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Emmys 2019: Dan Levy is a Schitt’s Creek Triple-Threat

Can a recent surge in popularity and an excellent fifth season translate into Emmy gold?
  • Dan Levy is in contention in three separate categories for his work in Schitt's Creek (Photo: CBC)
    Dan Levy is in contention in three separate categories for his work in Schitt's Creek (Photo: CBC)

    In the weeks leading up to the July 16th Emmy nominations, Primetimer staff and contributors will be making our picks for which people (and shows) we think deserve recognition for their work this year. For your consideration today: Dan Levy in three separate categories for his work on Schitt's Creek: Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series, Outstanding Writing in a Comedy Series and Outstanding Directing in a Comedy Series. 

    It's rare for a television show to get its first Emmy nomination in its fifth season, but sometimes voters are late to catch on to a good thing. Building on its loyal fanbase, Schitt’s Creek has been on the receiving end of a Netflix bump after the streaming platform first debuted the series in 2017 (each season airs first on the CBC in Canada and the Pop network in the U.S.). It also helps that creatively, Schitt’s Creek continues to hit new peaks, injecting heart and humor into a simple fish-out-of-water premise. The Rose family lost all their money in the first episode, forcing them to move to a town that was purchased as a joke, but the emotional riches continue to pour in with each passing year.

    Dan Levy co-created Schitt’s Creek with his comedy icon father Eugene, but the younger Levy has been showrunning in a solo capacity since the second season. As a triple-threat, Levy has three shots at an Emmy nomination in writing, directing, and acting. Competition in the Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy category is stiff: there's last year’s winner Henry Winkler for Barry, previous Veep victor Tony Hale, Tony Shalhoub (The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel), Tituss Burgess (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt), Andrew Scott (Fleabag), and Alan Arkin for The Kominsky Method. There is an argument to be made that David Rose is the lead character on his show, but as Schitt’s Creek is very much an ensemble comedy, so it makes sense from a name recognition point-of-view to submit his dad in that category.

    As David, Levy wears his emotions on his black-and-white designer sleeve, and all over his expressive face. A ball of skittish anxiety with a dating history that is “one bungle after another” (as per his mother’s description and David’s many horror stories), his relationship with Patrick (Noah Reid) has evolved into one of the best love stories on TV. Queer romances on sitcoms are typically chaste, with fleeting moments of intimacy and non-existent PDA. However, this is not the case in Schitt’s Creek, a town that Levy purposefully wrote as homophobia-free. They are able to serenade and smooch in public, with Levy explaining to Esquire, “To be able to present a love story that's without fear of consequence was something that I wanted from the very beginning.” As a result of this union, David has let his guard down after realizing he is someone who deserves to be loved, which builds to a beautiful moment in this season’s penultimate episode.

    “The Hike” is Levy’s submission for Outstanding Writing in a Comedy Series, an episode in which Patrick’s planned proposal hits many snags along the way before leading to a swoon-worthy declaration of love. Initially, David isn’t particularly enamored with the great outdoors as he can’t track his eBay bid and his backpack is heavy. But when Patrick has a nerves-induced meltdown and injures himself, David swoops into caring mode. A few seasons ago, David would’ve turned around at the first opportunity, now he is piggybacking his boyfriend up a mountain. Other contenders in this category include last year’s winner Amy Sherman-Palladino for The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Bill Hader for Barry, the Big Bang Theory finale, and the returning Veep (which is likely to reap quite a few Emmy nods for its final season).

    While the four-ring proposal — to match the silver rings David has worn since the first episode — is the crowning moment of “The Hike,” the B and C plots are just as strong, mixing the signature heart and humor of Levy’s vision. A health scare for Johnny (Eugene Levy) and Alexis (Annie Murphy) prepping for her trip to the Galapagos Islands with Ted (Dustin Milligan) open up new avenues for Rose family drama and growth. This is a tear-inducing episode for the characters and audience, as Stevie (Emily Hampshire) has a very visceral response to Johnny’s trip to the hospital. This vulnerability from Stevie is a thread that runs into the season finale, “Life is a Cabaret.”

    Taking on a stage and screen musical classic like Cabaret is no easy feat, but a move this bold is perfect for Moira Rose (Catherine O’Hara). This is only Dan Levy’s second time behind the camera, co-directing with Andrew Cividino — the Christmas special was their first joint Schitt’s venture — an audacious move that more than pays off. David’s perfectly planned engagement announcement goes off the rails when Stevie goes “missing” pre-show, but Dan is not David and he flawless executes the staging. Giving us front row seats to the revival of the year, the camera sweeps across the auditorium during “Wilkommen” making sure we get to enjoy this very different side to David’s butter-voiced beau. When it comes to Stevie’s big Sally Bowles number, aside from a few reaction shots, the focus is entirely on her as she belts out an emotional “Maybe This Time.” If only we could see the whole musical.

    As with writing, returning winner Amy Sherman-Palladino and Veep are in the mix. But Dan Levy isn’t the only Emmy comedy triple-threat as Natasha Lyonne and Bill Hader could also get recognized in three different categories for Russian Doll and Barry, respectively.

    Schitt’s Creek was nominated earlier this year for a Critics Choice Award, and more recently by the Television Critics Association. And just last week, Dan Levy won the MTV Movie/TV Award for Best Comedic Performance. So the show is certainly benefiting from a surge in viewerswho've  discovered the series on Netflix (I am one of those late adopters). In March, Levy announced that the show's next season will also be the last, choosing to go out on a high note. Emmy voters shouldn’t wait until then to nominate Dan Levy in at least one of these categories.

    People are talking about Schitt's Creek in our forums. Join the conversation.

    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

    TOPICS: 71st Primetime Emmy Awards, Pop TV, Schitt's Creek, Dan Levy