It’s as yet unclear whether streaming will be the lifeline or the death-knell of what we used to call cinema; the phrase ‘Netflix and chill’ suggests that the home viewing experience is less about intensity than about providing the narrative that’s closer to easy listening. Schitt’s Creek’s six year success by stealth fits this model, and that’s not to play it down; this light-hearted, big-hearted soapy comedy show has hit the spot for many in lockdown as an easy way to forget our worries and revel in the misfortunes of others.
I’m not getting bored of my stolen new phrase ‘twit wealth’, and that what the Rose family are missing; once the toast of the NYC party scene due to the prominence of the Rose Video brand created by Johnny Rose (Eugene Levy), the Rose family are abruptly decanted from their mansion and find themselves in the tiny, undistinguished hamlet of Schitt’s Creek. In tow are Johnny’s ostentatious wife Moira (Catherine O’Hara) and their two grown-up but utterly childish children, David (Dan Levy) and Alexis (Annie Murphy). The four of them are forced to share adjoining hotel-rooms in a dive motel vaguely run by Stevie (Emily Hampshire) until Johnny can find a way to turn around their misfortunes and get back to the Big Apple lifestyle they all miss.
Schitt’s Creek’s initial appeal to cineastes comes from re-teaming Levy Sr and O’Hara, a familiar duo from Waiting for Guffman, Best in Show, and from their Second City comedy work back in the 80’s. The two have comic timing up the wazoo, with Johnny’s avuncular charms not getting him far with the town’s ramshackle mayor Roland Schitt (Chris Elliott) while Moira bemoans her lack of good fortune but refuses to drop her standards when it comes to outlandish clothes and wigs; her outfit for the wedding which climaxes the 80 episode run is choice. But each central character gets equal time, and David and Alexis are rounded characters, not just support. David is a fragile soul with a wardrobe of hideous jumpers and extreme sensitivity to his own emotions; he bemoans a partner who left him ‘for a stuffed animal’. Alexis, meanwhile, flirts with the locals and with the idea of career intervention; she works with, and sleeps with, the local vet, and eventually makes her breakthrough as CEO of her own publicity company when she organises a stunt for Moira’s Interflix movie The Crows Have Eyes 3; The Crow-ening. Alexis offers a specific brand of haughty selfishness that’s endearing; it would be fun to attempt to draw a time-line of all the life lessons she’s learned, whether fighting Somali pirates on David Geffen’s yacht, or learing about composting from Gwyneth Paltrow.
Without seeking to do much but entertain, Schitt’s Creek fully deserves its freshly grown cultural status; while most of the characters are genuinely horrible, self-regarding types, it’s amusing to see them humbled, and somewhere on that uphill learning curve, we end up sympathising with them and wishing them well. The heart of the programme is arguably Stevie, the humble clerk who gets pulled into the various schemes of the Rose family, and ends up doing everything from being an air-hostess to playing Sally Bowles in an amateur production of Cabaret. Like Stevie, we initially see the Rose family as idiots, but sympathise with them anyway because there’s not much else to do. As we all contemplate our reduced circumstances in 2020, Schitt’s Creek is just what the world needs; a silly, funny, and occasionally profound look at snobbery, inverted or otherwise, wealth and family