Schitt’s Creek rises as its char­ac­ters ac­cept their fall

Waterloo Region Record - - Arts & Life - VIC­TO­RIA AHEARN

TORONTO — Eu­gene Levy used to re­gard the Cana­dian tele­vi­sion sketch com­edy show “SCTV” as a ca­reer high. Now, that dis­tinc­tion goes to “Schitt’s Creek.”

As the CBC riches-to-rags com­edy re­turns for its fifth sea­son amid an ex­plo­sion of in­ter­na­tional at­ten­tion, the Hamil­ton born com­edy star says “the aware­ness fac­tor has re­ally been per­co­lat­ing in the past year” for the se­ries he co-cre­ated with his ac­tor-son, Daniel Levy.

The two also star as fa­ther and son, along­side fel­low “SCTV” alum Cather­ine O’Hara as the mother and An­nie Mur­phy as the daugh­ter of the vain­glo­ri­ous Rose fam­ily, who lost their for­tune due to back taxes and have to live in a mo­tel in the small town they own, Schitt’s Creek.

“When I was do­ing ‘SCTV,’ we thought that was kind of the end-all and be-all,” Eu­gene Levy, a two-time Emmy Award win­ner, said in a re­cent phone in­ter­view.

“We were young, not mak­ing a lot of money, work­ing 20-hour days and lov­ing ev­ery sec­ond of it. It was just the most fun, and prob­a­bly up un­til ‘Schitt’s Creek,’ was the great­est ex­pe­ri­ence I’ve had in my ca­reer.

“But this show, truly ... to be a part of some­thing this rich is pretty ex­cep­tional. Once again, lov­ing ev­ery sec­ond of it.”

“Schitt’s Creek” has drawn the kind of praise that would even please O’Hara’s at­ten­tion-hun­gry ac­tress char­ac­ter, Moira.

“Eu­gene says it’s ‘The lit­tle en­gine that could, fi­nally reach­ing the train sta­tion,’ ” said O’Hara, an Emmy win­ner who hails from Toronto.

In the past few weeks alone, the 11-time Cana­dian Screen Award win­ner has been nom­i­nated for a Crit­ics’ Choice Award for best com­edy se­ries, been fea­tured on “The Ellen De­Generes Show” and var­i­ous U.S. morn­ing pro­grams, and earned lauda­tory re­views in ma­jor Amer­i­can pub­li­ca­tions, in­clud­ing Vogue, Va­ri­ety and the New York Times.

The se­ries has also spawned a live show, “Schitt’s Creek: Up Close & Per­sonal,” which has sold out sev­eral cities al­ready and hits Toronto on Feb. 25.

O’Hara chalked up the grow­ing recog­ni­tion to the show’s pres­ence on Net­flix (it also airs on Pop TV in the U.S.) and the “love and re­spect” Daniel Levy puts into the char­ac­ters.

Daniel Levy, who is also the showrun­ner, said the at­ten­tion feels a bit sur­real.

“I think par­tic­u­larly be­cause we’re en­ter­ing our fifth sea­son and usu­ally for most tele­vi­sion shows, at­ten­tion and view­er­ship di­min­ishes sea­son after sea­son,” he said.

But he also noted they’re the same hard-work­ing, small op­er­a­tion they were in sea­son 1, when res­i­dents of Good­wood, Ont., would bring baked goods to the lo­cal set and sit on lawn chairs watch­ing them film.

“Recog­ni­tion in the States is a won­der­ful thing, but of­ten­times it’s com­pared to or con­trasted with recog­ni­tion in Canada,” Daniel Levy said. “For me it’s im­por­tant to note that our Cana­dian fans have been there from the be­gin­ning and that we are by no means quan­ti­fy­ing our suc­cess by way of Amer­i­can recog­ni­tion.”

Daniel Levy also notes au­di­ences are also grow­ing more emo­tion­ally at­tached to the Roses as the char­ac­ters shed their su­per­fi­cial­ity and ac­cept their hum­ble life­style in the town run by Roland Schitt (Chris El­liott).

“Schitt’s Creek” also ap­peals with an authen­tic­ity, he added, not­ing it doesn’t play into ex­pec­ta­tions or let out­side fac­tors af­fect its very spe­cific world.

Sea­son 5 started with Moira shoot­ing a film in Bos­nia and con­tin­ues a love story in­volv­ing Daniel Levy’s fash­ion-plate char­ac­ter, David, who iden­ti­fies as pan­sex­ual (some­one who is open to all sex­ual ori­en­ta­tions or gen­der iden­ti­ties).

Noah Reid plays his boyfriend, Patrick, who ser­e­naded him last sea­son in a scene the New York Times called “one of the most ro­man­tic, adorable mo­ments on TV this year.”

Emily Nuss­baum, TV critic for The New Yorker, re­cently sparked a dis­cus­sion about that sto­ry­line on Twit­ter when she ques­tioned why the show lacks ho­mo­pho­bic char­ac­ters.

Daniel Levy, who is openly gay, said he’s “try­ing to lead by ex­am­ple” by show­ing a fam­ily “ac­cept­ing their son wholly and com­pletely.”

“I’ve just seen one too many queer sto­ries that re­volve around the opin­ions of other peo­ple — coloured by the opin­ions of straight peo­ple, ho­mo­pho­bic peo­ple, big­oted peo­ple, in­tol­er­ant peo­ple — and I didn’t want to go there with this,” he said.

“What we’re able to show is a joy­ful re­la­tion­ship. I think at the end of the day I don’t want to waste my time writ­ing hate­ful peo­ple into my show. For me that is, I guess my sort of quiet protest. That’s me show­ing the world that I want to live in, and I think it’s im­por­tant to show that world.”

“Schitt’s Creek” airs Tues­day at 7 p.m. on CBC.

THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

“Schitt’s Creek” stars An­nie Mur­phy, left, Eu­gene Levy, Cather­ine O’Hara and Daniel Levy, who says “we are by no means quan­ti­fy­ing our suc­cess by way of Amer­i­can recog­ni­tion.”

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