You HAVE To Watch: Schitt’s Creek
Six years ago, every bus stop in my neighbourhood had posters for an upcoming CBC series, Schitt’s Creek.
“Hey, it’s Canadian treasures Eugene Levy and Catherine O’Hara,” I thought. “And what a clever name. I should check this show out.”
However, even though CBC produces some wonderful content, and it’s available for free on their app (now called CBC Gem), far too often I let the best of our homegrown entertainment fly under my radar. Unless it gets attention in the States. It’s sadly common for Canadians to care more about the Canadian content that Americans like than to watch it when it’s available on our own national television station. That was the case for me here.
Naturally, it surprised me to hear a buzz about Schitt’s Creek start up years after I first saw the posters for the then new series. Now only had it found its audience, but that audience vocally let me know I HAVE to watch this.
What Is Schitt’s Creek?
Created by the legendary Eugene Levy and his relatively unknown son Dan, Schitt’s Creek follows the riches to rags story of the obscenely wealthy Rose family losing their entire fortune. Forced to live in the one asset they kept control of (not counting their absurd wardrobes), Schitt’s Creek, a small town the Rose parents bought son David (Dan Levy) as a gag gift.
The premise has a lot in common with Arrested Development. (Side note, I looked up when AD came out to see if there was crossover between both show’s first run, and was shocked to see Arrested Development came out in 2003!) However, the two shows go in very different directions.
Is It Sooooo Good?
I didn’t think so at first.
The first couple of episodes, characters fit in ne of two categories:
- Rich, out of touch, shallow, and unlikeable;
- Folksy, weird, shallow, and unlikeable.
Other than Stevie, who silently judged everyone for being unlikeable, and Mutt, whose personality was basically “abs” (but what personality!). The humour worked and the dichotomy intrigued me, but without at least one likeable character with depth to root for, I didn’t see myself watching this show for long.
Jennifer Robertson’s Jocelyn Schitt invites Catherine O’Hara’s Moira Rose for a spa day. Moira ends up with a haircut that looks just like Jocelyn’s, and takes passive aggressive shots about it for the rest of the episode. Jocelyn smiles through them all. Until the last one.
People-pleaser Jocelyn gets series, and says to Moira, “I know you hate your hair, Moira. Almost as much as you hate this town. But there’s a possibility you could be here a really long time.”
Suddenly, Jocelyn, up till then a character made out to be clueless about how bad her life was, became the most fleshed out character on the show.
What’s more, the speech shook Moira, and we start to see her character evolve as well.
Schitt’s Creek Gets Deeper
By the second season of the show, the similarities to Arrested Development end, to Schitt’s Creek’s benefit. Where Arrested Development characters never changed despite their changing circumstances, the Rose’s unchanging circumstances changed them as characters.
Johnny goes from scheming to get rich (again) quick and get out of town to trying to find him place in Schitt’s Creek.
Moira goes from an artist intolerant of the locals yokels, to someone trying to participate in the town and share her art with it.
David goes from a ball of anxiety over what he’s lost to figuring out what he really wants.
And Annie Murphy’s Alexis Rose goes from a world traveler who fit a lifetime of insane adventures into a few years of leaching off the rich and famous, to pulling her own weight and caring those around her.
Even as the characters evolve, they retain the key elements that make them special. Though out of water, they’re still fish. They’ve just used their environment to build suits that allow them to adapt and survive.
Yes, that’s the perfect metaphor for Schitt’s Creek. It’s about fish mechs.
Within a few seasons, the plots lean heavily into the character’s feelings. No longer mocking them for even having feelings, we see the characters distinguish between what they thought they cared about and what actually matters to them.
Johnny and Moira’s marriage becomes a highlight. Two characters who seemed painfully superficial repeatedly show just how much they care for each other. Their relationship gets stronger because they face their problems together.
David’s journey carries the heaviest emotional weight of the series. I get the sense that Dan Levy brought a lot of himself to David’s character, not only as the actor playing the role but as a writer and director on the series. Really, Schitt’s Creek is as much the journey of David discovering himself as it is the world discovering Dan Levy’s talent.
Before I can recommend it, I have to tag it with the dreaded “Give it a few episodes” label, but I did enjoy Schitt’s Creek quite a bit. For a show that I thought was built around the appeal of an outsider watching a head-on collision, I ended up emotionally invested in the characters, the town, and their journey together.