(from l) Eugene Levy, Catherine O’Hara, Dan Levy, and Annie Murphy of Schitt’s Creek. (Photo credit: CBC)

The Editor’s Desk: Small screen comedy, big heart

Schitt’s Creek celebrates small towns and all those who live there, however reluctantly

When I say “I don’t watch a lot of television,” I don’t say it in a snobbish “I’m too busy deciphering medieval palimpsests” sort of way that implies I have better things to do with my time. It’s simply that over the years I fell out of the habit of watching TV in the evenings, which means that even with box sets, streaming services, and PVR it can be hard to catch up with shows that I’ve missed. However great a series Modern Family might be, I haven’t seen a single episode, and trying to catch up with nearly 11 seasons in order to fully appreciate the series finale makes me realize there simply aren’t enough hours in the day.

When the CBC announced, back in 2015, that it was debuting a new series called Schitt’s Creek, I was intrigued by the description and the stars. However, it aired on Monday nights, an evening when I’m often otherwise occupied, and (if I’m being honest) I wondered how far the concept would stretch. The show details the trials and tribulations of the Rose family, who go from a life of luxury to one of penury after their accountant misappropriates all their money, and who are forced to seek refuge in all they have left: a one-horse town in the middle of nowhere called Schitt’s Creek, which they bought as a joke years earlier.

Patriarch Johnny Rose (Eugene Levy), who made a fortune with a chain of video stores; his actress wife Moira (Catherine O’Hara), who was the star of a long-running soap opera; and their self-absorbed adult children David (Dan Levy) and Alexis (Annie Murphy) thus find themselves living in a fairly charmless motel, far removed from the celebrity circles they’re accustomed to. It seemed like a standard fish out of water tale, with the clueless Roses clashing with the savvier-than-they-appear locals, and I wondered how much mileage the show could get out of that concept.

So despite the presence of Canadian comedy legends O’Hara and Eugene Levy — who have forgotten more about the art of verbal and physical comedy than most people ever learn — I gave it a pass. (It didn’t help that “great comedy TV” and “the CBC” don’t necessarily go together.) Then a funny thing happened. Schitt’s Creek slowly but surely became the little comedy that could (helped by being picked up by Netflix), and began to be described as “the best TV comedy show you’re not watching”. It encouraged me to take a look, so last year I settled in to see what the fuss was about.

To make a long story short, I binge-watched all five seasons (it doesn’t hurt that each episode is a brisk 22 minutes), and couldn’t wait for season six to start in January. It was announced that this would be the last season, so here I am, writing this piece on Tuesday, April 7 knowing that in a few short hours the final episode will air.

And dammit if I won’t miss it. A lot. Far from being one-note stereotypes, playing out tired variations on a theme every week, the characters have all grown and developed as people, aided by sharp, observant writing that can go from laugh out loud funny to amazingly poignant in a heartbeat, and wonderful acting from the entire cast that sells every emotion, from comedy to heartbreak. The Roses have learned humility, compassion, and love without turning into a Hallmark movie, while the locals have embraced these initially odd ducks and come to see them as an integral part of the town and its life.

Comedy with heart, is how I think of Schitt’s Creek, as well as a testament to small towns and all the people who live there. We all need that, now more than ever, and I’ll be watching tonight’s finale with a tear in my eye. Crying? Of course not. Gosh, I really need to do some dusting, because I’ve got something in my eye.


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