Go ahead, say them. Your jokes about the name, Schitt’s Creek. Some wondered—months ago when CBC announced the Eugene Levy/Catherine O’Hara project co-created by Levy and his son, Dan—if the title would make for easy headlines if the ratings were bad.
The fact is, CBC may end up getting the last laugh by having the strongest homegrown sitcom this country has had since, well, that show about not much going on that just recently made a movie. Just yesterday, CBC announced it had greenlit a second season of Schitt’s Creek before Season 1 had even debuted. That’s the kind of move that Netflix makes, not a public broadcaster, and it’s an indication of just how confident they are in the project.
Debuting Tuesday, Schitt’s Creek stars Eugene Levy as Johnny Rose, a video store magnate who sees his empire crumble due to bad investments. The government descends, claiming their mansion and almost everything in it. The only thing the feds don’t touch is a property Johnny bought for his son, David (Dan Levy), on a lark: the small town of Schitt’s Creek. The pair, along with wife/mother Moira (Catherine O’Hara) and daughter/sister Alexis (Annie Murphy), decamp for the little community where they’re met with odd characters—including mayor Roland Schitt (Chris Elliott)—and a fish out of water situation. But where most sitcoms go over-the-top to get laughs, Schitt’s Creek is more subtle, with funny things going on in the background and names (hello, Roland Schitt?) as opposed to pratfalls.
“We talked a lot about that in the writer’s room,” Dan says. “We never played anything for the laughs and it’s something my Dad comes from. That’s why I came to him with this show. I knew there was a special touch that he has in terms of legitimizing funny situations in a reality that’s tangible. If you have great people playing these funny situations, that’s where the magic is.”
He’s right. Eugene and O’Hara have made careers out of playing characters who don’t mug for the camera, and Eugene’s DNA has been carried on to Dan. Best-known to a generation of viewers for his co-hosting duties on The After Show alongside Jessi Cruickshank, Dan’s comic chops cause a lot of laugh-out-loud moments. One great scene features David and Alexis arguing who will sleep in the motel bed closest to the door; David wants his sister to sleep there because a murderer who breaks in will kill her first, giving him time to escape.
Dan had been playing with the idea of a family who has lost their money for a TV show and it went through several incarnations once Eugene came on board. It was over dinner conversations with friends, Eugene recalls, that they realized “Why not call the town Schitt’s Creek?” (“Because that’s exactly what I’d think of,” O’Hara jokes.) He admits the CBC wasn’t the first network he thought of to air Schitt’s Creek, but positive meetings coupled with the network looking to rebrand, and a deal was made.
“We set out to make the kind of show that we want to watch,” Eugene explains. “What I find funny and the most interesting are character-driven pieces because that’s all I’ve done, from SCTV on. You have to stay in the character and stay as grounded as you possibly can, that’s what appealed to me.”
And, clearly, the CBC.
Schitt’s Creek airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. on CBC.