Posted inCultures

Guilty Pleasures: Schitt’s Creek

Illustration by Ben Beechener

It seems somewhat fitting that I started watching Schitt’s Creek – my ultimate comfort show – in the very early days of the pandemic. Finally, I had given in to my friend’s most recent recommendation. Before watching it I’d heard very little, if anything, about this Canadian sitcom, so my expectations were somewhat low. To say I was pleasantly surprised, however, would be a huge understatement. When both television and the real world can feel so serious and downright morbid, there is something undoubtedly pleasant in watching something that doesn’t take itself entirely too seriously. Schitt’s Creek is the perfect show comforting escapism. 

The plot of this show is relatively simple, which is one of its greatest strengths. The wealthy Rose family find themselves living in the remote town of Schitt’s Creek following a personal financial disaster. After being used to a life of mansions and private planes the four Roses – dad Jonny, mum Moira, and children David and Alexis – must adapt to living together in a motel. At first, the characters are utterly unlikeable. All of them are vapid, self-centred and downright snobbish to those in the town; especially the mayor and his wife. Yet throughout the seasons all of them begin to embrace their newfound lives slowly but surely.

Before reflecting on the developments that all these characters undergo, it is worth focusing on the storyline itself. There is never a real drama to anything that happens, which only serves to add to the comforting nature of the show. For most of it, it focuses on the relatively mundane, and how the Roses approach these everyday challenges as complete outsiders. It’s refreshing. Furthermore, whilst the show is ostensibly classified as a sitcom, its humour is understated – understated is the selling point of Schitt’s Creek. Now don’t get me wrong; there are many moments throughout that I find myself laughing out loud at. But the show doesn’t have to rely on this style of humour. Instead, it’s quietly funny. There is great humour in watching these extravagant individuals navigate everyday life. There’s almost a sense of catharsis in it. Particularly the scene where Moira and David try to make enchiladas (incidentally one of my absolute comfort foods) themselves after relying on others for years stands out to me. Moreover, the last season managed to perfectly combine its signature humour with a multitude of tear-jerking scenes. The number of times that I cried whilst rewatching it last year is downright embarrassing! Whilst I do love a drama as much as the next person, (I mean, who hasn’t watched Squid Game at this point?), there is nothing better than watching a show where you can easily get absorbed in a simple plot and switch off from the outside world; even if it’s only for one episode. I think everyone at university would agree that sometimes this is exactly what you need to escape from the stress of essay deadlines and tutorials.

However, having a great plot is practically irrelevant if the show doesn’t have equally great characters. Thankfully, Schitt’s Creekhas both of these. As already mentioned the Rose family in the early part of the show are insufferable. I must stress this intentional and makes the later personal growth the characters undergo that extra bit more satisfying. I’ll admit the first few episodes in particular can be a slightly difficult watch because of this, but as they say, patience is a virtue. The three stand-out characters are David, Alexis, and Moira. Coming from a life of luxury they all naturally struggle with their newfound lives, but over time come to accept, and even enjoy themselves in Schitt’s Creek. 

Moira – who is portrayed by the incredible Catherine O’Hara – is the one who is most reluctant to settle into small-town life. An extravagant actress with a truly formidable collection of wigs, she struggles to let go of her more successful past. Yet over time, she becomes a valued and central figure in Schitt’s Creek, even if she never really gets rid of her eccentric behaviours. The performance of Cabaret that she helps to produce in the finale of season five (Life’s a Cabaret) is one of the standout episodes of the entire show. O’Hara is simply amazing and one of the most memorable performances I’ve watched in a comedy show.

Yet it is the children of the Rose family who steal the show: David and Alexis portrayed by Dan Levy and Annie Murphy respectively. I would argue that Alexis’ character growth is the best out of all the characters, and one of the show’s absolute highlights. After living in such a privileged bubble for so long she finds herself struggling to get by with very little knowledge of the real world. Her history of relationships is equally tragic. Perhaps one of the most poignant examples of her growth over the seasons is evident in the parallel between two conversations she has with Ted – the town’s vet and Alexis’ primary love interest. Early on in the show, she remarks how there must be “some other girl” that he may be interested in; later on, however, this moment is referenced when she speaks of “some other woman”. This perfectly highlights how over the course of the show she has matured and accepted her new life. Moreover, there is something comforting about watching her mature whilst also not fully knowing exactly what it is that she wants out of life. Especially when at university there is often the pressure to have your life all planned out, it’s reassuring to watch characters who are in a very similar position.

Finally, my favourite character – David. David’s habit of overreacting to the littlest things is not only one of the comedic highpoints of the show, but also one of its most relatable. I think that most people would recognise themselves to some extent in this. After all, who hasn’t let something small and insignificant put them in a bad mood? But it is not his relatability that makes him such a stand-out character in my opinion. The portrayal and development of his relationship in the later series is nothing short of beautiful and heart-warming; even the most cynical of people would struggle to not enjoy this. Without wanting to give too much away, the depiction of a queer relationship as simple and ordinary (the show also refrains from adding in excessive relationship drama) is one of Schitt’s Creek’s biggest successes. It perfectly synthesises reality and escapism in a moving combination.

Through combining a simple, yet enjoyable, plot that prioritises character growth over drama and excellently portrayed characters, Schitt’s Creek is a thoroughly delightful comfort watch.