Schitt's Creek
The plot's focus on relationship development instead of the Roses being out of place help distinguish it from similar shows. (Illustration by Amy Wells, Suffolk County Community College)
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Schitt's Creek

Holy Schitt! Pop TV’s obscure hit shines in the Emmy limelight.

 

The Television Academy shocked audiences earlier this month when the Emmy nominations came out and the small Canadian sitcom “Schitt’s Creek” gained recognition. The series received four nominations: one for outstanding wardrobe (likely for Moira’s consistently extra outfits), two for acting (Eugene Levy and Catherine O’Hara) and, most notably, a nomination for outstanding comedy series.

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Emmy nominations for “Schitt’s Creek” surprised audiences for many reasons, particularly because the quirky sitcom is small in comparison to other massive TV programs, with co-creator and Emmy-nominated actor Eugene Levy calling “Schitt’s Creek” “the little show that could.”

His son Daniel, another co-creator and actor on the show, had no expectations of getting recognition in the form of awards since the Pop TV series is “so small.” The obscure nature of Pop TV also puts “Schitt’s Creek” at a substantial disadvantage because the network is still widely unknown.

In fact, “Schitt’s Creek” is Pop TV’s first original scripted series. Pop TV’s president, Brad Schwartz, explains that the network cannot wage a massive campaign for Emmy recognition like HBO or Netflix can. The two networks recorded a combined 256 nominations.

“Schitt’s Creek” also surprises since it is rare for any television program to get a nomination after its second season on air, let alone in a show’s fifth season.

The Canadian sitcom has undoubtedly benefitted from Netflix, which made it — alongside other series, such as AMC’s “Breaking Bad,” CW’s “Riverdale” and Lifetime’s “You” — available for viewing on the streaming service since January 2017. Netflix has gifted “Schitt’s Creek” with a small but rabid fan base, propelling the show to popularity with conversations, pictures and GIFs of the characters plastered all over Twitter.

The fan base for “Schitt’s Creek” guided the series to the Emmys, yet the true reason why the Academy has recognized the sitcom is because the Levy father-son duo created a story that is both funny and heartwarming.

“Schitt’s Creek” follows an extraordinarily wealthy, spoiled-rotten family who move to a small town after they lose all their money in a fraud scandal with the IRS. The four members of the Rose family — Johnny, Moira, David and Alexis — are each selfish in their own ways.

The father Johnny, played by the elder Levy, is focused purely on running his corporation. Moira, played by Emmy-nominated Catherine O’Hara, is a beyond neglectful mother who prefers to reminisce on her once successful soap opera career than raise her own children.

As for the children, David is an elitist art gallery owner who speaks solely in snide condescension. And Alexis is a former teen socialite who has spent her life engaging in dangerous behavior with the powerful and famous to gain the attention of the rest of the uncaring Rose family.

What united the four members of the Rose family is, instead of interacting with each other, they could hide behind their immense wealth. So, once the family loses the money, they are forced to spend time with each other. The family goes from living in an elaborate mansion to being cramped into two small motel rooms.

Yet, the lower standard of living has a positive effect on Alexis and David’s relationship as the two share a room. Sibling rivalry turns into a loving bond. The Rose children go from bickering over who should take the bed closest to the door (so that if someone breaks in the other will be murdered first) to helping each other with their respective love lives and careers.

Moira, while still not quite able to get over her soap opera days, connects with her children for the first time. This is especially apparent with her daughter Alexis. For instance, Moira goes from not even knowing her own child’s middle name to abandoning a concert for Alexis’ high school graduation.

For the first time in each of their lives, the members of the Rose family have to confront their own pasts and failings in order to start over and get along.

Just as the characters learn to love each other, they also feel affection for others. By the fifth season, Johnny cannot cope being away from Moira for an extended period of time.

Another example, early on in the show Alexis uses Ted, the sweet local veterinarian, and rejects his marriage proposal. After being in an office with Ted and actually working a job for herself, Alexis realizes she wants to be with someone nice instead of a flashy, wealthy celebrity. So, she puts herself out there and gets back together with Ted.

Meanwhile, David goes on the journey of opening a local boutique and store, Rose Apothecary, with a businessman named Patrick. In the process of running a small business together, David and Patrick fall in love. Whereas David once looked down on those who would not attend pretentious New York City art shows, the former elitist loves a comparatively mundane relationship of ordering pizza and taking inventory.

David and Patrick’s story is particularly special since “Schitt’s Creek” exists in a world without homophobia, allowing the Pop TV series to focus on the relationship rather than reactions from bigoted straight people.

Co-creator and actor (who plays David) Dan Levy, an openly gay man, made a conscious decision to eliminate bigotry from “Schitt’s Creek” to avoid giving a platform to homophobia. Creating a world where the characters can love out loud also allows the romance between David and Patrick to blossom beautifully and develop naturally.

For the formerly upper-crust Roses, the small town of Schitt’s Creek is bizarre. There are no high-end boutiques or night clubs. The Rose family does not have access to a spa or servants to follow every bizarre wish Moira and David have.

The story of a wealthy family living in a small, rural town could have easily been a generic narrative. Rather than just being a fish-out-of-water story, the Roses grow legs and walk on land to ingratiate themselves in the community. Johnny runs the local motel, Moira gets a job in public office, David opens a small business and Alexis becomes a town socialite.

The Rose family does not just learn lessons and take from the town of Schitt’s Creek, the four become a part of the community and give back. The process of giving, a feeling none of the selfish Rose family have felt before, changes them in profound ways.

“Schitt’s Creek” does function as a fish-out-of-water story, yet the new experiences are not the only aspect of the show. Rather, the new experiences the Rose family have to tackle are actively engaging in loving relationships with other people.

Moving to Schitt’s Creek is the plot device forcing Johnny, Moira, David and Alexis to spend time together. So, tune in for the final season later this year to see the end of the narrative arc of the Rose family’s development.

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