Compared to other television shows, “Schitt’s Creek” has had an unusual journey. It’s rare that a show hits the peak of its popularity while airing its final season, rarer still when that show spent a few years struggling to find an audience. Airing on CBC in Canada and PopTV in the States since 2015, the show follows Johnny Rose (Eugene Levy), his wife Moira (Catherine O’Hara) and their two adult children David (Dan Levy) and Alexis (Annie Murphy) as they’re forced to move to the small town of Schitt’s Creek (which Johnny bought as a joke years before), where living together in two motel rooms, they attempt to get their lives back on track.
An Upwards Journey
Debuting to modest reviews and ratings in its first season, the show didn’t really start to make headlines or receive cultural attention until previous seasons of the show debuted on Netflix in 2017. From there, audiences and critics finally started to take note of the show, and it finally started receiving the attention it deserved. It’s been a few years of buzz that has resulted in celebrities gushing about the show on social media, endless GIFs on Twitter, a trashy-yet-glorious pop single (“A Little Bit Alexis” is a bop) and, most crucially, the show’s first well-earned Emmy nominations last year. Considering all the attention, it was slightly surprising when star and showrunner Dan Levy announced that the show’s sixth season would be its last. A lot of other shows would use the buzz and award nominations surrounding the show to drag the story on for a couple more seasons, yet thankfully Dan Levy and the rest of the producers decided to end the show on a high. Is the show worthy of all this sudden attention? Yes. While I was skeptical of how good the show was when I started it on Netflix, I quickly fell in love with the town of Schitt’s Creek and its inhabitants. Not only is it good, but it’s also one of the most delightful and heartwarming shows on television.
What is truly wonderful about the show is its growth, in its writing and character development. Its first season was a little rocky, though still funny and watchable. It reminded me of the first season of “Parks and Recreation”, with the writing feeling uncertain in parts with how to handle certain characters and their relationships with others. The town’s mayor, Roland Schitt (Chris Elliott), is set up as an antagonist in the first season, which proved to weaken the episodes. This thankfully gets amended in later episodes, where the character becomes less of a hindrance to the family and instead becomes a friend (and occasional annoyance). The show shines best when it focuses on the relationships between its characters, which starts to become evident in season two, where it’s clear the writers are more confident in exploring the different character dynamics.
Film and Television’s Moira Rose
“What you did was impulsive, capricious and melodramatic. But it was also wrong.”
For it’s not just the characters that make the show, but the insanely talented cast that bring them to life. Each character has their own journey in the town, giving each actor a chance to shine. Naturally I have to start with Catherine O’ Hara, who, as the Rose family matriarch, has gifted the world with a character like no other. Already a comedy legend, O’Hara’s portrayal of Moira Rose is eccentric, over-the-top and brilliant. (The fact that she’s only got ONE Emmy nomination for her performance is a crime.) Whether it’s her endless collection of wigs or how she pronounces the word ‘bebe’ (or any other word for that matter), Moira Rose is now an icon, and rightly so. Yet it’s the genuine development of her character that causes Moira’s character to excel. While Moira is horrified by the family’s new circumstances, across the seasons she’s managed to bond with her children, join the town council and a singing group, and put her talents to use directing a production of “Cabaret.” Television won’t be the same without her extraordinary collection of wigs.
Johnny Rose, Baby
“Tweet us on Facebook!”
Moira’s character is helped by her husband, John (Eugene Levy, with eyebrows like no other). Despite the show presenting the family as having been vain and wealth-obsessed, John and Moira’s marriage was still affectionate and loving. Through their tribulations, the show nicely contrasts John’s orderly way of life with Moira’s dramatic one. John takes the longest to find his footing in the town, despite having previously run a successful business. He struggles to find his purpose in the town while his wife and children manage to find their own vocations. That’s why his team-up with motel owner Stevie (Emily Hampshire) is so satisfying, allowing Stevie and Johnny to create one of the most beautiful friendships on the show.
A Little Bit Alexis
“Love that journey for me!”
Annie Murphy more than holds her own among comedy legends, and “Schitt’s Creek” has turned her into a star of her own right. It would be easy for Alexis to just be a spoiled rich girl who is funny to laugh at. It’s a character that has been done countless times. Yet Annie Murphy injects real compassion and warmth into her performance, while name dropping ex-boyfriends and celebrities in adventures that would make Tahani from “The Good Place” jealous. Alexis is capable and emotionally intelligent, as her journey across the seasons has taken her back, from high school to college to running her own PR firm. Murphy more than holds her own among comedy legends, with her arsenal of hand gestures and facial expressions that make her hilarious to watch. The fourth season in particular is a fantastic showcase for Murphy’s talent, which has some of the best character development I’ve ever seen in a comedy. That Alexis has developed into a caring and smart woman — and yet can still perform hilarious scenes such as “A Little Bit Alexis” — emphasizes how well these characters have been crafted.
“Very uninterested in that opinion.”
Showrunner Dan Levy’s portrayal of David Rose was the main draw to the show in its first few seasons. Incredibly sarcastic, insecure and lonely, David gets the best lines on the show and, in some ways, comes across as the most relatable character. Throughout the seasons David has made a best friend in kindred sarcastic spirit Stevie, developed a caring sibling relationship with Alexis, and started his own business. Like Alexis, David is shown to be capable and talented, most especially in all things fashion and design related.
If season four is Alexis’s standout season, then season three is David’s. Not only does the season focus on David’s professional development in the opening of his store Rose Apothecary, but it allows for greater emotional development too. This is the season where David meets Patrick (Noah Reid), who is level-headed and grounded where David is not. Their business partnership soon turns romantic, in one of television’s sweetest love stories. David has previously been incredibly guarded, so watching him embrace vulnerability and learning to trust someone is wonderful to watch. Dan Levy has frequently stated that the show is committed to “not ever show bigotry, homophobia, or intolerance… because to me, it’s a celebration of love.” Therefore, David and Patrick’s relationship is not only refreshing, but also incredibly important. One of the best displays on this is the sixth episode of the fourth season, “Open Mic.” Patrick performs an acoustic version of “Simply the Best” to David, and I dare anyone to watch it without at least tearing up a little. It’s simple, vulnerable, romantic and probably one of the most beautiful scenes on television. It’s moments like this that display how brilliant the acting and writing is on this show.
The show has become a beacon of hope and acceptance, so it’s going to be sad to say farewell to the Rose family and the inhabitants of Schitt’s Creek when the show finishes on April 7. The show’s heart and humor has been a much-needed tonic these past few years, and everyone involved in the production has truly created something special that deserves to be remembered as one of the comedy greats.
Season 2 Episode 2, “Family Dinner”
Season 3 Episode 12, “Friends and Family”
Season 3 Episode 13, “Grad Night”
Season 4 Episode 6, “Open Mic”
Season 4 Episode 12, “Singles Week”
Season 5 Episode 5, “Housewarming”
Season 5 Episode 14, “Life is a Cabaret”