'Schitt's Creek': TV Review

Schitt's Creek Still - H 2014
Steve Wilkie

Schitt's Creek Still - H 2014

Levy and O'Hara steal the show in this promising Canadian comedy

Eugene Levy and Catherine O'Hara star in a single-camera comedy about a wealthy family that relocates to a small town after losing it all

Whether it's a workplace comedy, teen vampire drama or surreal murder mystery, most TV series set in tiny towns are quick to point out the charm and lovable personalities that can be found there.

Schitt's Creek isn't one of those shows.

Co-created by Eugene Levy and his son, Daniel Levy, the single-camera comedy finds out what happens when a rather despicable wealthy family is transplanted to a rather despicable small town named, yes, Schitt's Creek.

The reason for the upheaval? Patriarch Johnny Rose (Eugene Levy) and his wife, Moira (Catherine O'Hara), owe years of unpaid taxes. The government seizes their mansion and nearly all their possessions, leaving them and their two grown children to fend for themselves.

With a few bags of designer suits and wigs in tow, the Roses are forced to relocate to the town Johnny purchased years ago as a gag. As it turns out, Schitt's Creek is aptly named: Its only motel is a leaky hole in the wall, and its mayor, Roland N. Schitt (Chris Elliott), is a slimy bumpkin who spends much of his leisure time on the toilet.

That's not to say the Roses have many endearing qualities of their own. Johnny can't shed his sense of entitlement, and former soap star Moira thrives on high drama. Self-absorbed daughter Alexis (Annie Murphy) lives by the Paris Hilton playbook, right down to her relationship with a playboy named Stavros. Son David (Daniel Levy) has a stronger bond with his Parisian moisturizer than any human being.

Indeed, much of the charm of Schitt's Creek comes from seeing longtime collaborators Levy and O'Hara portraying such extreme, unsympathetic characters. Only these award-winning talents could pull off the levels of deadpan required to convince us that, say, the parents can't remember their own daughter's middle name.

Another bright spot in the mix is Emily Hampshire's portrayal of Stevie, the disgruntled motel employee who wants to leave town more than anyone. It's through supporting characters like hers that we just might start to see a glint of substance in the superficial Rose clan.

Originally produced for Canadian television, Schitt's Creek marks a notable entry for rerun- and reality-heavy Pop TV (formerly TV Guide Network). Thirteen half-hour episodes make up its first season, and CBC Television has renewed it for a second.

While the show's title doesn't exactly conjure squeaky-clean imagery, it's worth emphasizing these episodes are a bit bawdier than a network comedy like Modern Family. (I'd place its tone more on par with It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia.) Sure, the Roses may have been loaded, but they're not above scatological humor or the occasional obscene gesture.

Around the fourth or fifth episode of Schitt's Creek, the family's behavior starts to become a smidge less predictable: David decides to sell his pricey wardrobe; Alexis finds herself attracted to a bearded environmentalist; Johnny and Moira display genuine affection for each other. These moments signal the small town comedy just might have room to grow.

Unfortunately, viewers are fickle, and it's hard to predict whether they'll stick with the series as it evolves or simply decide they don't give a … well, you know.

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