Andrea introduced me to a Canadian situation comedy, Schitt’s Creek. It features SCTV stars Eugene Levy and Catherine O’Hara as the parents of a once rich family, now reduced to living in a motel in Schitt’s Creek with their adult children, played by Daniel Levy and Annie Murphy. It’s a pretty standard fish-out-of-water story, where the fish are sophisticated and think themselves very much superior to those in their new environment. It very much has the feel of Northern Exposure.
When Northern Exposure was out in the late 1980s and early 1990s, I was a big fan. But when I revisited it a few years ago, I was disappointed. It tries a bit too hard to be quirky, and as a result never really jells into anything believable. Schitt’s Creek does a far better of job of this. For one thing, other than the mayor (Chris Elliott), the local people aren’t odd so much as normal. But more important, the family, though pampered and annoying, are smart and quick enough to understand their situation.
The Heart of Schitt’s Creek
The heart of the show features the son David (Daniel Levy) and his relationship with the motel clerk, Stevie (Emily Hampshire). David is an smart, urbane man in his early 30s who has never really had to grow up. He used to run an art gallery, but that was clearly underwritten by his father. He seems lost in his own world. Stevie is certainly David’s intellectual match, but in a very low-key way. And the best moments between them involve the same formula. David says something clueless; Stevie responds sarcastically, but without a hint that she is doing so; David goes with her sarcastic reply, but again, without a hint that he knows.
David greatly improves Stevie’s life, because his general weirdness amuses her. But the two develop the first honest bond in the series, and by half way through the first season, they sleep together. But the rest of the season and the entirety of the second deals with David’s decision that they not be lovers, because he realizes that Stevie is the only true friend he’s ever had. (In the third season, they end up in love triangle of the Cabaret style — David is pansexual. But I haven’t seen any of these episodes.)
The Essence of Friendship
This is the fundamental theme of the entire show: the essence of friendship. The family used to be rich, after all. And they all had lots of “friends.” It reminds me of a line from The People vs Larry Flynt. Larry’s mother is amazed at the number of friends he has at his party, and Larry says in a knowing way, “Lots of money, lots of friends.” When the Rose family, quite innocently, lose all their money, none of their friends step in to help. But in their often crude and clueless ways, the people of Schitt’s Creek do. This is very effectively brought together in the last episode of the second season.
But you don’t have to be too wrapped up in the characters. The truth is that it is a genuinely funny show. A good example of this is the third episode, “Don’t Worry, It’s His Sister.” In it, Johnny Rose (Eugene Levy) having decided to sell the town, is on a mission to fix it up. This is when he comes upon the sign in the image above. No one outside the family sees the pornographic nature of it. The mayor, Roland Schitt (Chris Elliott) protests that it is just a picture of his great grandfather, Horas Schitt. (Yes, the show has a lot of “Schitt” puns. Not just Horas and Roland, but Roland’s wife, Jocelyn.) The episode only gets worse (better), although the denouement was pretty obvious.
A Little Humiliation Comedy
There is one thing that bothers me in the show. It’s has more humiliation comedy than I would like. That’s especially true of Catherine O’Hara’s character. (O’Hara really does have no sense of shame as a actor; she will do anything.) But this is made up for by the intelligence of the characters. In fact, there is one really great scene where she is going to the town choir to take it over (she’s a professional actor, after all), only to find that it is quite good and there is at least one singer who is great. So it isn’t The Office, but there are times when I wince.
A Show for Everyone
Of course, it isn’t surprising that I would like this show. It has a very positive message about humanity. And while it makes fun of the foibles of all of the classes, its harshest criticisms are leveled at the rich. I’m surprised there isn’t more of that in entertainment. After all, the rich are a really small demographic. Regardless, I think that Schitt’s Creek a very appealing comedy, that is different enough for people like me to appreciate but not so different that it scares away people who just want a funny show. We’ll see if it ages better than Northern Exposure. I tend to think that it will.
 Emily Hampshire reminds me of someone, but I can’t think of whom. And no, it isn’t Ally Sheedy.