November 20, 2020 | Arts and Culture
a full family affair
the relatability of schitt’s creek
Behind the closed door of my upstairs bedroom, I shouldn’t be able to hear my father’s bellowing laugh coming from our family room downstairs. After several minutes of failing to muffle his chuckles with loud music, I decide to walk downstairs to investigate the source of his laughter. When I enter the family room, I find my father doubled over; his face has turned red, but I can barely tell because his hand covers it as he wipes tears from his eyes. Following his line of sight, I turn to see a “Welcome to Schitt’s Creek” sign displayed on the television screen as Johnny Rose (Eugene Levy) asks in disbelief, “You don’t see anything wrong with this? That man, standing awfully close to that woman, wouldn’t you say?” As Eugene Levy’s infamous eyebrows shoot up, accompanied by the blank, naive stare of his companion who has lived in Schitt’s Creek all his life—clearly unfazed by the inappropriate town sign—I join in on my father’s laughter, though admittedly more from laughing at my father than with him.
Originally aired in 2015 on Canada’s CBC Television, Schitt’s Creek follows the Rose family’s sudden fall from the lap of luxury. Having nowhere to go after their multi-million dollar mansion is taken away, the Roses find themselves in Schitt’s Creek, a town that Johnny, the patriarch, once bought as a joke for his son. Since the show’s landing on Netflix, Schitt’s Creek has found a new audience. Don’t just take my word for it, look to the 15 Primetime Emmy Awards Schitt’s Creek took home five years after its initial creation and following the series’ conclusion this past April. Yet, despite the show’s critical acclaim and Emmys sweep, and even though I call the show one of my favorites, I have found myself face-to-face with an unpopular opinion, coming from a friend of all people: After watching all of season one, she didn’t find Schitt’s Creek even remotely funny.
For my part, once I initially confronted my father for his over-the-top reaction to discovering the show, he never watched Schitt’s Creek alone again. While we don’t have a set day of the week or an exact time at which we convene, our viewings occur at least once a week and consist of watching a minimum of three episodes in one sitting, a count which rises exponentially depending on the cold open. Take the introductory scene of Season 3, Episode 2 for example: David (Daniel Levy) and Alexis (Annie Murphy) engage in typical brother-sister banter as they discuss David’s unique situation of being in a “throuple.” To prove her point that “when it comes to three people, David, there is always a favorite,” Alexis notes, “it’s just like how Mom likes you more.” David quickly refutes his sister’s claim only for their mother Moira (Catherine O’Hara) to waltz into their room, look directly at David, and ask him exclusively to eat lunch with her. After David declines, Moira somberly declares, “Very well, I’ll dine alone,” overlooking Alexis entirely and proving her point that David is the favorite child. Reading this exchange on paper, the words don’t spark humor like The Big Bang Theory’s “Bazinga!” might. Watching this scene, however, my father and I could barely catch a breath from our uncontrollable laughter. Why exactly was it so funny to us? Well, because similar scenes frequently play out in real life between my mother, my brother, and me.
All in good fun, my dad and I often tease my mom that it’s obvious she prefers my brother over me. While she’ll never admit it, she will shower my brother with words of endearment when he calls from college, her voice rising a few octaves because she can’t contain her excitement at hearing from him. My brother will say he’s cooked himself plain pasta for dinner––the bare minimum a college student can do to keep himself alive––and in return, my mother will ask follow-up questions, share tips to liven up his meal, and relay how proud she is of his accomplishment to our extended family members. When I inform my mother of far more important news, such as scoring well on an exam, my mother will dismissively reply with “oh, good work” before returning to her daily tasks. As this response pans out, my father and I will share a glance before letting out a laugh and making my mom aware of her implicit bias. While I have no doubt my mother loves me dearly (we bond over Broadway shows and similar taste buds, nothing my brother can compete with) and that her dismissive comments are entirely unintentional, my dad and I can’t help but notice the all-too-frequent times she unabashedly praises my brother while seemingly overlooking me. It’s these familiar familial connections that make Schitt’s Creek the critically acclaimed comedy which I rightfully believe it should be.
My friend, meanwhile, won’t let out even a slight snort when Moira asks Alexis, “Has it gotten worse, or are you just not wearing any makeup?” because she doesn’t live with a “Moira” herself. While my mother is not an ex-soap opera star like Moira, her unintentionally comical comments elicit similar responses as Moira’s delightfully wrong pronunciation of bėbė and other fan-favorite phrases (my mother will continually say “pass me the spatulur” no matter how many times we insist it’s called a spatula). Once my dad and I noticed the root of our hysterical reactions, watching Schitt’s Creek together became that much more of a family affair.
In addition to playing father and son on screen, Eugene and Daniel Levy, the show’s creators and stars, are father and son in real life, suggesting the source of the show’s emotional touch. Looking past Moira’s extravagant wigs or David’s garish monochrome outfits, Schitt’s Creek explores what it means to be a family following a humiliating hardship. When I watch a television show, I usually play a game or text my friends live commentary, rarely giving my undivided attention to the actors onscreen. With Schitt’s Creek, though, my less-than-favorable television manners are put on hold; I sit alongside my father on the edge of my seat with my eyes glued to the screen, waiting for the next comedic bit that mirrors conversations my family has on a day-to-day basis. Schitt’s Creek doesn’t rely on elaborate props or punchlines that build throughout; what makes the comedy so magnificent is its relatability. Just as Moira says the right thing at the wrong time to prove Alexis’s point, my mom can make my entire family hoot with a seemingly innocent comment. Both women are naturally charismatic and comical without trying to be. Now, when my dad and I watch Schitt’s Creek, my boisterous bellows match his in volume. But even when the episode ends, we know we’re in for a laugh just by being together and living in the same household as my wonderfully brazen mother, who I wouldn’t trade for the world.