I am both desperate for Netflix to tell me how many times I have watched this series and also grateful they refuse to do so. Since I first started watching in early 2018 – when the fourth season was airing on a channel I did not have and only the first three were available on Netflix in the U.S. – I have basically never stopped. Schitt’s Creek is incredibly re-watchable: a joyous, love-fueled family (and I’m including found family in that)-focused show that values its characters above all else and manages to be both softly delightful and hilarious on a consistent basis.
A lot has been written in the past several months about what a gem of a show Schitt’s Creek is – all of it warranted and most of it doing the show far more justice than I could ever hope to. And yet I find I can’t help myself from piling on anyway, because Schitt’s Creek is a light, funny, warm, eccentric, well-crafted show with pitch-perfect performances. It’s accessible without pandering. A deeply kind and hopeful show that doesn’t compromise on humor or principles.
The name Schitt’s Creek belies what the show is truly about. It’s not really about a place. It’s not even really about how this wealthy family ended up in that decidedly un-wealthy place. It’s a fish-out-of-water story, sure, but only on the surface. If the show were a long-form improvisation, “fish-out-of-water” is just the suggestion shouted from an audience member to kick things off. The improvisers still masterfully call it back occasionally to remind you how we all got here – and mine a laugh or two from the inside joke we all share – but it’s just how the story began.
This is not a show about its premise.
It’s a show about character. And hoo-fucking-boy does it ever deliver. Not just in the wacky sense of character – like, oh that Uncle Zed, he’s such a character – although it absolutely does deliver on that front, and very well. But more importantly, and far more impressively, in the sense that its characters are fully realized, fleshed-out, specific and distinct people. People who grow and adapt and change (more on that below) but who still remain fundamentally grounded in who they are, in a reality that’s been so lovingly and thoughtfully and truthfully crafted by the show’s creators and writers that you never stop recognizing them. You just feel lucky to know them well enough to appreciate how they’ve evolved, and close enough to them to feel proud.
I have no connection to this show other than loving it, but I’m proud of it. And I’m proud of all the people responsible for its existence and excellence.
I’m also proud that I’ve somehow convinced Sage and Kim to let me recap its final season. It was either that or wallow on my couch each week that we’re one episode closer to its end. To prepare to write about each episode of this sixth and final season (premiering Jan. 7 on PopTV!), I spent a little time reflecting on the characters I’ve grown to love so much and the growth they’ve all demonstrated over the past five seasons. In the interest of sparing you my verbosity (and also preserving some content for a potential post-series-finale gush-fest of all the things), I’ve kept things simple: Just a brief appreciation of each member of the Rose family – the most accessible least relatable family you’ll ever fall in love with wholesale – and the supremely talented actors that bring them to life.
Moira: The Contumacious Matriarch
If you don’t bother to look below the surface – which, I can’t blame you, there’s so much good fun right there – you could write Moira off as a slightly desperate has-been, clinging to her prime by pretending to be more glamorous and worldly than she ever actually managed to become. But the truth is, everything about Moira is steeped in sincerity and commitment. It’s probably why she and the achingly earnest Johnny Rose found soulmates in each other, despite appearing at a glance to be a confounding mismatch. It’s also why her daytime soap, the flawlessly named Sunrise Bay, was number one despite being the kind of show where she played her own father…who wound up pregnant even after his vasectomy! It’s how she’s able to convince an icy, indifferent hotshot Hollywood director to give enough of a shit about The Crows Have Eyes 3 to consider her rewrites and work with her to create what Bosnian critics are calling a stunning reinvention of the Crows Have Eyes franchise. And it’s why she refuses to accept mattresses on the side of the road as part of her life just because she finds herself living in a town she wouldn’t have chosen – not when she could DO something about it. Even if that something means having to run for Town Council against the Schitt’s Creek version of Jackie Kennedy.
Her accent may be an amalgam of accents and languages from every place she’s ever lived or worked or visited. But it’s not because she’s aping, pretending to be something she’s not. It’s because who she IS is someone so hungry for experiences and so attuned to the people and places around that she can’t help absorb something from all of them to the point they become part of her. Sure, she’s gotten caught up in the glamour and ritz that accompanies wealth. And maybe her ego is slightly out of proportion for someone who was the most projected nominee to have never actually been nominated for a Daytime Emmy. But under all that – and the rotating wigs and six-inch wide silver arm cuffs and sleeping brooches – she’s still a girl who grew up in a tiny town, longing for a life of adventure and meaning, and who never stops seeking either.
And while landing broke in a tiny town and living in a motel that doesn’t even have a valet wasn’t an adventure that she sought (her deadpanned “Let’s all pray we don’t wake up” goodnight wish to her family is the final line of the pilot) she eventually makes the most of it: Fighting her way onto Town Council and finding her groove as the director of a surprisingly wonderful community theatre run of Cabaret. She may still be the kind of person who will crawl into an armoire when faced with bad news, but she’s also proven she’ll always emerge in an even fiercer outfit, ready to take on her next role.
World-renown dominatrix who doesn’t want to risk being ill-attired should she have to give a Ted Talk on the transformative properties of patent leather or pop over to run a PTA meeting at a Swiss Boarding school with a moment’s notice.
You could throw every superlative from every language at Catherine O’Hara and you’d still be short-changing her. Moira watching David watch Patrick serenade him during Season 4’s “Open Mic,” is so good it makes me want to weep for all the talent I’ll never have because Catherine O’Hara has all of it. She’s a master of her craft, and Moira Rose is her chef-d’oeuvre.
Johnny: The Constant
Johnny Rose is solid.
He somehow (mostly) keeps his family together despite being constantly bewildered by them.
Despite being arguably the one with the most right to sink into a depression after the family loses almost everything they own – nearly all of which was acquired thanks to the business dynasty he built from nothing but $2,000 and an idea – he never stops working to rebuild the life he and his family lost. He still recognizes an opportunity when he sees it – like elevating the motel (they’ll get that second star!) – and just as importantly, recognizes a not-opportunity even when he’s the one who accidentally proposes it (pour out a Thing of raw milk for Bob’s Bagels). Johnny wastes no time getting back to the business of business because it’s what he knows and what he does best. And it’s how he helps his family. He doesn’t try to rebuild the same life they had before, though. Johnny is smart enough to realize how drastically things have changed and how necessary it is to pivot. He’s not trying to get back their life exactly as it was; he’s trying to build something new.
And building something new doesn’t just mean in business. After having mostly ignored his kids throughout their childhood (their rooms were all the way on the other side of the house!), he’s committed to being a good father now that his family is all under a much smaller roof. He tries his best to help Alexis with her homework, even if his help is literally just plagiarism, and is appropriately horrified by each past-life tidbit she sprinkles across conversations, unlike Moira who barely pays them any mind (she doesn’t do girl talk). He counsels David as he’s applying for jobs and attempts to impart wisdom from his years of business experience. And he’s unendingly supportive of all of Moira’s pursuits, being possibly a little too there for her as she films a fruit wine commercial (let’s not call it a comeback) and supporting her City Council bid even when it follows her convincing him not to run. He may not always get things right (he’s still the man who thought a basketball court was the right Bar Mitzvah gift for David) but his intentions are unfailingly good and his support is unwavering.
He’s also the first in the family to appreciate what the people of Schitt’s Creek have given to them, standing up to old friends when they mock and demean the town and its residents. Johnny Rose may be a softie at heart, growing mushier by the day, but he’s always a stand up guy.
Self-made millionaire who was perfectly happy in off-the-rack Jos. A. Bank suits until he finally gave into his wife’s insistence that he try bespoke (high enough quality but low enough flash to ensure he’d never pull attention from Moira’s look) never looked back.
Eugene Levy is so adept at playing the straight man that you can easily forget what a hilarious and versatile character actor he is. It can’t be easy to keep it even-keeled around the actors who play his family and fellow townspeople, almost all of whom get to be sillier in their performances than he does, but Eugene manages it with aplomb. He infuses stiff, strait-laced Johnny with enough warmth and well-intentioned emotional clumsiness that his ordinariness is utterly endearing. And his eyebrows never miss their mark.
Alexis: CEO and Executive Vice President of Enjoyment
Alexis is an undaunted adventurer like her mother and a tenacious entrepreneur like her father. She can be selfish and oblivious but she’s much more thoughtful and kind and smart than people give her credit for. She has unending confidence, stemming from both the privilege and fortune bestowed upon her by birth and her innate and well-practiced ability to not only manage but excel no matter the situation (or regime).
She’s a glimpse into who Cher Horowitz might have been if she’d been raised in Manhattan and attended boarding school instead of Bronson Alcott High.
And like Cher, she grows by leaps and bounds during the time we’re lucky enough to know her, evolving from someone who immediately jumps at an opportunity to abandon her family in Schitt’s Creek and jet off with her shipping heir boyfriend of three months (it’ll be four next month, David) to someone who turns down a job opportunity that past-Alexis would have jumped at with a woman who past-Alexis somehow didn’t realize is The Worst to stay in Schitt’s Creek and focus on her newly started business. And that’s after going back to high school to get her diploma and earning a pub(l)ic relations certificate from a local college.
Although Season 5 ends with her readying to leave her family and Schitt’s Creek again, it’s for a completely selfless reason: to support her boyfriend as he pursues the career opportunity of a lifetime. And she finds herself realizing she’s actually going to miss her family. And just because Ted has to explain to her that’s what she means by, “I will physically be there, but I will be thinking about them here,” doesn’t mean she doesn’t deserve credit for feeling it.
If Coachella had always wished to become a Real Girl, the wish was finally granted on her 18th birthday, and now she’s been a human for ten years who’s steadily evolved and settled comfortably into her late 20s.
Our good friend Shannon Leigh insists that Annie Murphy’s performance as Alexis is one of the greatest sitcom performances of all time and honestly it’s the most correct she’s ever been. It could be easy to dismiss the performance as simply mimicking shallow socialites…if you were paying no attention at all. What Annie Murphy does is so incredibly specific. She’s explained during interviews that she first created Alexis as an amalgamation of real-life socialites like Paris Hilton and Ashley and Mary Kate Olsen, and there probably is a lot she’s infused into Alexis’ physical mannerisms from studying how those women carry themselves and their bags. But the intentionality and precision of Alexis’ physicality – from her fingertip-forward gestures to her meaning-laced shoulder shimmies to her impressive catalogue of pouts – is all Annie Murphy. And it’s something to behold.
David: The Supportive Stickler
His personality can at times appear as contrasting as his black and white wardrobe, and it works just as well. He’s seemingly put-upon by even simple requests but always ultimately willing to help anyone who asks – even when he’s not happy about the favor or the person needing it. He constantly second-guesses his lovability, yet is unapologetic about who is and who he loves (he likes the wine and not the label, does that make sense?). He’s uncompromising but generous, frustrated but devoted. He shares his opinions and snark openly and is eminently dependable. He’s a bundle of anxiety and naivety and world-weariness but also confidence and creativity and ambition.
When we meet David, he’s miserable about and resentful of his new circumstances, and even after making a true friend (with temporary benefits) for probably the first time in his life, he’s still unsettled enough at the close of the first season to flee, terrified and desperate, from his new home town. But luckily for us and the Amish family that reluctantly looked after him and Moira’s bag for a few very long days and nights, he returns to Schitt’s Creek and gets to work. On rebuilding his friendship with Stevie (minus the benefits but luckily not minus other entertaining varieties of romantic entanglements), on finding a job that actually suits his skillset, and ultimately on growing as a partner both in business and his personal life.
David is practical and hardworking enough to get and keep a job at a retail shop he’d previously not have touched with Jared Leto’s Joker baseball bat prop and savvy enough to finesse that experience into new bedding and enough money to ultimately invest back into his future, opening his own store and setting things in motion that ultimately lead to even bigger life changes. And although he has arguably the most impressive character development over the course of the series so far, neither he (nor his funky wardrobe) have lost the sharp edges that make him the perfect mix of exacting control-freak (who knows a proper game night has three parts, an even numbered group of players who “get it,” and ends by 10:00) and mellowing partner.
Moira Rose’s son.
Dan Levy seems to be charm personified (it’s very appropriate that he appears to be as much of a fan of another young man who shares that trait – one Harry Edward Styles – as we are). And he’s imbued David with that charm and warmth in a way that elevates him from a character that could easily have been obnoxious and mean to one who is achingly relatable and endearing. Dan is blessed with his father’s expressive and commanding eyebrows and he puts them to exceedingly good use. In combination with his arsenal of smirks, they provide David with the means to convey his emotions more effectively and impressively than he’s almost ever able to do with his words alone. Dan’s inventory of comical faces – from disgusted grimaces to knowing grins – is impressive on its own. But his acting ability goes beyond comedy. He pulls off aching insecurity and nearly-unhinged panic and heart-swelling love all with both precision and subtlety. Eyebrows are not the only thing that runs in the Levy family.
We’ve Done the Best We Could!
Limiting myself to these four characters – when Stevie and Patrick and Ted and Roland and Jocelyn and Twyla and Ronnie and Bob and Ray are all right there deserving their own write-ups – and not even touching on the dynamics between and among them was extremely difficult. Luckily, I have 14 upcoming episodes to wax poetic about all of that and the rest of what makes this show what it is. I hope you’ll join me.
Love that journey for us.
Featured Image Source: Pop TV