It's Always Sunny's Creators Disagreed With A Sensitive Network Censor In Season 1

There are few shows that push the boundaries of good taste quite like "It's Sunny in Philadelphia." The long-running FX comedy series has had a relative lack of backlash over the years despite joking about controversial topics in every single episode, but it has come up against some issues with censorship over the years. Sometimes, this happened after the fact, like when five episodes were removed from most streaming services for racially insensitive content in the wake of the George Floyd protests, and sometimes it came at the hands of either network brass or basic network standards. While it's understandable that there might be some pushback for some of the show's wilder ideas, all the way back in season 1 the series' creatives really had to fight even to include a controversial word on the show. This word is not a slur, a swear, or offensive in any way outside of people's feelings around the issue, but apparently, it was a hard no-go for network censors back in 2005.

On an episode of the YouTube interview series "Let's Shoot! with Pete Chatmon," series creator and star Rob McElhenney shared one particularly huge challenge the show's creative team faced while making the season 1 episode "Charlie Wants an Abortion," revealing that it's honestly kind of a miracle the episode got made at all.

Sensitivity over the word abortion

According to McElhenney, when "Charlie Wants an Abortion" was pitched to FX, there was a pretty massive problem: you weren't allowed to even say the word "abortion" on TV! McElhenney and the rest of the team pushed back because they felt it was so important to be able to talk about the topic. As he put it:

"[...] It's an issue that, regardless of how you feel about it, on what side of the aisle you sit, the idea that you can't even discuss the idea of the word on a television series felt anathema to the entire idea of what it is to be an American. If we can't communicate with one another then we're gonna fail. Now, we take that to the extreme, because we have extreme characters [...]"

He went on to admit that sometimes he and the show's other writers look back with regret and realize that they really messed up while handling a sensitive topic, but he would much rather they try to talk about those things and fail than not talk about them at all. Indeed, the show's creatives have been honest about how they mishandled the transgender character Carmen, played by cisgender woman Brittany Daniel, for example, and it seems like even when they've committed a misstep, their hearts are usually in the right place. Comedy is at its best when it pushes boundaries, and "Always Sunny" is always pushing the limits.

One seriously funny episode

While abortion is a topic that inspires a lot of passionate reactions from people (and rightly so, as safe and easy access to abortion services is moral and necessary), the episode doesn't make any particular statement about abortion rights. Instead, it focuses on how several of the characters don't really have an opinion, especially Dennis, who is sort of "sitting on the fence" about the whole thing. He ends up literally sitting on a fence between pro-choice and anti-choice protestors because he can't figure out which side will have women more likely to sleep with him, and in the process gets pelted with eggs from people on both sides. It's a fun bit of commentary about people who try to both-sides an argument and a great piece of early insight into Dennis's misogyny and generally sociopathic tendencies.

The earliest episodes of "It's Always Sunny" can be a bit rough around the edges because it was a mid-00s cable comedy series that aimed to ride the line of acceptable humor, but "Charlie Wants an Abortion" is hilarious and deserving of a lot of love. Thank goodness McElhenney and the gang pushed back on restrictions around the word "abortion," because it set the precedent for one seriously boundary-pushing comedy series.