Saying Good-Bye to Schitt’s Creek

Over the last few decades, most of the funniest shows on television—Seinfeld, The Office, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Arrested Development, 30 Rock—have achieved note by being exceedingly clever and smart in a world defined by cynicism. The characters in these shows, and others of their ilk, are mostly pretty awful people, but they become our awful people that we sort of root for.

It’s not that common for a comedy to present a group of positive people in an optimistic world while being both smart and funny. The shows that do go the sunny route aren’t usually the most novel, like The Big Bang Theory; these tend to rely on laugh tracks to tell you when things are funny. And those popular, long-running sitcoms like Brooklyn 99 or Modern Family may have a bunch of high points, but they aren’t consistently good by critical standards. That’s what happens when making 20-plus episodes a year, every year.

All of that is to say, Schitt’s Creek—a tiny seedling of a Canadian comedy that grew suddenly to be a beautiful, beloved series—features a rare, almost unprecedented combination of optimism, sharp wit, adult themes (and language), and the wisdom to call it quits when things are still fresh. Schitt’s Creek premiered in January 2015 and will be airing its 80th and final episode this spring. And just as it was becoming so popular.

From the network that always featured shows that seemed a little too nice, sweet, and—well, Canadian, Schitt’s Creek, helmed by the father and son team of Eugene and Daniel Levy, wove a warm and witty yarn about the Rose family, a clan that suddenly finds its deep bank accounts and lavish lifestyle taken away. For all the foursome’s quirks, faults, and blinders, the strength of the show has always been their love for one another. It just so happens that they show this love through their sharp tongues, a lack of humility, and a few bouts of selfishness.

Above all, these characters are optimistic, and so is the world around them. It’s strange in a show that starts off with a rich family losing everything how quickly and passionately we root for them. At a time when wealth inequality is a major social issue, it’s rather special that we are on the side of the formerly rich instead of revelling in their demise and disfunction. There is also the familiar fish out of water concept here, with the affluent meeting the…well, quaint, I suppose. But even this common trope is subverted. However odd the townspeople are, they’re not painted with stereotypical (and negative) traits such as close-mindedness, racism, or excess pride. They welcome the Roses with all their extravagant history, and not only accept their attitudes but embrace them—particularly David, with his unique fashion sense and pansexual identity.

While David’s outfits were always something to watch out for, nothing was funnier and more interesting than Moira’s wardrobe, which included a vast selection of wigs, each with its own name and personality—and apparently, opinions about the other wigs. The show was dedicated to these clever conceits, which make the characters more authentic and, indeed, winning. Each had a recurring set of jokes about things that happened in the past, referencing Johnny’s video store chain, Moira’s acting career, David’s teenage awkwardness, and Alexis’ luxurious globetrotting lifestyle. What’s rare is that every character is able to laugh at themselves. They can give and take in equal measure, and no one is above the other.

Ultimately, it’s a show about love. Which is another particularly hard thing for sitcoms (and writers) to pull off. So many comedies end up pairing together two leads of different sexes sometime during the series, but not before they take many seasons to put them in awkward and heartbreaking circumstances, as if being in a relationship was something that couldn’t be as funny. Friends is the worst culprit, but many others follow suit. Schitt’s Creek gave both David and Alexis various dates and liaisons, but it didn’t take long before they found people they were drawn to and started relationships. It was still funny while being loving and romantic. Patrick’s proposal is one of the sweetest and most unforgettable moments on the show.

But it all comes to an end. Thankfully, it’s an end that was planned. The showrunners Levy, while announcing after the fifth season that the sixth would be the last, said that they had known for a while when things would come to a close. They’ve told wonderfully funny and beautifully rich stories, never leaving a moment wasted or a quip left unsaid. The show is going out on top, leaving behind loving fans and an indelible legacy.

Anthony Marcusa
Anthony Marcusa is a Toronto-based freelance journalist whose writing dabbles in film, TV, music, sports, and relationships – though not necessarily in that order. He’s simultaneously youthfully idealistic and curmudgeonly cynical. But he’s always curious.