Why you should be watching Schitt’s Creek
Sophie Davies | On 24, May 2020
Back when it launched on Canadian TV network CBC in 2015, followed by Pop TV in the US, riches-to-rags sitcom Schitt’s Creek (created by father and son Eugene and Dan Levy) attracted a small but devoted following. It won a whole new legion of fans when it was added to Netflix in 2017. Now, with the sixth and final season available to stream, it provides a perfect ending to what has become a truly standout comedy of the past decade.
At the centre of Schitt’s Creek is the wealthy Rose family – video rental store mogul Johnny (Eugene Levy) and faded daytime TV star Moira (Catherine O’Hara), plus their spoilt adult children, David (Dan Levy) and Alexis (Annie Murphy) – who suddenly lose everything they have, thanks to a dishonest business manager. Everything, that is, apart from a small town called Schitt’s Creek, which Johnny once bought for his son as a joke gift. The town’s mayor, Roland Schitt (Chris Elliott), welcomes the family with open arms and allows them to stay in a local motel while they adjust to their new financial circumstances, which ends up taking a lot longer than they initially hoped.
Rather like the Roses trying to adapt to this unfamiliar town – and similar to other ultimately great comedies such as The Office, Parks and Recreation and 30 Rock – Schitt’s Creek takes a little while to find its feet. It’s gently amusing in its first season, but doesn’t yet have the gag rate it would later achieve, and the characters aren’t quite as loveable as they would later become – somewhat naturally, given that a key element of the show is the Rose family learning to be better people. Nevertheless, there is still plenty to enjoy about Season 1, not least Catherine O’Hara’s deliciously demented performance as one-of-a-kind matriarch Moira Rose, whose unique fashion sense and way of speaking almost defy explanation.
After the first season concludes with an attempt to sell the town going expectedly awry, the family begin to complain a little less and become more integrated into the Schitt’s Creek community, and the show starts to feel warmer as a result. Johnny takes a leading role in running the motel in which they’re staying, forming an effective business partnership along the way with the sardonic Stevie (Emily Hampshire) at the reception desk. Meanwhile, Moira joins a cappella group The Jazzagals, directs a local production of Cabaret, and even earns a position on the town council.
One breakthrough moment for the couple occurs in the Season 2 finale, when they bump into some estranged friends from their previous life who are passing through the area. Initially embarrassed to talk about their living arrangements, and becoming even more uncomfortable when Roland and his wife Jocelyn (Jennifer Robertson) join them for dinner, with a coupon at the ready, they soon realise that the friendships they’ve made since going broke are infinitely stronger than any they had before. It’s a thrill to see Johnny snap when their snobbish “friends” accuse Schitt’s Creek of living up to its name, admitting to them that he lives in a shabby motel there and sincerely thanking the Schitts for their generosity.
The kids (both in their late 20s/early 30s) undergo even bigger transformations. David, who starts out in an almost permanent state of disgust at everything around him, eventually opens his own store in town and finds love with his business partner, Patrick (Noah Reid). His sister Alexis, who seems to have spent all of her adult life (and some of her teenage years too) flitting between rich boyfriends in exotic locations, goes back to high school and graduates, before starting a career in PR. In one significant Season 4 episode, she even turns down a job offer from an old friend, choosing to stay in Schitt’s Creek instead. Crucially, although they change, David and Alexis don’t become such wholesome people that they become unfunny, and in the show’s final season, they’re still delivering just as many sharply written one-liners as ever.
As the Roses become more involved in the local community that was initially so alien to them, they also become closer as a family unit. Johnny and Moira get to know their children through spending more time with them than ever before (at an early stage, Moira forgets Alexis’ middle name and wonders how the kids turned out the way they did when “we sent them to the best boarding schools” and “hired the best nannies”). Meanwhile, David and Alexis – forced to share a motel room in which their first argument is over who should get murdered first if there was a break-in – become true friends over the course of the show. Schitt’s Creek manages to strike a pleasing balance of being warm and positive without ever really feeling saccharine or sappy, and the core relationships are consistently compelling.
Since relatively early on, the show has received praise from the LGBTQ community – not only for the creation of Moira Rose, who became a gay icon from pretty much the first moment she was seen screaming over her wig collection, but for the matter-of-fact way in which David’s pansexuality is addressed, as well as the treatment of his relationship with Patrick. Dan Levy made a groundbreaking choice to present a world free from homophobia in Schitt’s Creek, providing us with a sweet love story between two men that nobody is against and doesn’t involve any tragedy or shame.
Warning: Spoilers for the final season
The final season of Schitt’s Creek proves to be as moving as it is funny, effectively getting across just how far the Roses have come. It’s difficult not to feel choked up when Johnny tells a room of potential investors in his new motel business: “My family and I have been staying in a motel for the past three years, and I wouldn’t trade our stay there for anything.” Alexis, who previously wouldn’t have hesitated to drop everything and follow a man, ultimately chooses her career over love, encouraging lovely Ted (Dustin Mulligan) to accept his dream job in the Galapagos while she stays behind. Before marrying Patrick, in a particularly poignant conversation with best friend Stevie, David comes to realise that he doesn’t need to return to New York in order to prove something to people who don’t matter. Stevie has also undergone her own transformation over the course of the show, growing in confidence through playing the lead in that production of Cabaret and taking on more responsibility at the motel. Moira is, of course, still yearning to return to the glamour and luxury of her old life, but we wouldn’t want her any other way!
With many long-running sitcoms peaking at a certain point and then losing their sparkle over time, it’s a joy to see one maintain its quality until the end and bow out on a high. Having let us get to know and love the eccentric Rose family over the past few years, Schitt’s Creek leaves us feeling assured that they’re going to be ok, and their journey is one that fans are sure to revisit over and over again in the coming years.
Schitt’s Creek is available on Netflix UK, as part of an £8.99 monthly subscription.