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History of TV: Up 'Schitt's Creek'

July 15, 2021
5 min read time

Moira’s wigs (and accent). Alexis and David bickering. The fashion. All the feels. I discovered Schitt’s Creek in early 2020, right about the time “schitt” hit the fan in real life and we all had to stay home as a pandemic swept around the globe. Tensions were high. The need for escapism was also very high. But I started to lose sleep in a good way, tuning in to laugh and cry along with the Rose family on a nightly basis. Their trials were absurd, like a reality show with actual heart, and over the course of six seasons that wrapped last year with a record-setting Emmy® sweep (most wins in a single season, including all four major acting categories), Schitt’s Creek displayed incredible comedy chops and is undoubtedly going down in television’s hall of fame.

The story engine that could

“You must prepare for life, and whatever it will throw at you. The opportunities will diminish, and the ass will get bigger. Oh, you can bet your bottom dollar it will! Especially yours. You’re going to have a huge ass.” – Moira Rose

The concept is surefire: a Kardashian-level wealthy family is suddenly left penniless when their business manager absconds with all the money from their video-store empire. Their refuge: a ramshackle motel in Schitt’s Creek that Johnny had bought his adult son as a joke, which is deemed so worthless it remains the only unseized asset they possess. And thus, the filthy-rich Roses are officially up shit’s creek.

But the key to keeping a show on the air for 80 episodes goes beyond having a great hook. The story, driven by well-drawn characters, has to live up to the concept to churn out season after season of award-worthy television. How much of the audience can relate to a story about a ridiculously rich white family losing all of their money? Close to none. The beauty of Schitt’s Creek came from the internal struggles that these characters faced when forced into a situation they didn’t know how to handle with people — that, despite being family — they barely knew and now had to live and cope with. The material struggles often played to laughs, but their identity struggles are where the audience could really connect with what they were watching onscreen. As Catherine O’Hara (Home Alone, Best in Show) told CBC, it’s one big “lesson in embracing the situation.”

A character arc masterpiece

“I don’t skate through life, David. I walk through life. In really nice shoes.” – Alexis Rose

Veterans Eugene Levy and O’Hara, friends since their time on the ‘70s comedy sketch Second City TV and Christopher Guest film roles, headlined the quirky cast as Johnny and Moira, parents to David (Dan Levy) and Alexis (Annie Murphy). Their family unit was rounded out by hotel manager/David’s new BFF Stevie Budd (the endearing Emily Hampshire), kooky Café Tropical waitress Twyla Sands (Dan’s real-life sister, Sarah Levy), Mayor Roland Schitt (Chris Elliott) and his wife; cheerful, on-the-verge-of-cracking Jocelyn (Jennifer Robertson). There was also steadfast Patrick Brewer (Noah Reid), who sweeps David off his feet, and grounded veterinarian Ted Mullens (Dustin Milligan), who, in a way taught Alexis how to love herself. This core cast of characters each embarked on their own individual arcs, evolving into better versions of themselves while still staying true to their essences, which blended in comedic harmony.

You need a composite of personalities in any genre, but in comedy especially those differences are where the moments of levity alight from, and in Schitt’s Creek the writers (led by Dan and Eugene) did an amazing job of keeping the core elements that made the characters funny, while encouraging them to journey into new spaces.

In other words, a character who can totter around on heels and spout lines like, “You learn pretty quickly when you’re in a Ugandan diamond smuggler’s villa, playing [pool] for your friend’s freedom,” has equal amounts of compassion and room to mature into something she wasn’t at the start of the show — way to go, Alexis. Moira is the epitome of grace under pressure in all of her fashion-as-armor glory, even Johnny redefines the meaning of success in his world. But mostly, the show succeeded in showing what life could be like — how people can flourish — if allowed to grow in a space of acceptance.

All you need is love

“Um, I do drink red wine, but I also drink white wine … and I’ve been known to sample the occasional rosé. And a couple summers back, I tried a merlot that used to be a chardonnay, which got a bit complicated. I like the wine, not the label.” – David Rose

All forms of love were celebrated on the show: passionate and new, friendships, marriage, parent-and-child, siblings, and a broad spectrum of sexual preferences. The Roses accepted Stevie into their brood. Ted loved Alexis so much he let her go. The Schitts graciously included the Roses, and in return, the Roses gradually learned how to give back to their community. Through their situation, the Roses finally got to know their own family for who they really were, as well.

And David and Patrick became rather iconic for their LGBTQ relationship. We all tuned in to see what wig Moira would be wearing next and Alexis’ latest “Ew, David” moments, but ultimately stayed to watch that love story unfold. The sweetness of it all left you aching to watch more; like season four’s open-mic night episode when Patrick serenades David, which David then reciprocates with an epic lip-sync performance. Spoiler alert: They get married, and I don’t think I even cried at my own wedding as much as I did at theirs. If you want to study how to write a relationship over several seasons, binge Schitt’s Creek now on Netflix.

In retrospect

Schitt’s Creek premiered in 2015, hit Netflix in 2017, and continued to snowball in popularity thanks to that turn on streaming and a marketing machine that kept the momentum going. It won multiple Canadian Screen Awards, Golden Globes®, Screen Actors Guild Awards®, GLAAD Media Awards, and more over the course of its run. There were so many memorable performances outside of the main cast, and moments that will forever be part of the zeitgeist — that lip-syncing scene to Tina Turner’s “Simply the Best” is everything. Because the show was, simply the best.

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