best Actor awards for their roles in the show.

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At 165 episodes and further series in the works, it doesn’t look like this comedy show is going anywhere.

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While none of the cast members were paid for the original pilot, they’ve gone on to great success through this show and other endeavors.

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In fact, McElhenney has been joined by a new costar in his recent documentary Welcome To Wrexham.

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This Disney+ show chronicles McElhenney and actor Ryan Renolds purchasing a Welsh football club. Together they’ll try to lift the club up from its struggling status and present a true underdog story.

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