Hello, there! My name is Preston Barta, and I am the features editor of Fresh Fiction and senior film critic at the Denton Record-Chronicle. My cinematic love story began where I was born: off planet on the isolated desert world of the Jakku system. It's there I passed the time scavenging for loose parts with my good friend Rey. One day I found an old film projector and a dusty reel of the 1975 film JAWS. It rocked my world so much that I left my kinfolk in the rearview (I so miss their morning cups of green milk) to pursue my dreams of writing about film. It wasn't long until I met two gents who said they would give me a lift. I can't recall their names, but one was an older man who liked to point a lot and the other was a tall, hairy fella. They got me as far as one of Jupiter's moons where we crossed paths with the U.S.S. Enterprise. Some pointy-eared bastard said I was clear to come aboard. He saw that I was clutching my beloved shark movie and invited me to the "moving pictures room" where he was screening the 1993 film JURASSIC PARK to his crew. He said my life would be much more prosperous if I were familiar with more work by the god named Steven Spielberg. From there, my love for cinema blossomed. Once we reached planet Earth, everything changed. I found the small town of Denton, TX, and was welcomed into the Barta family. They showed me the writings of local film critic Boo Allen. He became my hero and caused me to chase a degree in film and journalism. After my studies at graduate of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, I met some film critics who showed me the ropes and got me into my first press screening: 2011's THE GREEN LANTERN. Don't worry; I recovered just fine. MAD MAX: FURY ROAD was only four years away.
Preston Barta // Film Critic
IT’S ALWAYS SUNNY IN PHILADELPHIA is no stranger to being funny, which is rare to say when a show is entering its tenth season (premiering in January). Usually about this time, you will see major signs of wear and tear, but that is far from the case here with the series’ ninth season (now available for your viewing pleasure on Netflix).
If you look at a show like THE SIMPSONS (which is still kicking it with class), when it entered its ninth season, it still managed to churn out classics; and SUNNY is in the same boat.
And the good news is, unlike most cases where you try to catch up on a series before its following season airs, SUNNY has all their seasons on Netflix now. So, feel free to binge watch and enjoy some of the best episodes of the series, such as one with guest star Seann William Scott and the infamous 100th episode. So, thank goodness the ninth season proves that this show has so much more life left in it.
But in the meantime, while you’re pretending like you’re working (or paying attention in class) with this pulled up on your phone or desktop, check out an interview that we did with SUNNY‘s Glenn Howerton.
Howerton plays Dennis Reynolds on the show, and also contributes to the writing and producing process. We had the chance to talk to Howerton about writing jokes for the show, social media, auditioning for GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY, and how he’s always wanted to play The Riddler.
This is something that I’ve always been kind of curious of since I first began watching SUNNYare there times when you guys are all hanging out and you are kind of like, “wow, this would be a great idea to explore on the show.” When do ideas for episodes or jokes generally hit you?
Glenn Howerton: “Sometimes they definitely hit us when we’re all together, but most of the time I would say— sort of the seeds of those things hit us in the off-season. I know, for me, I’ll get an idea for something or a story line or, you know, even a B-story or a C-story, and I’ll kind of make a note of it in my phone. I’ll just write it down. Then I’ll bring it up once we get in the writers’ room. We really do reserve most of the actual, you know, sitting down and kind of coming up with ideas for when we are in the writers’ room. But, yes, certainly occasionally, we’ve all been kind of talking about something and a good idea for an episode pops up.”
You guys seem to find the right balance between having your characters be horrible to each other, but it’s still funny and it doesn’t get too uncomfortable or feel too cruel, whereas other shows don’t quite find that line. How do you write it so you don’t go over that line and you find the right balance? Did that take awhile to find it?
Howerton: “That is a very good question. It’s also kind of a difficult question to answer in some ways because I don’t totally know the answer, other than to say I think the reason it works is because none of our characters, at that end of the day, get away with their behavior. They’re not celebrated. They don’t generally achieve their goals. So I think it’s become pretty clear to our audience that our behavior is ultimately self-destructive. Even though the characters lash out at each other and other people, I think it’s generally understood it is to their own detriment.”
Some of my favorite episodes are the ones that involve the gang dancing. My personal favorite to this day is the one where Charlie Day dances to “Take My Breath Away.” I was wondering whether you guys love to dance, and that’s why it’s included in a few of the episodes, or whether that’s just something that everybody thought would be funny?
Howerton: “I think we probably all, as individuals, consider ourselves to be really, really terrible dancers. I think that it’s funny to watch people who absolutely have no business dancing. You’re right, there has been quite a bit— since the first season. I don’t know, watching people dance that have no business dancing is just very funny to me.”
Charlie Day was in PACIFIC RIM last summer. Have you ever had any interest in doing the big, summer blockbuster type of stuff?
Howerton: “Let’s see, I think 10 years ago, I auditioned for the SUPERMAN reboot with Brandon Routh, and that was about like two years before that actually came out. But, that was before SUNNY. And then, I did audition for the GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY, to play the role that Chris Pratt played. I know that the director (James Gunn) of that movie is supposedly a big SUNNY fan, which is cool. But, usually, they’re already looking for some giant movie star to play those roles.
I certainly don’t have anything against doing something like that. I have to admit; I really do enjoy playing bad guys, or extremely evil people, which is why it’s a lot of fun for me to play Dennis. The real challenge is making Dennis likable because he’s such a despicable person. I think playing something like The Riddler would definitely feel like it was in my wheelhouse.”
Social media is a big thing these days, and one thing that I have noticed on Twitter lately is that many actors of acclaimed television shows live tweet while their shows are on. They answer questions that fans have and reply to comments. Is that something that you agree with, or will do with fans?
Howerton: “You know, the idea has not been proposed in terms of any sort of official capacity. That’s not a bad idea. I would love to do that. It sounds like a lot of fun. However, I am sort of two-minds about it, though. I enjoy that sort of thing, but by the same token, I also really kind of want people to turn their phones off, shut up, dim the lights and sit down and just watch the episode from start to finish instead of being on their computers and phones while watching television, and doing this, and cooking, and eating and petting a cat. I don’t know— our attention spans are so scattered these days. While it does sound like fun, on the other hand, I kind of just want people to watch the episode and talk about it afterwards.”
When I was in college, the show often came up in our film discussions at my university, and I was wondering, if you could teach a college course, what would you teach?
Howerton: “Oh, boy. First of all, I’d probably have no business teaching a college course because I feel like I’d be just winging it the entire time. But, I guess, if I were to teach a college course it would probably be in how to make acting more authentic. That’s it. It’d probably be an acting class of some kind because that’s the only thing I feel like I could actually teach. Everything else, I would be just way too stupid.”
The tenth season of IT’S ALWAYS SUNNY IN PHILADELPHIA airs on FXX in January, but you can catch up on the show on Netflix and/or DVD or Blu-ray now.