Day’s description of those early days is of a show that went through slow but steady improvement. It took them a while to get an offer from FX, and even then they had a low budget and only seven episodes. “Then they [FX] were like, ‘Okay, we’re gonna cancel the show unless you can get a big name attached,’ and Danny DeVito had seen the show and liked it, and then here we are,” Day said. Although “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” season 1 is still a perfectly acceptable string of episodes, most fans can agree that the show didn’t truly get going until Frank Reynolds joined the gang.
The slow start is fitting, considering that “Curb Your Enthusiasm” also arguably took a little while to find its footing. Although the post-“Seinfeld” Larry David had a lot less trouble finding funding for his show, his first season relied a little too much on the “cringe” part of the show’s “cringe comedy” style, leading to episodes that are so agonizing to watch that you have to brace yourself beforehand. Episodes like “Affirmative Action,” where Larry takes forever to fulfil the simple task of refilling his wife’s prescription, or “Interior Decorator” where Larry spends what feels like twenty minutes arguing over a parking garage toll mix-up, feel more like stressful fever dreams than entertaining sitcom episodes.
“Curb” got better and better as it gradually threw more wackiness into the mix, then it became the best comedy on TV in season 6 when it finally introduced J.B. Smoove’s character, Leon. Likewise, “Always Sunny” got better the more it embraced the characters’ more insane qualities. Dennis, Dee, Mac, Charlie and Frank are all far sadder and more depraved today than they were when we first met them, and most fans would agree that’s probably for the best.