Here’s What Happened to the Sitcom That Charlie Day Turned Down to Do ‘It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia’

‘Life on a Stick’ got stuck in the mud while ‘It’s Always Sunny’ took off
Here’s What Happened to the Sitcom That Charlie Day Turned Down to Do ‘It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia’

It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia star and producer Charlie Day is a success story for everyone looking to avoid the monotony of a major network sitcom and live their dreams of being an illiterate, abortion-surviving janitor.

In 2014, Day returned to his alma mater, Merrimack College in North Andover, Massachusetts, to deliver a commencement speech at the graduation of his soon-to-be fellow Merrimack alumni. Reading off of a script filled with quips and tidbits that was, presumably, mostly symbols sketched in crayon, Day recalled his early professional journey following his own graduation in 1998, which culminated in a critical decision in the mid-aughts that would change the history of TV comedies forever. 

At the time, Day faced a fork in the road — while he, Glenn Howerton and Rob McElhenney were first devising the short films that would later become It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Day was offered a starring role on an upcoming Fox sitcom called Life on a Stick. As Day noted in his speech, “Life on a Stick went one season and 13 episodes. We are currently filming our 10th season of Sunny, we’ve written and produced 114 episodes, we’re signed on for another two years, making It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia one of the longest-running comedies of all time.”

In 2024, we have some amendments to make to Day’s stirring speech at Merrimack College. Now, through 16 seasons and 162 total episodes, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia is the uncontested longest-running live-action sitcom in TV history, and Day failed to properly skewer Life on a Stick — it only ran for five episodes before it met the short end.

Life on a Stick told the story of two 19-year-old slackers, Laz and Fred, who found themselves stuck serving fried food in a mall food court while their peers pursued their dreams in college and in their careers. The two best friends family and love lives serve as the subject of the five total episodes that Fox aired before pulling the plug, though, as Day said in his speech, a total of 13 were filmed for the lone, doomed season. Complete with laugh tracks and topical jokes, Life on a Stick was a perfectly formulaic and forgettable comedy that pulled in dismal ratings, even in its timeslot following American Idol.

Though its unclear which main role Day was supposed to play on Life on a Stick, he would have found himself in talented company on this sinking ship. The shows creator Victor Fresco would later go on to create and write the cult-beloved Netflix show Santa Clarita Diet, which ran for three seasons from 2017 to 2019. Additionally, a pre-Parks and Recreation Nick Offerman appeared (or was supposed to appear) in the season finale a full two months after Fox canceled the show.

But instead cashing a paycheck and adding an ultimately inconsequential credit to his IMDb page, Day decided to commit to McElhenneys project and shoot the shorts that would become Its Always Sunny in Philadelphia on a $200 budget in the dingy apartments of himself and his buddies. “I bet on myself and my friends, and it paid off in spades. There was power in numbers. And Sunny changed my life,” Day explained in his speech.

Its hard to imagine that Days career would have reached its current heights if he had taken the safe route and joined Life on a Stick, plus, that stilted, multi-cam sitcom about mall food doesn't seem like Days style at all — he prefers cat food to hot dogs.


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