“So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Man” #053: Oh Schitt!

I had consumed nearly every show I was told I’d love on Netflix as I’d contemplated transitioning to Amazon Prime — Orange is the New Black, GLOW, Living With Yourself, Big Mouth, Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, The Kominsky Method, Bojack Horseman, F is for Family, Maniac, and Master of None to name a few. And in the case of all of the above (with about 8 or 9 more I decided not to list)… I did in fact love them. Some more than others, but all appropriately dynamic and enjoyable.

With everything seemingly checked off my bucket list for the time being, I was about to sign off, and one last series peaked its head around the corner. I’d been recommended to look into it several times, but something about it seemed bland. Every still shot of the show was set in some rural-ish small town, with an obvious fish-out-of-water placement of Eugene Levy or Catherine O’Hara looking befuddled. I’d told myself it wasn’t worth my time. I hovered over the preview and watched. All the tropes were there: a wealthy family no longer wealthy, Eugene Levy being… Eugene Levy, Chris Elliott being… Chris Elliott, small town vs. big city. Whatever. But, an inadvertent click popped the preview into a pilot, and I took my seat.

At first blush Schitt’s Creek felt like someone accidently was remaking Arrested Development. A single episode in, I was convinced a mean show about mean people being mean seemed… Done. And Chris Elliott’s continuously coy bumpkin-who-eventually-grows-on-you schtick seemed so old hat, I was ready to give the show a polite pass. But a few hangnails did stand out. David Rose, as played by Levy’s real-life son Daniel Levy, was out and acerbic like too many gay stereotypes on network comedies. But he was playing something slightly more acute. His barbs to his prissy sister, Alexis Rose, were well worn, without any shade of Family Guy Cutaway Gag Syndrome. And Catherine O’Hara’s Moira Rose — with her hilarious Mid-Atlantic accent — seemed to be oblivious to literally all around her at all times to create something in the mold of Arrested Development, but specifically duller. And then, of course, the town itself.

Unlike Pawnee, Springfield, or Camden County… Schitt’s Creek isn’t full of delightfully obsequious archetypes. It has well-worn townies who specifically chose to live in the town, but clearly live in the world around it. And while they always serve as counterpoints to the Rose’s lapsed life of luxury, it’s rarely shown to be better or worse… simply different. There are idiots, yes, but none too Homer to function. They aren’t a Greek Chorus. It’s astoundingly refreshing.

5 seasons in (I have half a season left to go on Netflix) — with 1 final season to air — I’ve stumbled into a show that I am genuinely in love with stem to stern.

Like Parks and Recreation and The Good Place, Schitt’s Creek quickly defined itself as a show with joy running as an undercurrent at the bedrock. Whereas traditional sitcom tropes would constantly find ways to run down the Rose family only to have them learn the big lesson and end on a laugh, the show leans into the more modern serialization presentation; with characters being given time to learn, love, and most importantly… grow. And while the setups remain tongue-in-cheek, the resolutions all play out without he-said-she-said dramatic arcs. Instead, they resolve soberly, and the humor that rises from it all stems directly from character interaction. Each of the Roses are given opportunities to show themselves without the crutch of heavy flashbacks. We learn with the residents of Schitt’s Creek how these formerly fortuitous 1%’ers are human beings, who want to exist as more than the blunt caricatures they all clearly occupy at face value.

While I could opine about every single Rose in the show’s garden, and how their arc over 60+ episodes each have wound up legitimately resulting in me being a hot-mess crying in absolute joy, I’ll opt to end things specifically on but a single flower.

Oh, David Rose, how I love you the most. With a wardrobe that appears to have been torn straight from Winona Ryder in Beetlejuice, and an accent David Cross dubbed the gay accent, David Rose was the character I largely expected to leave the Creek first. Never mind, of course, that Daniel Levy is series co-creator, co-star, co-writer, and co-about-a-hundred-other-things. The character itself screamed to be the odd-piece of the puzzle that was never going to fit. A high-fashion pansexual whose previous employment seemed to sit somewhere between bad gallery artist and socialite… David Rose — in spite of the monetary concerns that landed his family at the foot of Schitt’s Creek — seemed capable of escape.

In the second season (after we’d done the obligatory “mysterious benefactor now in a coma, so we have an out when the show gets canceled escape plan” to end season one), David swallows his pride, and winds up the first Rose to start earning a living wage. And shortly thereafter, actually finds talent and workmanship to ultimately wind up with a minor windfall. A payoff after a buyout… and I’d written David Rose straight out of the series. One sharp left back into town though, and it was clear something was keeping this black-adorned aristocrat anchored. With perhaps the first unfake friend in Stevie Budd, David Rose returned to town to dig his heels in further and truly find himself.

And from there, the character only got better. Unlike every gay trope peddled out on TV, David Rose is treated as a human would be treated. His foibles are his, not just gay affectations somehow commonly appropriated and assigned to him. His relationships have been honest, fun, and shown with sincerity — without ever feeling the need to hang lampshades or otherwise flag them as G-A-Y. It, like the show built around it, is a breath of fresh air.

With a season to go, I can’t wait to see the show end on top. Perhaps there’s not a show (save only, perhaps, The Good Place) that smells as fresh as this pile of Schitt.

Thoughts?