Schitt’s Creek

Schitt’s Creek is a CBC TV sitcom about a wealthy family who loses their fortune and is forced to live in the fictional small town of the show’s name. The show was created by co-stars Daniel Levy and his father, Eugene Levy. The series is centred on the tension between the town’s down-to-earth residents and the ostentatious Rose family. In 2018, Schitt’s Creek averaged 3.3 million viewers on the US broadcaster Pop and became the first Canadian comedy series to be nominated for a Critic’s Choice Award. The following year, it was nominated for multiple Primetime Emmy Awards, including best comedy series. It has also won 18 Canadian Screen Awards, including four for best actress in a comedy series (Catherine O’Hara) and two for best comedy series.

Schitts Creek
(courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

Synopsis

Johnny Rose (Eugene Levy) built a fortune on his successful chain of video stores, Rose Video. But after he learns his business manager has swindled the family out of their riches, the Roses — Johnny’s wife, former soap-opera actor Moira (Catherine O’Hara), and their two adult children, David (Daniel Levy) and Alexis (Annie Murphy) — end up living in a run-down motel in Schitt’s Creek, a rural town that Johnny once bought for David as a joke. The family immediately clashes with the town’s eccentric mayor, Roland Schitt (Chris Elliott) and the motel’s sardonic manager, Stevie (Emily Hampshire).

The Roses, particularly Moira, are at first distraught at the prospect of living in Schitt’s Creek. As the series progresses, they begin to put down roots. David opens a general store in town and Alexis decides to go back to school. In season three, Johnny becomes partial owner of the motel, with Stevie, and they rename it the Rosebud Motel.

Background

Daniel Levy, an actor and former host with MTV Canada, was living and working in Los Angeles when he came up with the idea for a fish-out-of-water story about a wealthy family that loses everything. Inspired by reality-TV shows like Keeping up with the Kardashians, he took his idea to his father, Canadian comedy veteran Eugene Levy. The two unsuccessfully pitched Schitt’s Creek to cable and broadcast networks in both the United States and Canada before they brought it to CBC. At the time, the national broadcaster was rethinking its comedy programming and wanted to focus on character-driven, single-camera series. After the Levys pitched Schitt’s Creek with Catherine O’Hara as a co-star, the CBC made an offer, which Daniel and Eugene accepted.

Eugene Levy
Eugene Levy "The Man" Premiere ArcLight Cinerama Dome Los Angeles, CA September 6, 2005.
26358288 © Carrienelson1 | Dreamstime.com | 26358288 © Carrienelson1 | Dreamstime.com

To convince the public broadcaster to let them keep the risqué title, the duo found the name “Schitt” in the phone book and presented the pages to CBC executives. They asked if the network would air the name in a news broadcast, and the executives said they would. The title stayed.

The CBC deal only accounted for part of the show’s production costs. The Levys searched for international partners to cover the rest. Years earlier, fellow Canadian Brad Schwartz had hired Daniel Levy as a host on MTV Canada’s popular after-show for the reality program The Hills. Now the head of the cable channel Pop TV, formerly the TV Guide Network, Schwartz was looking for a scripted series to announce Pop’s rebranding in 2015. Schitt’s Creek already had funding from CBC and ITV Studios Global Entertainment in Europe; Schwartz agreed to fund the rest.

Ratings

The series premiered on CBC in early 2015 with two back-to-back episodes drawing 1.36 and 1.37 million viewers, respectively. According to Sally Catto, CBC’s general manager for programming, Schitt’s Creek “has ranked as the number one scripted Canadian comedy on prime-time television in Canada since it launched in 2015.”

In the US, however, the show was slower to catch on, partly because not many people were aware of Pop. The cable channel poured money into the show’s marketing budget and aggressively pushed advertising campaigns. It also arranged many media appearances for the show’s cast, leaning on the recognition factor of O’Hara and the elder Levy. By the second season, ratings on Pop had jumped 26 per cent compared to the first. In January 2017, the first two seasons of Schitt’s Creek premiered on Netflix, which gave the show another ratings boost. According to Pop, the show’s fourth season reached 3.3 million people on its various platforms.


Reviews

The show has been a consistent critical hit, but its later seasons in particular have been singled out for praise. In a January 2019 column, New York Times TV critic Margaret Lyons called the sitcom “feel-good in the best possible ways,” writing, “The more enmeshed the Roses have become in their Schitt’s Creek community, the more the show has blossomed.”

Schitt’s Creek has earned both critical and awards recognition for its costumes — particularly the garish outfits and wigs that Moira wears — which Daniel Levy sources with costume designer Debra Hanson. Levy has noted, “The juxtaposition of designer clothes against the backdrop of this town is able to tell a story.”

The show has also been praised for its depiction of queer characters. For example, Daniel Levy’s character, David Rose, is pansexual. Critics have questioned whether a character like David could live in a rural town and never experience homophobia. But Levy has insisted bigoted characters will never be a part of the show. “I think at the end of the day I don’t want to waste my time writing hateful people into my show,” he told CBC News. He called this his “quiet protest. That’s me showing the world that I want to live in.”

On 21 March 2019, Daniel and Eugene Levy announced on Twitter that the sixth season of the show, airing in 2020, would be the last. “We could never have dreamed that our fans would grow to love and care about these characters in the ways that you have,” they wrote. “We are so grateful to have been given the time and creative freedom to tell this story in its totality, concluding with a final chapter which we had envisioned from the very beginning.”


Awards

  • Best Comedy Series (2016)
  • Best Performance by an Actress in a Continuing Leading Comedic Role (Catherine O’Hara) (2016)
  • Best Performance by an Actor in a Continuing Leading Comedic Role (Eugene Levy) (2016)
  • Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Supporting Role or Guest Role in a Comedic Series (Chris Elliott) (2016)
  • Best Direction in a Comedy Program (Paul Fox) (2016)
  • Best Writing in a Comedy Program or Series (Daniel Levy) (2016)
  • Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Supporting Role or Guest Role in a Comedic Series (Emily Hampshire) (2016)
  • Best Picture Editing in a Comedy Program or Series (James Bredin) (2016)
  • Best Photography in a Comedy Program or Series (Gerald Packer) (2016)
  • Best Performance by an Actress in a Continuing Leading Comedic Role (Catherine O’Hara) (2017)
  • Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Supporting Role or Guest Role in a Comedic Series (Emily Hampshire) (2017)
  • Best Performance by an Actress in a Continuing Leading Comedic Role (Catherine O’Hara) (2018)
  • Best Performance by a Supporting actress, in a Continuing Comedic Role (Emily Hampshire) (2018)
  • Best Comedy Series (2019)
  • Best Performance by an Actress in a Continuing Leading Comedic Role (Catherine O’Hara) (2019)
  • Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Supporting Role or Guest Role in a Comedic Series (Noah Reid) (2019)
  • Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Supporting Role or Guest Role in a Comedic Series (Emily Hampshire) (2019)

Directors Guild of Canada Awards
  • Television Series—Comedy (2015)
  • Best Production Design—Television Series (2015)
  • Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Comedy Series (2016)

Writers Guild of Canada Screenwriting Awards
  • Best TV Comedy (Amanda Walsh) (2016)
  • Best Comedy Series (Rupinder Gill) (2019)

Dorian Awards
  • TV Comedy of the Year (2019)
  • Unsung TV Show of the Year (2019)

Others
  • 2018 Show of the Year, Playback Magazine (2019)
  • Best Comedic Performance (Daniel Levy), MTV Movie & TV Awards (2019)
  • Best Social Media (TV and Film), Webby Awards
  • Outstanding Performance—Female (Catherine O’Hara), ACTRA Awards (2016)
  • Members’ Choice Series Ensemble, ACTRA Awards (2019)
  • Excellence in Costume Design in TV: Contemporary (Debra Hanson, Darci Cheyne, Peter Webster, Frances Cabezas Miller, Amanda Woods), Canadian Alliance of Film & Television Costume Arts & Design (CAFTCAD) Awards (2019)
  • Comedic Artist of the Year (Catherine O’Hara), Canadian Comedy Awards (2019)
  • Newcomer of the Year in a TV Series Broadcasted in the US (Emily Hampshire), Golden Maple Awards (2015)
  • Actress in a Breakthrough Role (Annie Murphy), Gracie Awards (2019)
  • International Icon Award, INSPIRE Awards (2019)