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Comfort Column: Schitt’s Creek

Schitt’s Creek has been the unrivalled saviour of my winter lockdown experience; with its warm, but sharply witty and caring humour carrying me through these long, dark days.

In this, at least, I am not alone as the show’s slowly building momentum has soared over 2020, finally crashing it into the mainstream adoration it so deserves. But with its basic premise resting on the well-worn trope of riches to rags stories, what makes Schitt’s Creek so special?

Well, it’s certainly not a narrative full of shocking twists and turns, rather one which confidently mulls over its character arcs, embracing the slow charm of the small-town life. It parodies and ultimately sets up the most well-played character developments I’ve seen.

The Rose family start out as, quite frankly, not being very nice people. Modelled on the uber-wealthy reality-tv style American family, the Roses arrive in the small-town of Schitt’s Creek – a joke investment, turn final asset – after the loss of their immense wealth via financial mismanagement.

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Subsequently, they are left to reconfigure themselves in a town which notably chooses not to recognise their past status, forcing them to break from their pride and move beyond the trappings of their former selves.

Much like my adored Peep Show or This Country, Schitt’s Creek is utterly grounded in its characters, who are so full and rounded, with their mannerism and quirks, that parts of them have sunk into my daily life.

Take Moria, played by the brilliant Catherine O’Hara, who steals the show with her iconic, ever-changing collection of wigs, her unfazed ego and completely bizarre pattern of speech. There’s something about the unexpected occurrence of her inexplicably elongated syllables, delivered in her utterly unplaceable accent and with complete seriousness which will never stop being funny.

The other characters are just as loveable, from Alexis’ sharp wit and distaining stares to Johnny’s ever-present exasperation at his family’s dramatics, which is perfectly countered by David’s exaggerated mocking.

Much of the show’s excellence is in the details, particularly its playful, often exaggerated, use of costume to bring the mood of its characters to life. Indeed, clothes are as much a part of the character of David as his withering stare, whilst Moria sports a mammoth collection of designer costumes reflecting each of her many different moods throughout the series.

I don’t know if it was watching this whilst wearing the same lockdown joggers I’d worn for weeks, but the depth of expression conveyed through the detailed costumes had me desperately craving something to dress for. Likewise, the show is littered with symbolism which lends itself to being re-watched, over and over.

Moreover, it provides a refreshing antidote to the toxic narratives of self-improvement which are particularly present around this time of year. Throughout the six seasons, every one of the characters undergoes significant personal developments, making them into kinder, more empathetic people.

Crucially, these are portrayed not as the result of harsh resolutions or overnight transformations, but as the product of slowly drawn out shifts brought about by their interactions with those around them.
These positive changes are nurtured not forced and are presented with a subtle pace contrary to the typical Hollywood drive for instant gratification.

Indeed, part of the joy of Schitt’s Creek is the satisfaction you get from finishing and then looking back to where it started; with people who were not very nice but who had the chance to start afresh.

Image: Wikimedia Commons