Why Schitt’s Creek Became a Cultural Phenomenon

By February 26, 2021Profiles

Though Schitt’s Creek first began airing in January of 2015, the behemoth of a television show didn’t quite find its footing – nor wide audience – until it premiered on Netflix after the completion of its third season. 

And after that, boy did it find its footing.

Schitt’s Creek’s success can be attributed to a confluence of events: the triumphant return of the iconic pairing up of Eugene Levy and Catherine O’Hara, the impeccable writing, lovable characters, representation of LGBTQ+ characters on mainstream television, and, let’s face it, what we all tuned in to hear each week – Moira Rose’s vocabulary. Or was that just me?

The show became a cultural firestorm, sparking Halloween costumes of the beloved characters, countless memes that sent the internet into a raucous comedic frenzy, and desperate pleas to keep the show going despite its decision to end after its sixth season. The series even became the first TV show in the history of time to garner every single main cast member Emmy Awards in the same year for their superior acting chops. 

So why did everyone love it so much? I’m glad you asked.

Let’s first start with Levy and O’Hara. The duo first met in the 1970’s in an improv comedy group in Toronto, Canada, going on to appear on the sketch comedy show, SCTV. Since then, they have starred together in A Mighty Wind, Best in Show, Waiting for Guffman, and For Your Consideration. Because their palpable chemistry has developed over the past thirty-something years, they are able to convey with ease the complexities of married life while their characters simultaneously are going broke. Levy’s straight man to O’Hara’s looney comedienne strike a perfect balance that allow each of them to give arguably their strongest performances. In fact, both are nominated for Golden Globes on Sunday, as well. Schitt’s Creek turned these two Canadian actors into American treasures, and beyond that, the parents we all kind of wish we had.

Good writing is what makes a television show great. In Hollywood, TV is known as the writer’s medium, while directors dominate the film industry. So, what was Schitt’s Creek’s secret sauce? The writing conjured up the perfect blend of wonderfully bizarre, yet deeply relatable. While the premise is one we may have seen before (a rich family loses all their money), it’s just broad enough to allow all the vitality of the show to come through in the dialogue. Let’s not forget (and yes, I am bringing it up again), Moira Rose’s vocabulary (because it only became stranger and funnier as the show went on), Alexis’ past boyfriends and extracurricular misadventures (who DOESN’T want to live her old life?), Stevie’s dark and sardonic humor, and David’s grandiose over exaggerations and highfalutin sensibilities. Every off-the-wall storyline, riotous conversation between characters, and hilarious sub-plot allowed the show to become one of the greatest sitcoms of all time.

In a TV landscape that displays straight, cisgender relationships as the norm, Schitt’s Creek broke the mold in its inclusion – and introduction, for many viewers – to pansexuality. David Rose, beloved firstborn of Moira and Johnny Rose, is openly pansexual, which left many viewers scratching their heads as to what pansexuality actually is. What’s so incredible about this aspect of the show, is that it started conversations. And good TV, or at least resonant TV, should be sparking conversations just as much as it entertains. When a television show seamlessly blends provocative topics with side-splitting humor, the thought-provoking message gently washes over audiences, planting a seed into their subconscious that makes room for more diversity and nuance than they may have originally considered. It allows viewers to see the characters for who they are at their core first, and makes their sexuality come second, thereby reinforcing the notion that no matter who we love, we are all fundamentally the same.

Schitt’s Creek was a breakthrough for television for many reasons. And whether you’ve been living under a rock and haven’t watched it yet, or are currently signing a petition to make a Schitt’s Creek movie (wouldn’t that be something?), it’s a show that has something for everyone.