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In the 3rd episode of the 9th season of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia "The Gang Tries Desperately to Win an Award" for the best bar. While the show is not particularly famous for referencing events related to the show's production (or at least this never occurred to me, in contrast to, say, Arrested Development's repeated meta-jokes), I wonder if this is a deliberate allusion to the reluctance of the show itself to win an award.

In order to "play the game" they try to bribe their way into an award and later check out the previous award winner, a bar full of "loud fake colors without subtlety", one black friend that "no-one is acknkowledging is black", where every cute punchline of the staff is accompanied with laughter and "aww!"s from the customers and where a bell tells you when to drink. It is hard to see that not in relation to the good old family-friendly and laugh-track featuring sitcoms which are "cute, but not funny, though", once one is on this line of thinking. Then there's also the "best song" that Charlie wrote for the bar, giving a weird Randy Newman impression (Monk anyone?) and Frank's tries to go into a different direction by trying to make it "edgier" inspired by a burlesque bar with "martinis and period costumes" (an allusion to all the nostalgia shows around?).

But I'm not sure if this is all just a simple first thought taking control of the interpretation. Likewise I don't really have much of an overview of e.g. the Emmy's palette of award winners. Is there any external evidence that this was in fact the intended interpretation or have there been any particular production-related events inspiring this episode, apart from the ongoing fact that the show doesn't win awards? And as a side question if true, what show was the "bar that just opened last year right down the street and won a ton of awards" then be alluding to (maybe one right on the same channel/time slot)?

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    Louie is what always comes to mind. Same network, yet still received praise and nominations.
    – user40136
    Commented Aug 17, 2016 at 4:34

2 Answers 2

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There's other theories similar to this that suggest the same thing.. and the crew at the end doesn't win for inexplicable reasons.. although it doesn't help that they "sent their entry form in covered in feces and racist jokes" which could be relating to the show...I think it doesn't help the show that they have a lot of low brow humor such as racist jokes..episodes entirely about pooping the bed, rape, manipulating women, hookers.. I think it's a little much for the Emmys or the Hollywood foreign press. Kind of like workaholics, the shows a little too vulgar. Imagine a writer for modern family going against sunny, and the Emmys showing a clip of the dumpster baby episode versus a family coming together? Part of the shows allure is that it initially sold to fox for what cost the crew between 85 and 180 dollars. The show didn't go into HD I think until season 5 and the cameras are shaky, a lot of the comedy is improvised.. this probably doesn't help either.I think the writers are very funny but maybe clever and funny doesn't pass as metaphors, irony, artsy, dramatic, or classy.

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  • all of this is an interesting thought, but it doesn't really have anything concrete to back it up (interviews, references, citations) so not really the type of answer we're looking for.
    – Luciano
    Commented May 15, 2020 at 15:22
  • It's pretty obvious, they also say it on the DVD commentary.
    – Ace Cabbie
    Commented May 16, 2020 at 22:45
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    "they also say it on the DVD commentary" — that would actually be a useful answer to the question. Commented Jul 22, 2021 at 13:10
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Yes. In 2013, Charlie Day, who plays Charlie Kelly on IASIP, went on the Opie & Anthony Show and heavily implied that IASIP S09E03 “The Gang Tries Desperately to Win an Award” was a metaphor for IASIP’s lack of awards recognition. He explained how, in the episode, the gang realizes other bars have won awards but they haven’t, despite being around for a long time ("a wink-wink"):

Relevant quotes, paraphrased slightly from YouTube's auto-generated subtitles (emphasis mine):

Question: What kind of topics you guys hitting on this year?
Charlie Day: We got a bunch of good ones. A personal favorite of mine is we're all sitting around in the bar in one episode and we're realizing that all these other bars have won all these awards and that we've been around a really long time and not won any awards, which is sort of a wink-wink, and […] we go to other bars to figure out what they do. Some are like really bright and loud with the loud colors and ring a bell, tell people what to drink, i.e., laugh. You know others are like dark and moody, and there's a lot of sex, but it's like period costume sex. […] And then we try to adopt their techniques to our bar for this showcase, and of course, you know we screw it all up, and we realized that we're probably to blame.

Question: Wait, why haven't you guys won any awards? That sounds crazy. What do you think it is?
Charlie Day: We've always just sort of been a little under that radar. It's also […] a very sort of young, kind of college-y show, and that's not necessarily usually what wins awards.

Question: How do you manage to stay underground-ish for 9 years?
Charlie Day: We're not usually in those comedy issues of like GQ or Variety. But in a way, I think the audience likes that. […] For better or worse, we've retained our street cred.

Fast forward to the 75th Emmy Awards in 2024, and the Sunny gang—Kaitlin Olson, Rob McElhenney, Glenn Howerton, Charlie Day, and Danny DeVito—were presenting. They couldn't resist poking fun at the show's complete lack of Emmy recognition over 16 seasons.

The cast bantered about how they'd never even been invited before, while Danny mentioned he had won an Emmy—but just for the much shorter-lived Taxi in the 70s. Kaitlin quipped that the math of Taxi's 34 nominations and 18 wins in 5 years, versus Sunny's 0 nominations in 16 years, was just bad.

Kaitlin Olson: What an honor it is to be here at the 75th Emmy Awards.
Glenn Howerton: Yes, it truly-- wait, what? What-- What? 75 years?
Kaitlin Olson: Yeah.
Glenn Howerton: This show's been on for 75-- we've been on the air since 2005. I've never even been here.
Rob McElhenney: Yeah.
Charlie Day: Yeah. Hang on, have you guys been doing this every single year without us?
Kaitlin Olson: Without us?
Rob McElhenney: Yeah. They do. They get dressed up. They give each other awards. Yeah. And 16 seasons, we've never even been-- we've never presented before.

Charlie Day: Yeah, we should have a set and-- they gave us the same bit. Well, Danny, I mean, surely, the Emmys must have given you an award.
Danny DeVito: Yeah. Yeah, they did. They did.
Charlie Day: Yeah.
Kaitlin Olson: They did?
Danny DeVito: Yeah, I got one.
Kaitlin Olson: For Sunny?
Danny DeVito: No, for Taxi.
[…]
Glenn Howerton: Well, how long was-- how long was Taxi on the air?
Danny DeVito: Five years.
Rob McElhenney: Only five years, and it got nominated?
Danny DeVito: Yeah, we had 34 nominations and 18 wins. That's why I got one. Yeah. Yeah, thank you very much.
Kaitlin Olson: OK, 34 nominations in five years, versus zero nominations in 16 years. That math is bad. The math's bad.

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