Season 14 of “It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia” is upon us, and BuzzFeed is out with 2,000-plus words on why the show hasn’t fallen prey to “cancel culture.” The question is valid, but the answer needn’t require much ink.
A variety of factors work in “Sunny’s” favor: as a product of the Bush era (2005!), it long predates so-called cancel culture. The show and its stars also regularly signal their sympathy for the left. And it’s much simpler to “cancel” a stand-up comic than a series, where characters aren’t always blended with personas (see: Sarah Silverman, who still hasn’t found forgiveness for her use of satirical blackface in 2007, while “Sunny” remains untouched for similar bits).
“Sunny,” however, shares its key protective feature with “Veep,” and that’s a universe of unmistakable depravity. Paddy’s Pub is not Dunder Mifflin, where imperfect people stumble into redemption. Everyone is bad. Really, really bad. So bad that nobody can pretend the show’s depiction of degeneracy is any sort of endorsement.
But there’s another important factor at play. Despite its grimy aesthetic, “Sunny’s” audience is among the most affluent in cable. According to Nielson’s 2016 data, “Sunny” viewers were the wealthiest in basic cable comedies, with an average annual income of $81,300. Elites love it. They get it.
Before the reflexive reaction to challenging comedy was performative repudiation, “Sunny” built up goodwill, and with the right people. (The blue checks who campaign against transgressors of the progressive order.) Odds are, officers in the comedy police department are probably fans.
That’s not to say the show’s appeal is limited to elites. Far from it. “Sunny,” quite simply, is one of the best comedies ever made. But it’s certainly protected by the clear-cut depravity of its universe, and by its fans in media, who learned to love it long before the new rules went into effect.