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‘Schitt’s Creek’ is a hidden gem balancing hilarity with poignancy like no other

| Monday, March 25, 2019

Joseph Han | The Observer

About three minutes into the pilot episode of “Schitt’s Creek,” the Rose family — John, Moira and their adult children, David and Alexis — sit squeezed onto a couch, the only piece of furniture left in the family’s extravagant mansion. The family lawyer tells the Roses their business manager has embezzled all their money, leaving them broke and homeless. When the lawyer explains that the government is allowing them to keep one asset, Moira replies with grave seriousness, “The kids.” As the lawyer explains to Moira, though, “The children are dependents.” (Never mind that David and Alexis are 32 and 27, respectively.) Instead, the asset is a small town John bought for David as a joke in the early ’90s because it has a funny name: Schitt’s Creek.

Thus begins “Schitt’s Creek,” a clever, half-hour comedy created by the father-son duo Eugene and Daniel Levy. It follows the Roses as they adjust to their new, small-town lives in Schitt’s Creek after being used to the extraordinary wealth and excess that was ripped away from them. The family goes from living in a mansion to living in adjoining motel rooms, a transition that provides comedy gold.

On Thursday, the Levys announced that “Schitt’s Creek” will end with season six, airing on CBC Television in Canada and Pop in the United States next year. Since the first three seasons of the show landed on Netflix last year, it’s experienced “the Netflix Effect,” gaining a larger following than it ever could have accumulated during its live run alone. The show still has two episodes of season five left to air Tuesdays at 10 p.m. on Pop, but, before season six premieres next year, consider catching up on Netflix. Because “Schitt’s Creek” is one of television’s hidden gems.

Above all, this show is consistently funny. As the Roses integrate themselves into Schitt’s Creek — a town that resembles an even smaller version of Stars Hollow from “Gilmore Girls” with its whacky ensemble of characters — they refuse to change themselves. John (Eugene Levy) wears a suit every day, David (Dan Levy) and Alexis (Annie Murphy) maintain socialite appearances and resist getting jobs and Moira (Catherine O’Hara) continues to speak with an affected “highbrow” accent and wearing hilariously outlandish outfits usually topped off with one of the many wigs in her collection.

Moira — a former star of a fictional daytime soap opera — is arguably the funniest character on the show thanks to her aesthetic alone, but O’Hara’s delivery — especially when she says “Alexis” — also leads to some instantly iconic lines. Murphy keeps pace with O’Hara as Alexis, however, performing some of the best physical comedy in an all-around extremely talented cast, managing to coin some catch phrases of her own.

However, while the first few seasons focus primarily on delivering laugh-out-loud funny moments and developing the show’s world and characters, they set up the later seasons for some truly wonderful story arcs. Without realizing it, viewers watch tremendous character growth that allows for more intimate and emotional plotlines that feel completely earned. These stories include Moira stepping up to become more involved in running the town, Alexis advancing her education and John finding fulfillment through a new business venture.

What might be most admirable about “Schitt’s Creek,” though, is its representation of queer characters. Dan Levy, a queer writer and actor himself, has created a complex character in David, whose pansexuality is just another aspect of his identity — not to mention a rare representation on television. With his penchant for drama and ridiculously specific personal style, David’s sexuality is low on the list of things that are remarkable about him but is consistently depicted on screen, which normalizes queerness in a way most shows fail to accomplish. From his explanation of pansexuality in the first season of the show to his boyfriend’s experience of coming out to his parents in its most recent episode, David’s story serves as a shining example of how to properly portray queerness.

If all good things must come to an end, it’s fitting that “Schitt’s Creek” gets to do so on the Levys’ terms. After all, that’s how the show has always operated. Sure, it has elements that are reminiscent of other shows (in addition to the town being somewhat comparable to Stars Hollow in “Gilmore Girls” or Pawnee from “Parks and Recreation,” the riches-to-rags family dynamic calls to mind shows like “Arrested Development”), but its execution of these ideas in fresh, creative ways adds an emotional depth most comedies could only dream of reaching. As the Roses eventually discover about the titular town, “Schitt’s Creek” has so much to offer if you just give it a chance.

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About Courtney Becker

Courtney is a senior from New York City majoring in film, television and theater with a minor in journalism, who recently wrapped up her year as Editor-in-Chief. She is a former resident of Pasquerilla West Hall and a die-hard Pittsburgh Steelers fan.

Contact Courtney