Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia Writers Explore The D.E.N.N.I.S. System's Origin

"It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" has mined uproarious humor from its terrible characters for 16 seasons, but few episodes have surpassed Season 5's "The D.E.N.N.I.S. System" in terms of the show's blackhearted comedy. Glenn Howerton's Dennis Reynolds had long been established as misogynistic and sexually predatory, but the episode revealed in glorious detail just how abusive and depraved he can be. As it turns out, the titular system that provides the episode's bleak concept was inspired by writing duo Scott Marder and Rob Rosell's roommate and his latest obsession.

The D.E.N.N.I.S. System is Dennis' playbook for emotionally manipulating women into sleeping with him, then gaslighting them into breaking up with him so he can move on to his next target. The joke is that he's not only unaware of how despicable the system is but is so proud of it that he gives a seminar to the gang. Along the way, Mac (Rob McElhenney) and FrankĀ (Danny DeVito) reveal that they have systems of their own, taking advantage of the broken women Dennis leaves behind.

On "The Always Sunny Podcast," Marder and Rosell, who penned the episode, noted that they had written it when NeilĀ Strauss' "The Game: Penetrating the Secret Society of Pickup Artists," a discredited self-help book that purported to offer surefire strategies for men to pick up women and led to a wave of misogyny, was at the peak of its popularity. "It was off that book, 'The Game,' being a thing at the time," Rosell said. "Which our roommate was obsessed with," Marder added.

"Yeah," Rosell said with a shake of his head, "that's a whole other podcast."

Scott Marder and Rob Rosell's pickup artist roommate inspired Dennis's predatory system

Unlike Dennis Reynolds, whose system for picking up women includes calling them with a voice disguiser to threaten their lives, Scott Marder and Rob Rosell's roommate treated "The Game" like gospel. "Studying it like you would read, like, an automotive manual," Marder quipped. But Rosell said their pickup artistry-obsessed roommate who inspired the episode didn't do anything too egregious.

On the other hand, "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" writer and executive producer Megan Ganz, who hosts the podcast, said she felt the effects of pickup artist culture while trying to navigate her dating life in the big city. "I was living in New York and heavily dating during this time," she said, "and had the effect of 'The Game' presented upon me."

"Did it ever work for your friend?" Ganz asked. The answer, unsurprisingly, was no. "I don't think it worked for him," Rosell said. "When you're so clearly adhering to a system, that can be off-putting to a woman."

However, their roommate's pathetic attempts to find a hookup got Rosell and Marder thinking about the idea of pickup artistry as a comedic premise and ultimately led to "The D.E.N.N.I.S. System." Said Rosell, "We kind of started talking about that in Season 4, I remember, and it may have even gotten written on the board. Room riffing, kind of like, 'Oh, this could be a thing. The D.E.N.N.I.S. System. What would that be? And putting the letters up."

The resulting episode is among the most devilishly depraved the series has ever aired (and raised the bar for Dennis's brand of cruel sociopathy) but also the most blackly hilarious. That's why it's no surprise it often ranks among the best "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" episodes.