I wrote earlier about the series Schittt's Creek as pastoral: (https://janeaustenandotherwriters.blogspot.com/2020/04/journal-of-plague-year-schitts-creek-as.html). Now that I have finished all six seasons, I would like to laud the show in more general terms: I simply can't recommend it too highly. Lara Zarum, writing for The New York Times, sums it up as:
Sweet but never saccharine, the show has tracked the evolution of the Roses — who arrived in Schitt’s Creek full of disdain, with nothing but the couture on their backs — as they’ve been absorbed into the tiny town in the booniesThe formerly wealthy Roses, Johnny, Moira, and their adult children David and Alexis, come to love their adopted home, a sharp contrast to some of their snobbish friends back east. The Roses mature (or renew in the case of the older generation). They thrive as the family grows closer. They also grow as individuals in their new and humbler home. The series has a special resonance for me as I made a similar move with my family to small town America 12 years ago. I also have been changed by the experience in profound and positive ways. I can connect with Catherine O'Hara, who plays family matriarch Moira, when she says of the series' characters, "it's like we're aliens learning to be humans." I too learned to become more human--and humane--living in a new and quieter place.
I am delighted this show got off the ground and has become a slo-mo hit. A documentary at the end of season six highlights, too, what I hadn't fully noticed: that the series has become a beacon to the LGBTQ community because of its matter-of-fact depiction of a loving relationship between two men as something natural, not angst-ridden. I found it heart-warming on the documentary to see the show's embrace by the LGBTQ community.
|Patrick (Noah Reid) and David (Daniel Levy) have a loving relationship.|
|The community and family support David and Patrick in a very natural way.|
I also registered the degree to which the fan devotion depicted in the documentary shows a hunger for kindness. And this gets to the heart of the show. It has been nominated for four Emmys, is beautifully acted and scripted, and thoughtful in developing characters, but the main point is its modeling of kindness and compassion--and a profound equalitarianism--in human relations. It is an exemplar of l'ecriture humaine. And all of this is managed in a non-syrupy way that nonetheless can bring a tear to the eye.
Notably, according to Zarum, the series was turned down by all the U.S. broadcast and cable networks before the producers were able to "cobble together" funding from CBC (Canadian Broadcasting) with a distribution agreement from Europe's ITV Studios. "Finally," as Zarum says, a word that can be read as a sigh, Pop, a U.S. for-pay television channel signed on.
I am not surprised that all the major US outlets refused the series: in fact, I would have been surprised if it were otherwise. The innate, gentle humanity of the show would be anathema to the backers of such psychopathically hard-hearted mini-series as "Game of Thrones" and "West World" or some of the cruel sitcoms out there. Yet, as is so often the case, marginalization was a boon for the show. The series developed under the radar, largely unnoticed--as if, in fact, the Levys were in Schitt's Creek. As Zarum notes:
Levy says the show’s distance from the Hollywood hoopla gives him a certain level of freedom as a storyteller. “We operate very much in an isolated bubble up in Canada,” he said.
I copy below four New York Times' commenters' comments, all surprisingly non-acerbic for the Times:
"I'm so obsessed with the show that I had a "Fold in the Cheese!" apron made up for holiday cooking. I found it marvelously funny from the first episode, but what caught me off guard is how I first cried at the end of Season 2, which turned to occasional blubbering in Season 3, and now I'm often a mess watching the stories unfold.
The very rare program that lets the characters grow in a natural and organic way, but retains each of their very distinct personalities and quirks as they expand to become more fully realized people.
It's also extremely significant because it's the first example I can remember in any television or film program that accurately depicts an LGBT romance/relationship as they so often are in real life...no big deal. There is no exaggeration, no heightened parody, no big statements. Just people being people and those around them embracing them for it. The portrayal is long overdue and means the world to so many of us." John
Honestly, this show has saved our sanity as we turn from the insanity of our politics and fear and tune in to this wonderful series. This past season was poignant, heartfelt and just magical...I talk this show up to everyone who will listen to me. We will miss them. Darby Stevens
“The show really has gotten us through the darkest time I can remember in our politics, and I'm Catherine O'Hara's age [60s]. Maybe we'll survive after all." Neenee
“The show is superbly written, no wasted dialog, respectful of each character, exquisitely funny and no inane laugh track to tell is what to think." Mike
The series is an example of how l'ecriture humaine transcends the snobbish. Using Shakespeare, Virginia Woolf, Hemingway, and EM Forster as exemplars of l'ecriture humaine can leave the false impression that this kind of writing is only the province of a certain type of literature and only for a certain kind of person, when nothing could be further from the truth. Part of this project is to go past pretty wrappings to the core of what a humane literature and media is.
|Twyla (Sarah Levy) and Moira in the Tropical Cafe. The Levy family is responsible for the series and three of them, including Sarah, star in it.|
Past blogs have shown that a l'ecriture humaine highlights the domestic, the circular, the point-of-view of the underdog, the empathetic, the rejection of ritual humiliation, and the equalitarian. Schitt's Creek has all of these attributes. What especially moves me is its radical equalitarianism--unlike a show such as Downtown Abbey, which celebrates a hierarchical society, there is no hierarchical pecking order in Schitt's Creek. We even learn something at the end about Twyla, the waitress, that makes it impossible to slot her into a 'lesser' category. When this ending first emerged, I thought it ludicrous, then realized it is a part of the radical vision of the show, which consciously or not, creates a world where all people are equal. Pastoral and visionary literature thus merge.
Some will possibly reject the series for a few disgusting or raunchy gags, especially at the beginning. That would be a mistake in my opinion, but to each their own.