Often television shows outstay their welcome, ending when the storylines are getting stale or ratings have declined. That hasn't been the case for Schitt’s Creek, which is heading into its final season at its most beloved, both critically and commercially. When co-creator and showrunner Dan Levy said the sixth season would also be the last, he couldn't have foreseen that by the end of the year, the Canadian comedy would become a multi-Emmy and SAG nominee. It's rare for awards voters to recognize a series this late in the game, but Schitt’s Creek hasn’t followed the typical path to greatness, nor does it play by the usual fish-out-of-water rules. What has caused this late surge in popularity?
Some of this success can be attributed to the Netflix bump after the series became available on the streaming platform in 2017 (after first debuting in 2015 on CBC in Canada and the US network Pop TV). Comedy shows often take time to find their groove, and Schitt’s Creek was no exception. After losing all their money, the Rose family was forced to move to the small town that patriarch Johnny Rose (Eugene Levy) had bought as a joke. In the beginning, the antics of the formerly rich Rose clan were abrasive, as they longed to be anywhere but Schitt’s Creek. Concerns about material goods, sibling bickering, and a prickly attitude toward the residents of this town could wear thin pretty quickly. But without this initial inability to express love (if it didn’t have a designer label attached to it), the events of the later seasons wouldn't feel earned. The uplifting glow of David (Dan Levy) saying “I love you” to his family at the end of Season 2 is powerful, because this phrase isn't one that comes easily.
Like many viewers, I discovered Schitt’s Creek late in its run, but quickly warmed to the mix of hilarious, heightened antics and anchored emotionality. It's no coincidence that as the Rose family found their place in the small town they previously couldn’t wait to leave, the popularity of the show increased. Growth is an important factor, and each season chipped away at the chic armor worn by each family member. A soothing balm, Schitt’s Creek is a town that leans into kindness: it's a version of the world co-creator Dan Levy (and clearly audiences) would like to experience. Here are the relationships that helped turn what could have been a one-note comedy about spoiled rich people into TV’s warmest hug:
Eugene Levy and Catherine O’Hara are understandably the Schitt’s Creek marquee names and a big draw for new viewers. However, comedy icon status can only get you so far: the show still has to be good. The Moira/Johnny dynamic has been solid from day one, impervious to the most nightmarish of scenarios. They have faced obstacles and conflicts, but at no point has this union been in peril, which is quite unusual for a television marriage. The heightened stress of losing everything could cause any relationship to implode, but even at their lowest ebb, they are loving. And much to the disgust of their children, they are still sexually attracted to each other — another refreshing aspect in this portrayal of a decades-long partnership. Both still have an undeniable fondness for the finer things in life, however, we've seen they will live anywhere as long as it is with each other.
“You get murdered first, for once,” Alexis (Annie Murphy) told David in the pilot when the siblings argued about who would get the bed nearest the door. The pair still fire off barbed comments — “Ew, David” has only been uttered a handful of times, but it has endured — messing with each other at any given opportunity, but now it's more playful in tone. Sharing a room for five seasons means it has been impossible to escape the other’s orbit, even with the apartment of a boyfriend at their disposal. Whereas Alexis was ready to flee on rich boyfriend Stavros’ private jet in the first episode (leaving her brother behind in Schitt’s Creek), in Season 5 she worried about what this distance would do to her tight bond with her family. It was a big ask when Alexis told her brother she needed a hug after her breakup with Mutt (Tim Rozin), but since then, these moments have come with less resistance. She endured an awkward lunch with Ted (Dustin Milligan) and his new girlfriend so David could score a new Rose Apothecary vendor, and she talked him out of a relationship spiral when he sent Patrick on a date. The true love story of Fleabag was between siblings, maybe Schitt’s Creek's is too.
“He’s a business major that wears straight-legged, mid-range denim. He’s not into me.” David Rose was at his least perceptive in Season 3 when Patrick Brewer (Noah Reid) was first introduced. Heralded as a major moment for this character, David’s business-partner-turned-love-interest broke down the wall around his heart. A string of messy relationships haunted David, his guard was up and trust did not come easy. It hasn’t been a bump-free road for the pair, which included a previously undisclosed ex-fiance making a surprise trip to see Patrick. Rachel’s (Stacey Farber) appearance caused David to spiral before he wore his heart on his leather sweatshirt sleeve, performing a lip-sync to Tina Turner’s “The Best.” Patrick’s acoustic rendition of this song laid down the emotional gauntlet, which each season has tried to best. An “I love you” declaration that invoked Mariah Carey, and a coming out episode which laid the groundwork for a tearful and tender proposal have all been important steps toward David feeling worthy of adoration. Schitt’s Creek is a town free from homophobia, where anyone can love out loud, and this lack of fear has no doubt provided a safe haven for viewers. Not only that, but this celebration of Patrick and David has been a focal point of the final season.
Before Patrick, David was in a friends-with-benefits arrangement with Stevie (Emily Hampshire) for a hot minute. Since that first season tryst, the relationship has deepened to best friend status. Stevie has always refused to put up with David’s BS, calling him out for his sometimes ridiculous notions while supporting his business and romantic endeavors. David’s previous friendships were toxic and transactional, his appeal was his credit card. With Stevie, this pretense is gone, she is his friend because she wants to be, not because he picks up the tab. The balance of her sardonic wit with his unabashed love of expensive sweaters leads to some highly comedic moments, but it's in their unguarded conversations that this pair truly shines.
Family is at the heart of Schitt’s Creek, and while Stevie’s parents haven’t made an appearance, her relationship with Johnny is more father-daughter than co-workers. This is no more apparent in last season’s “The Hike,” when Johnny was taken to the hospital after a health scare. Stevie isn't someone who cries easily, but she can’t hide her tears of relief when they find out it was severe heartburn and not a heart attack. Awareness hasn’t always been a Rose family strength, but both Johnny and Moira came through for Stevie when she was at her lowest ebb. After heartbreak, Moira offered her the role of Sally Bowles in the Schitt’s Creek community theater production of Cabaret without knowing if she could sing or dance. Stevie crushed it, and while they haven’t always been present for their own children, Johnny and Moira are making up for lost time, and have gained a surrogate daughter in the process.
Alexis Rose has been on many death-defying adventures and hooked up with the likes of Adam Levine and Zac Efron along the way. However, it's her romance with Ted that caused great heartache and soul-searching. Boyfriends have always been disposable, but Ted proved different. There is no way this pair would still be together if she had gone through with the misguided Season 1 proposal. Rather, she needed the intense fling with bearded Mutt, as well as time as a single woman. Self-improvement is a buzzword, but no character has grown more than Alexis Rose. She was never malicious, just blissfully unaware in her bubble of privilege. She’s jet-setted around the world, but this town and her relationships with people like Ted and Twyla (Sarah Levy) gave her the benefits of a permanent abode that she had previously not experienced. Planning a six-month trip to the Galapagos Islands with Ted led to a crisis she couldn’t name. It turns out she had never felt homesick before, but several years in Schitt’s Creek will have this effect.
Moira has always had one foot out of the town, however, she hasn’t let her artistic talents or her love of performing go to waste. In the earlier seasons, Jocelyn Schitt (Jennifer Robertson) was positioned as a frenemy of sorts. They went head-to-head for a seat on the council, and Jocelyn’s position as Jazzagal a capella lead was a coveted spot for the former daytime soap star. Moira still vies for the spotlight, but her relationship with Jocelyn and Ronnie (Karen Robinson) has deepened over the seasons. Rather than rivals, they are now collaborators, and despite Moira’s dreams of getting out of Schitt’s Creek, if the time came to leave, she would probably miss her Jazzagals most of all.
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Emma Fraser has wanted to write about TV since she first watched My So-Called Life in the mid-90s, finally getting her wish over a decade later. Follow her on Twitter at @frazbelina.