Emmys 2019: Give Schitt's Creek the love it deserves
Schitt’s Creek is five seasons into a run that rivals — and at times even beats out — The Good Place’s deft ability to be both wickedly funny and deeply morally grounded. Most people have still never seen it.
But please don’t waste any time or energy apologizing if you’ve never watched, or if you’re a bandwagoner — the majority of its fans seem to have discovered the Canadian Broadcasting Company-PopTV co-produced series over the last year via Netflix, where it’s easy to binge through the first four years of 22-minute episodes in a weekend. (Season 5 is currently available on the Pop TV app and iTunes.)
It’s a kind of bizarro-world Arrested Development, with a premise that could even be narrated by Ron Howard: the story of a wealthy family who lost everything, moved to the middle of nowhere, and finally found out how to love each other. Except unlike the bitter, often mean-spirited Bluths, in Schitt’s Creek, the Rose family — Johnny (Eugene Levy), Moira (Catherine O’Hara), David (Dan Levy), and Alexis (Annie Murphy) — chooses, if at times reluctantly, to at least try to be better people, no matter how bewildering a struggle that presents.
Like its characters, Schitt’s Creek has gotten better season over season, leaning into each dramatic curve while keeping a steady hand on the comedic wheel. There’s a smattering of accolades starting to pile up — Adweek called it “the little show that could,” and on Monday, MTV viewers handed showrunner, co-creator, and costar Dan Levy a surprise win for Best Comedic Performance at its Movie & TV Awards, where the show was also nominated for Best Series (a popular vote it lost, not surprisingly, to Game of Thrones). The Television Critics Association threw some much-deserved fuel on the fire Wednesday with a nod for Outstanding Achievement in Comedy Series and a second for O’Hara’s performance. When I started writing this piece there were zero articles demanding that Schitt’s Creek get an Emmy and by now there are at least, like, four.
And yet the idea that Schitt’s Creek might somehow not score an Emmy nomination makes me feel so… dramatic… that I’ve basically been running around town as if I’m presenting an hour-long PowerPoint outlining the cultural, business, and even ethical case for why it deserves your attention. Even if you’re not a voting member of the Television Academy — but especially if you are. (Full disclosure: I am, though as a member of the Interactive Peer Group I’m only eligible to nominate series for the big category prizes, not acting or writing or directing.)
Here’s the short version:
Slide 1: Give Dan Levy an Emmy for writing. Schitt’s slices through the usual sitcom fat of misdirections and MacGuffins in favor of sincere, emotionally honest moments.
In “The Hike,” the penultimate fifth season episode, every one of the main characters shows us how much they’ve changed, even if they didn’t want to and aren’t sure what it means. After a fraught, foible-filled hike up a mountain, David’s boyfriend, Patrick (Noah Reid), proposes. By the time they’ve reached the vista — where, Patrick reveals, he often came while trying to sort out his confusing feelings for his business partner — Levy’s script has shown us over and over that these two men know and trust each other better than either could have ever predicted.
Meanwhile, David’s sister, Alexis, admits she has some reluctance about joining her veterinarian beau, Ted (Dustin Milligan), for a lengthy work trip. “I’ve had have this, like, nagging feeling that as soon as I get there I’m going to start thinking about my family,” Alexis says. Ted, always supportive, tells her that doesn’t sound insane, and Alexis is sure she’s just failed to explain the situation. “Like, I will physically be there,” she says, “but I will be thinking about them here.” Ted confirms this is called missing someone, “and it’s a totally normal feeling.”
The show refuses to rely on the standard return to square one at the end of every episode; instead these characters are markedly different than when they started. After five seasons, they’re all dangerously close to having lived up their actual potential as good people.
Slide 2: Give Catherine O’Hara an Emmy for playing the now-iconic Moira Rose, the former soap star whose onetime escape from a small town similar to Schitt’s Creek has left her determined to help her family recover some of their former glory— ideally very far away. Maybe even as far as Bosnia, where she’s filmed an attempt at a big comeback in The Crows Have Eyes 3: The Crowening.
(Note: O’Hara has actually already got an Emmy, for writing on SCTV back in 1982, but please let that very long gap filled with other outstanding work inspire you to give her a second one rather than assume she’s all set.) This weird little show sold out a dozen dates of a live tour in the last few years, and there is a certain deep satisfaction in hearing thousands of people cheer O’Hara in a standing ovation simply for walking on stage.
Slide 3: Give Dan Levy an Emmy for acting, too. It’s not a one-man show, but five seasons in, Levy has made a compelling case for himself as the auteur break-out of the family. He’s got some great scene partners — Annie Murphy is particularly sharp and in the position of being most easily dismissed despite having crafted Alexis’ flighty, famous-name-dropping schtick with precision. But on a show that distributes its A and B plots with a carefully even hand, David stands out in every episode. Levy’s wincing-or-crying-or-laughing face in any given split-second is a goddamned wonderland of feels.
Slide 4: Just take a huge risk and throw in an Outstanding Comedy Series nomination already. If Pop TV, a cable network whose previous incarnations were best known for having run channel listings, is now in the midst of Peak TV making one of the best comedies of the decade, you can surely take a big swing yourself.
That’s it, that’s my pitch. Go watch this short, brilliant, unicorn of a show and then tell anyone you know who can help it have an awards-winning beginning to its sixth and final season that they should do what’s good for the world and help more people find their way to Schitt’s Creek.