Schitt’s Creek, the single-camera, character-driven comedy, has redefined the meaning of family.
The hit CBC-TV series was created by Toronto Jewish comedy duo, father and son Eugene and Daniel (Dan) Levy.
Dan Levy is former co-host of MTV Live. He co-wrote, co-hosted and co-produced The After Show and is co-creator, co-executive producer, actor and writer on Schitt’s Creek.
Eugene Levy is an alumnus of SCTV in its golden age, often partnering with the legendary John Candy. He has appeared in more than 60 films, earning critical acclaim for co-writing and co-starring in Best In Show, Waiting for Guffman, For Your Consideration and A Mighty Wind.
“I grew up watching the best comedians in the business, the Shecky Greenes, Milton Berles and George Burns. In those days, comedy and Judaism kind of went hand in hand,” Eugene said.
In the Schitt’s Creek world, Johnny Rose (Eugene Levy) is Jewish. His wife, former soap-star Moira (Catherine O’Hara, also formerly of SCTV) is not. Their young adult kids, hipster David (Dan Levy), and socialite Alexis (Annie Murphy), are a bit of a mix, and family means everything to them.
The idea of a town called Schitt’s Creek was born over a few drinks at a dinner party.
“This little dinner table conversation joke actually seemed to fit very nicely because it so accurately described the situation that this family finds themselves in,” Eugene said.
“This is a very pampered, spoiled, wealthy family. The cast that we have has really done such a great job getting inside these characters and finding that kind of vulnerable spot that the TV audience can latch onto,” he said.
The Rose family were millionaires, but have lost their fortune. Forced to give up their mansion, they must relocate to their last remaining asset: a small, dreary town called Schitt’s Creek, which Johnny once bought as a joke. Stuck living in a rundown motel in that town, the family must now discover what it means to be poor and still be a family.
“We have seen the riches-to-rags premise played out on mainstream network television, but never through a more specific comedic lens,” Dan said.
“The challenge was to create these blindly unaware people who are not like any wealthy caricatures we have seen before on television. When Catherine [O’Hara] came on board, she brought such a unique voice to her character. We cast Annie Murphy in the character of Alexis – we have seen the spoiled socialite so many times – but what Annie brought to that character was such a lovability that you feel for her despite everything,” Dan said.
The first season of Schitt’s Creek premiered in January attracting an impressive 1.36 million viewers. The season finale aired on March 31.
“When we were writing Season 1, we would talk about family – family dynamics and family relationships, and how a family acts with each other behind closed doors versus out in public,” Dan said. “They can banter and bicker without putting on the niceties of being in public, and we just started sharing stories.
“Me, my dad and all of our writers started to share funny stories that have happened to us as family members. I think that has really helped authenticate the family dynamic in the show, because you immediately get the sense that these people are family. We were able to capture that intimacy.”
What was it like working alongside comedy gold?
“You always hope that the interpersonal relationships only help enhance professionally, and I think what we’ve done is really found a sweet spot where we can benefit from each other’s different ideas, and – obviously in my case – from my dad’s experience. It’s been lovely,” Dan said.
Schitt’s Creek has been renewed for a second season and starts shooting again on April 14. Dan said viewers should expect some differences.
“Relationships have shifted a little. The family dynamic is slightly different now that they know they are going to be in the town for a little longer than they had hoped. I think you start to see the Roses beginning to live a day-to-day life in the town, which is a hilarious thing to watch.