In a Schitt-show of a year, the Schitt’s Creek sweep of the comedy Emmys provided the gift we all needed: watching goodness win. Since the pandemic began, the series has been a remedy for anyone in need of a sweet reprieve from the horrors of the headlines.
To those who have not yet discovered this joyous gem, the story follows the riches to rags story of the Rose family: former video store magnate Johnny, his wife Moira, and their two adult children, David, and Alexis — that is, new Emmy winners Eugene Levy, Catherine O’Hara, David Levy, and Annie Murphy. The lavishly wealthy family, swindled by their business manager, lost their mansion and most personal items to a government seizure for non-payment of taxes.
The one asset retained by the Rose family was a small rural town called Schitt’s Creek, purchased years ago by Johnny as a joke birthday gift for his son. Parents and siblings end up living in adjoining rooms in the town’s dilapidated motel. Their worldly airs serve as the foil to a community of unsophisticated townspeople who, nonetheless, welcome these odd strangers long before the newcomers reciprocate the warmth.
All Heart, No Schtick
The show could have become mere schtick, but it grew instead into all heart. Schitt’s Creek tenderly reveals how each family member learned to accept their economic devastation and find a path forward through their pain, ruined dreams, and lost comforts. As they did, they grew to understand the poverty in their former wealth and the coldness in their picture-perfect family bonds.
Matriarch Moira is a faded soap opera star who eschewed parenting as an emotional investment. Her regal bearing, stunning vocabulary, and prodigious wig collection belie her fears of navigating an ageist world. Daughter Alexis spent years traveling the world, her beauty and sense of adventure leading to various international incidents. Yet the significance of each of her stories are lost on her new audience of innocent neighbors.
Son David formerly worked in a New York City gallery with financial support from his family. He came to Schitt’s Creek insecure, disconnected, and ambiguous about his sexuality, having been on the losing end of too many relationships. Over time, he found a career in retailing, seeking advice from a business manager, Patrick, who ultimately became his rock in both business and love.
Through it all, Johnny Rose is the hapless dad who tries to retain his own dignity as he learns how to provide emotional support to his family. Poignant encounters with their past life reveal that their extraordinary comforts came with an emptiness of values. Former friends relied on the currency of status, oblivious to anything outside their social networks. As Johnny recognizes the shallowness, he more comfortably accepts the circumstances of his new reality.
Acceptance Without Judgment
And then there are the townspeople of Schitt’s Creek — people who demonstrate wisdom in their innocence, values in their judgments, and an acceptance far beyond what the Roses initially deserved. There is comfort and optimism in watching a show set in a small town where the deeply romantic relationship between two men flourish without commentary. We can enjoy the beauty of David’s emergence from a man fearful of intimacy to someone capable of trusting another completely, without fear of hate or homophobia.
The contradictions in Schitt’s Creek serve as its backbone. The show captures our hearts because it has one. It demonstrates that people can be kind and find happiness, and that families can strengthen bonds that had gone dormant.
By being both fanciful and grounded, improbable and real, Schitt’s Creek offers escapism with hope, a desperately needed antidote in a year where hope has been hard to find.
Lauren Stiller Rikleen, president of the Rikleen Institute for Strategic Leadership, speaks, trains, and consults on building a respectful and inclusive multi-generational workplace. She is the author of The Shield of Silence: How Power Perpetuates a Culture of Harassment and Bullying in the Workplace. and You Raised Us, Now Work With Us: Millennials, Career Success, and Building Strong Workplace Teams