“It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” creator and star Rob McElhenney initially said no when he was approached about making a show set in the video game industry.
“We just weren’t interested,” McElhenney, 42, tells The Post. But a visit to gaming studio Ubisoft changed his mind.
“Because I was now meeting the actual human beings behind the making of these games [I saw that] these are young, driven, intelligent people from all over the world, with disparate personalities,” he says. “And they had a common goal…and yet they all were coming at it from different perspectives and areas of expertise. That creates conflict and, inherently, comedy.”
That visit resulted in “Mythic Quest: Raven’s Banquet,” a nine-episode workplace comedy on Apple TV+ that’s set in a gaming studio. McElhenney — who co-created the series with fellow “Sunny” alums Charlie Day and Megan Ganz — stars as Ian Grimm, the studio’s creative director. He’s joined by an ensemble including Oscar winner F. Murray Abraham (“Amadeus”), David Hornsby (“Baskets”) and Charlotte Nicado (“Please Like Me”).
McElhenney says that Grimm is based on a combination of creative directors that he’s met and extreme versions of his own personality. “I was trying to find that balance between an absolute abject narcissist blowhard, but also an incredibly passionate and talented game developer,” he says. “In the earlier drafts of the script, he was just sort of a buffoon. And it was funny to a degree, but you just didn’t believe the world. He has to be good at his job. But someone being good at their job isn’t always funny.”
To give the series a broader appeal, the writers’ room was staffed with a mix of experienced gamers and people who don’t play video games.
“When you’re watching ‘The Office,’ you don’t care about the paper company that they’re working for,” says Ganz, 35. “What you care about are the people and their relationships with each other. So we didn’t want to get the industry wrong. But we also wanted to make it a universal space so that anyone that was watching it could see their own workplace reflected back.”
Typical workplace issues such as sexism appear in “Mythic Quest,” though the show is less cutting than “Sunny,” which has episode titles such as “The Gang Gets Racist” and “Mac Fights Gay Marriage.”
“Context and intention matter. I think that our audiences are savvy enough to recognize that,” says McElhenney. “Nine times out of 10, if someone’s upset that they can’t tell a joke about misogyny, it’s because the joke is misogynist. And they’re not funny or smart enough to recognize that…You can make a joke about homophobia, or in the world of homophobia, without the joke being homohphobic. Who is the target of the joke? Is the joke a homosexual, or is the joke homophobia itself?
“That’s part of what’s happening in the culture right now,” he says, “and as long as you are unwilling to recognize that, you’re going to look at something like ‘Sunny’ and say, ‘Well, they get to do it!’ And not have any idea that that’s not what we’re doing at all.”
“Mythic Quest” has already been renewed for a second season. Meanwhile McElhenney has no plans to end “It’s Always Sunny,” which at 14 seasons, is tied with “The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet” for the longest running live-action sitcom in American TV history.
“We still love it, we still enjoy it,” he says. “We’ll keep going as long as people keep watching it.”