What happens when a rich family loses all their money and needs to start all over again? If they are on Schitt’s Creek, they go on personal journeys of development that makes them all better people at the end of it all.
It begins predictably enough. The Rose family – father Johnny (Eugene Levy), who heads the Rose Video chain, his wife, the former soap-opera star Moira (Catherine O’Hara), son David (Dan Levy) and daughter Alexis (Annie Murphy) – are swindled by an unscrupulous manager and have their possessions taken over by the bank. The only thing left is a town, Schitt’s Creek, that they once purchased as a joke.
So, off they go, away from their glamorous New York house, to the one motel in Schitt’s Creek, to start again. This town doesn’t have much going for it – there is a single motel, a single café, and only a tiny handful of residents. It doesn’t even have a hospital for human beings, only a vet clinic.
It does not look promising, and the Roses do not take to it well. They are not used to being treated like regular people. Alexis, modelled on a Kardashian sibling, is self-absorbed and image-obsessed, while David suffers from crippling anxiety about, well, most things.
For her part, the loud, flamboyant Moira, who has been used to being the centre of attention, does not deal well with having nowhere to display her talents at singing or dressing up. As for Johnny, well, he’s just trying to make the best of it all.
But there is only so much you can dislike the good people of Schitt’s Creek – the pot-bellied, mulleted mayor, Roland Schitt (Chris Elliot) and his wife Jocelyn (Jennifer Robertson) are warm and kind to the Roses, no matter what they might think of them, while Stevie (Emily Hampshire), the manager of the motel, is unfailingly loyal even when she’s being acerbic to them.
The vet, Ted Mullens (Dustin Milligan), is cheerful and upbeat, and Patrick (Noah Reid), whom we meet in Season 3, is the boyfriend we all want. Even Twyla (Sarah Levy), the eccentric waitress at Schitt’s Creek only café, is willing to be nice to her most difficult customers. Soon, even the spoilt, snobbish Roses learn to love their new town. And that’s what makes Schitt’s Creek so appealing – the joke isn’t on the small town, and its simple but kind people, it’s on the Roses and how out of place they are.
Indeed, much of Schitt’s Creek’s success as a show is because the people in it are truly nice, and this extends to all manner of relationships. Dan Levy refused to depict homophobia on his show as he did not want to give homophobes an arena to see themselves, and so, David Rose’s pansexuality and his relationship with the adorable Patrick Brewster are seen as perfectly ordinary things in this town.
Meanwhile, the poker-faced, sardonic Stevie opens up and becomes the closest thing that David has to a best friend. The Schitts, Roland and Jocelyn, eventually wear the Roses down with their kindness, and we see a relationship based on mutual respect develop. As for Alexis, we watch as she grows from spoilt blonde socialite to a woman with a career, who truly cares about the adorable Ted Mullens. There is a rendition of Tina Turner’s ‘The Best’, and a proposal to melt the stoniest of hearts. Here is a comedy that never punches down.
And it is a comedy. The real-life father-son duo of Eugene and Dan Levy double up as scriptwriters, and their chemistry is visible in every frame. Catherine O’Hara shines as the eccentric, flamboyant Moira, with her odd middle-of-the-Atlantic accent, her collection of wigs and tendency to be dramatic (“Oh, I’d kill for a good coma right now!”). This will go down as one of the greatest comedic performances ever. Eugene Levy provides an able foil as the straitlaced, stuffy Johnny Rose, while Annie Murphy and Dan Levy are eminently believable as siblings who can’t stand the sight of one another, but love each other all the same.
There are shows that are funny because they push boundaries and make you uncomfortable, like Curb Your Enthusiasm, or The Office, or anything that Armando Iannucci has ever made. Schitt’s Creek does not do that, because it doesn’t need to. This is a heart-warming story of personal growth, and love, and a family that truly does get better over time. For this comedy, that’s enough.
Schitt’s Creek is streaming on Netflix.