You might have noticed how many people are talking about Schitt’s Creek at the moment — aka “almost definitely the best sitcom you haven’t quite got around to watching yet“.
It’s partly because the Emmy Awards are this weekend, and it’s up for a whopping 15 awards.
But the buzz about this Canadian comedy series actually started ahead of the 2019 Emmys, where the show suddenly scored its first four nominations — including Outstanding Comedy Series — for its fifth season. Yes, fifth.
It’s not as if the show is new — it premiered in 2015. But having flown under the radar for so long, the accolades are all the more noticeable now.
Also noticeable: how often fans of Schitt’s Creek say “You have to give it a go — it gets better.”
Yes, if you’re one of those people who doesn’t think this show is for you, or tried season one and didn’t like it — you’re not alone.
So if you’re willing to push through that and give it a go — or just know what all the fuss is about — this guide is for you (and will exercise strict spoiler etiquette).
And if you’re keen to see how the show fares at the Emmys, check out the ABC News website for our live blog, during the live telecast on September 21 (Australian time).
Okay I’m listening, tell me more.
Here’s the elevator pitch: a wealthy family falls on hard times and is forced to relocate to a small, shabby town with a very punny name.
Beyond the realm of belief? Actually the premise was inspired by the real-life story of Kim Basinger purchasing a small American town.
The show was created by Canadian father/son team Eugene Levy (Jim’s dad in American Pie, and a regular co-writer/performer in Christopher Guest films including Waiting for Guffman, Best in Show, A Mighty Wind) and Dan Levy (best known as an MTV Canada presenter prior to the series).
What’s the story?
The series begins with the newly-destitute but previously uber-wealthy Rose family — mum, dad and two adult children (or are they child adults?) — moving to a rundown motel in a town they once bought as a joke.
As the entitled — and frankly, fairly unlikable — family gets to know the loveable oddballs of the town (including sardonic motel receptionist Stevie Budd, sweet waitress Twyla Sands, the town’s acapella group, the Jazzagals, and Mayor Roland Schitt played by comedy legend Chris Elliott), they grow, soften, and become part of the fabric of Schitt’s Creek.
How did it burst into the zeitgeist?
Well, it wasn’t so much of a burst as it was a slow burn.
In 2015, the Canadian public broadcaster CBC and the US pay-TV channel Pop TV broadcast its first season to a warm, albeit modest reception.
Then in 2017, Netflix picked up the show — paving its way to becoming a genuine pop culture phenomenon.
Fast forward to 2020, and Mariah Carey and Elton John count themselves amongst its legion of dedicated fans, the cast has done live tours, and there’s even a fan event called SchittCon.
Who is Moira Rose? And why are there so many Schitt’s Creek memes?
The show’s pithy writing and distinct characters — particularly family matriarch Moira Rose — make it fertile ground for endless memes.
Moira is played by long-time Eugene Levy collaborator Catherine O’Hara, of Beetlejuice, Home Alone, and Best in Show fame.
Moira is an egotistical, once-famous day-time soap actor who swans around Schitt’s Creek in distinct couture and a dazzling rotation of wigs (collectively known as her “bébés” and individually known by their names Cindy, Kristen, etc.).
Moira has an indescribable accent as well as an incredible way with words; she’s not busy, she’s “positively bedevilled”; she’s not simply a singer, but a “trained chanteuse”.
Happily for Moira — whose favourite season is “awards” season — O’Hara is up for the Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series.
What about the rest of the Schitt’s Creek cast?
It’s not just Moira — all the main cast are up for Emmy awards.
Eugene Levy plays family patriarch and struggling businessman Johnny Rose, utterly besotted with his flamboyant wife, and a giver of truly terrible fatherly advice.
As well as show-running the series, Dan Levy plays David — Johnny and Moira’s tense, self-absorbed, petulant son who is ultimately both the connective tissue of the family and the heart of the series — not to mention: he has some incredible outfits.
His sister Alexis is an ex-socialite with a constant stream of stories about daring escapes from hectic situations in exotic locations (though as she points out: “I didn’t go missing, David —the FBI knew where I was the entire time”).
Actor Annie Murphy, an unknown before Schitt’s Creek, said she based her character on clips of Kim Kardashian and Paris Hilton, imitating their physicality as well as their vocal fry — to the point that her delivery of the name “David” has become iconic.
I’m titillated — but why are people raving?
Stuart Hermitage in the Guardian writes that: “It’s warm and inclusive and tolerant, and up there with something like The Good Place when it comes to making comedy from the art of self-improvement. It’s a tight bearhug of a series.
RN Drive’s Patricia Karvelas, a recent Schitt’s Creek devotee, says the family dynamic — particularly between the siblings — got her hooked, comparing it to 80s show Family Ties.
“It has these family values that make you feel good, but actually with really contemporary, real issues,” she says.
Karvelas cautions new viewers to stick with the series through the first few episodes, as it finds its feet.
“Alexis and David seem really superficial at the start … but then you realise there’s depth to their naffness — and I actually think that’s how we all are; we are all a bit naff but that doesn’t mean we don’t have depth.”
The show has been a particular hit with LGBTQI viewers.
WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD
David is pansexual (which he explains using this excellent wine analogy) and over the course of the show, he grows from an alienated rich kid to an adult with genuine relationships with his family, friends and partner, Patrick (Noah Reid).
Karvelas says she likes the way Schitt’s Creek “approaches it’s queer themes without making “gay” such an issue — it doesn’t approach it from this kind of deficit model” — a feeling that has been expressed elsewhere in the media.
“The show does away with these very hetero-sexist notions of fitting into boxes; everyone understands fundamentally who everyone else is without having to dumb it down,” says Karvelas.
Where is Schitt’s Creek filmed?
While the series was filmed in Ontario, the show is purposefully vague about the location of Schitt’s Creek — so much so that fans became fixated on answering this question.
Dan Levy recently revealed that the fictional town is located somewhere in Canada.
How many seasons of Schitt’s Creek are there? And where can I watch the finale and season 6 in Australia?
Make sure you’ve got tissues handy.
The final episode, as well as all six seasons, are available to stream on Netflix.
Seasons 1-3 and 6, plus a documentary about the making of the final season of the show are also available on ABC iview.
Why won’t there be a Schitt’s Creek season 7?
As Lara Zarum in the New York Times pointed out, Schitt’s Creek is wrapping just as it’s gained mainstream success.
But as Eugene Levy told Zarum: “Isn’t that the perfect way to go? … We’re on an upward trajectory, and we will be still on an upward trajectory when this series actually wraps.”
Schitt’s Creek may be over but its breakout star and creator Dan Levy has a three-year deal to pen scripts with Disney’s ABC studios, so hopefully, that’ll mean more Levy, or at least more of his witty writing, on our screens soon.