Rob McElhenney was born in Philadelphia, PA, and grew up in South Philly with the area's thick urban accent.
While trying to make it big in Los Angeles, McElhenney and fellow struggling actors Charlie Day and Glenn Howerton hatched their own concept for a TV show; a would-be chronicle of the foibles of down-and-out and not necessarily likable actors struggling to find work in L.A., which they called "It's Always Sunny on TV." They shot a workmanlike pilot with a camcorder, using their own apartments as sets, and McElhenney's agent shopped it off to TV networks, all of which either passed or returned "notes" that watered down the creativity.
But FX-- then in the process of rebranding itself as a basic cable repository of edgy original programming-- greenlit seven initial episodes of the show. They shifted the premise to McElhenney's native Philadelphia, where they would shoot exteriors, and they made the show on a shoe-string, casting themselves as three of their central foursome, with McElhenney playing Mac, the ever-randy, macho pseudo-reactionary one of the bunch; Howerton as Dennis, the vain, semi-sophisticated but ultimately vapid one; Day as "Charlie," their dimwitted, borderline illiterate janitor and punching bag; with Kaitlin Olson, a veteran of L.A.'s famed Groundlings comedy troupe brought on to play Dennis's sister Dee - all referred to collectively as "The Gang."
Premiering in August 2005, the show followed the foursome's shenanigans in and around the bar they ran in South Philly, and, with FX giving them a relative free hand to write the characters and their machinations as depraved as they wanted. One episode saw Mac attempting to seduce a former school coach into a molesting him after having heard the coach had molested others in his class.
Though it debuted to mixed reviews and meager ratings, the show developed a frenzied buzz, especially among young adult viewers, and though FX execs initially balked, they renewed "Sunny" for another season when Danny DeVito, whom they had heard was a fan of the show, agreed to join the cast as Dennis and Dee's prodigal (and equally amoral) father, Frank.
Offscreen, McElhenney and Olson began dating, and, as the show became one of the top draws on FX, it buoyed McElhenney's prospects. In 2008, FX picked up "Sunny" for another 52 episodes, assuring its continuation through a 2011 season. In addition, FX's sister network Fox gave McElhenney, Howerton, Day and "Sunny" staffer Adam Stein the greenlight to develop the series, "Boldly Going Nowhere."
Also in 2008, Olson and McElhenney married. In 2009, the "Sunny" crew took an expanded version of their offbeat musical episode, "The Nightman Cometh," on tour, playing theatrical venues in New York, Boston, Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Philadelphia. The couple had a son in September 2010, with Olson going into labor while they attended a Philadelphia Phillies-L.A. Dodgers game.
The cast became major celebrities in Philadelphia, and McElhenney and Olson, in a case of life imitating art, opened their own bar, Mac's Tavern, in the city's Old Towne neighborhood in 2010.
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