Comfort TV is a precious commodity these days, as we face a desperate need for light-hearted fare in these dark, tumultuous times.
We’re never short of crime dramas, featuring gritty, haunted detectives (à la Van Der Valk), while new reality series are constantly invading our screens, ready to be obsessively binge-watched. But “comfort TV” comedies – the type of sitcom that can be half-heartedly watched whilst ironing – are rare finds, and there’s only so many times you can revisit the US Office, Friends or Peep Show.
Enter Schitt’s Creek – the brilliant Canadian sitcom that’s coming to an end just as it reaches peak popularity, and your next Netflix comfort-watch.
Created by and starring Eugene Levy (Jim’s dad from American Pie) and his MTV presenter son Dan Levy, Schitt’s Creek introduces the wealthy Rose family just as their items are being repossessed from their lavish mansion – their business manager, we discover, was embezzling money and defrauding them. They are forced to make a fresh start in rural town Schitt’s Creek – their sole remaining asset bought as a joke in the 90s – and must take up residence in a worn-out motel.
The fish-out-of-water comedy, which began airing on Canadian network CBC in 2015, struggled to find a home in America but after rejections from HBO and Showtime, it eventually found a home on obscure premium channel Pop TV.
Over the next five years, the programme went on to secure four Emmy nominations, including Best Comedy Series, while in April this year, the final series’s finale was also broadcast in America by Pop’s more successful sister channels Comedy Central and Logo. The final episode drew in 1.3 million viewers – the show’s highest viewing figures to date.
So how did this little-known Canadian sitcom raise a strong fan base of loyal viewers over its six seasons? And why should UK viewers who haven’t yet dipped a toe into Schitt’s Creek give it a try?
Schitt’s Creek’s eccentric, quotable characters should be credited with the show’s gradual climb to success. The most rational of the group, Johnny Rose (Eugene Levy) is a former video rental tycoon who’s always trying to get his family out of Schitt’s Creek and back to their luxurious New York residence. However the normality he brings to the show is offset by the rest of his bratty family.
Siblings David (Dan Levy) and Alexis (Annie Murphy), both in their twenties, are incredibly spoilt at the beginning of the series, although we watch them develop into kinder, hard-working people across the series’ run. The brother-sister duo are forced to share a room in the dingy motel, which acts as a catalyst for their immature squabbles and leads to some hilarious moments over the course of the five seasons.
Although David’s dry, sarcastic sense of humour combined with his extensive wardrobe of arty jumpers make him a joy to watch, his sister Alexis is the most meme-able out of the two, with her casually-delivered one-liners (“I don’t skate through life David, I walk through life in really nice shoes”) and constant celebrity name-drops (“I know composting. Gwyneth Paltrow does a compost gift exchange”).
Alexis, who was a jet-setting socialite before her family fell on hard times, also sneaks in references to her previous sketchy (and dangerous-sounding) adventures which are never properly explained, in a similar way to Gavin and Stacey’s Nessa.
“If there’s one thing I’ve learned when it comes to love, you can’t let the little things get in your way. Like, I once dated this Sultan’s nephew who was forbidden to talk to me or even look at me, and we made it work for like, half a regime change,” she casually drops into a conversation.
The only character on the show that could beat Alexis in the ridiculousness stakes is her mother Moira, played by Catherine O’Hara, who is best known for her roles in Beetlejuice and Home Alone. Former soap actress Moira, with her odd faux-English accent, interesting pronounciation of words (“my bébé girl”) and many, many wigs, is arguably one of the funniest and eccentric members of the Rose family.
O’Hara’s fabulous performance as the family matriarch is a highlight of Schitt’s Creek and actually earned her an Emmy nomination for Best Lead Actress in a Comedy in 2019.
All four Rose family members, each of whom make great strides in terms of personal development throughout the series, give hilarious and heartwarming performances that make the sitcom stand out as a worthwhile comfort watch.
With the sixth and final season of Schitt’s Creek about to land on Netflix for UK viewers, now is the perfect time to give the family-focused sitcom a go.