Schitt’s Creek passes down the comedy crown

I came for the Catherine O’Hara and Eugene Levy; I stayed for the Dan Levy and Emily Hampshire.

When Schitt’s Creek debuted on CBC in January, the show sold itself. Literally. CBC picked it up for a second season before the first started airing. The first two episodes, which aired back to back, earned 1.4 million viewers.  It was picked up by POP TV (formerly TV Guide Network) in the US.

The reunion of Eugene Levy and Catherine O’Hara brought out of the woodwork SCTV and Christopher Guest mockumentary aficionados, not to mention fans of their individual careers. Their ease with each other and mastery of these types of comic characters — Levy’s befuddled patriarch, O’Hara’s self-centred socialite – paved the way for a welcome reception, and they continue to be their reliably funny selves in a story of the formerly wealthy Rose family who have lost their money and live in a seedy hotel in the seedy town they own as a joke. Some of the jokes are crude, some are obvious, but they own them like the Roses used to own hideous and hideously expensive artwork.

The bad news? Overnight ratings have halved since the premiere. They’re still on par with other middling CBC shows, but they’ve definitely lost their luster. The good? Those of us who stuck around were rewarded with an undercurrent of a more subtle kind of comedy and moments of genuine emotion, as well as the heretofore hidden talents of another generation of comedic actors, some of whom share the Levy surname. Eugene’s daughter Sarah plays the smaller role of Twyla, but Schitt’s Creek is really Dan Levy’s show.

He co-created, executive produces and co-stars as Rose son David, and nothing about his previous resume — MTV host? — had me expecting his unique comedic timing. Something about that delivery cracks me up every time, and I remain amused at that ubiquitous affectation of a generation: the trailing “so ….”.

For every joke about Schitt, there’s a joke about wine that’s not really about wine at all, and more about character revelation than laughs (though it got laughs too). David’s prickly relationship with sarcastic hotel clerk Stevie (Emily Hampshire) has become the heart of the show. Spoiled daughter Alexis (Annie Murphy) has similarly become humanized over the course of the season through her real affection for some of the handsomer townfolk (I mean, Mutt’s no Roland, but he’ll do).

The season finale — “Town for Sale” – airing on CBC Tuesday is as absurd, puerile, multi-layered hilarious, and heartwarming as the previous episodes unexpectedly led me to expect. Johnny and Moira’s antics still make me laugh out loud, but it’s the kids who stole my heart.