Review: Schitt’s Creek 1×1-1×2 (Canada: CBC)

The best joke is the title

Schitt's Creek

In Canada: Tuesdays, 9pm ET, CBC
In the US: Acquired by TVGN/POP  

Every time a new Canadian comedy comes along, like some demented TV-watching dog hopefully expecting the return of its owners, I look up, wag my tail and grin.

“Maybe this is it. Maybe this is the one. Maybe this is the funny one.”

Now, it’s not like these are totally unfounded hopes. After all, Satisfaction was a moderately funny comedy that could have been even better with a cast that knew how to act.

But that was something of a needle in an Insecurity/Seed/Working The Engels/18 To Life/Men With Brooms/Hiccups haystack. Because on the whole, Canadian sitcoms, particularly those on the CBC, suck like Dracula in a dorm room after 10 years on a diet of sparkling water and crackers.

Nevertheless, my tail started awaggling away when I heard that Schitt’s Creek was coming. Look at the risky title! Even before it aired, Canadians were umming and ahhing about that: “When grown adults think the height of witticism is some sort of wordplay on crudity I tend to yawn.” This was going to be daring, by Canadian standards.

But more so, look at the cast: Eugene Levy from American Pie, Catherine O’Hara from SCTV and Home Alone as a rich couple who buy a small, dead-end rural town joke, but end up having to move there when all their assets are seized by the tax inspectors. It’ll be the new Arrested Development, won’t it?

And the reviews! Look at the reviews: “CBC may end up getting the last laugh by having the strongest homegrown sitcom this country has had since, well, that show about not much going on that just recently made a movie.”

That’s right! Schitt’s Creek might be the strongest home grown sitcom since… that other thing he’s talking about that’s probably Corner Gas!

Look out. Here it comes. Here it comes!

Oh crap. It’s rubbish. That’s me fooled again, then.

Here’s a trailer.

About
When a filthy rich video store magnate Johnny Rose (Eugene Levy), his soap star wife Moira (Catherine O’Hara), and their two kids – über-hipster son David (Dan Levy) and socialite daughter Alexis (Annie Murphy) – suddenly find themselves broke, they are forced to live in Schitt’s Creek, a small, depressing town they once bought as a joke.

With their pampered lives now abandoned, they must confront their new-found poverty and discover what it means to be a family, all within the rural city limits of their new home. SCHITT’S CREEK is a character driven, half-hour single-camera comedy co-created by Eugene Levy and Dan Levy.

Is it any good?
Well, it’s not unremittingly terrible, since it does have the occasional joke, but this feels like someone watched Arrested Development, then told someone else about it, who told someone else about it, and then after about 15 more steps of Chinese Whispers, someone not especially talented decided to write something based on what they’d heard – assuming ‘banana stand’ and ’stair car’ could be misheard as ‘crappy rural town’.

The show’s main joke is that ‘rich people can be slightly out of touch’ with the lives of normal folk, expecting to be waited on hand and foot, their every need attended to, with strange ideas of how normal folk live and unable to survive if placed in situations where they have to deal with the reality of existence.

Which was fine for rather a lot of Arrested Development. A season apiece for Running Wilde and Hank. Multiple seasons of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Absolutely Fabulous. Frasier. And so on.

But Schitt’s Creek does exactly the same while adding nothing – its best joke is the title. You’ll know exactly what’s coming at practically every point, whether it’s the daughter and the son being dumped by their lovers and friends once they’re poor, turning up at a beer party expecting pint glasses, or believing that there’ll be a hamam next door to their motel.

To be fair, the cast are fine, with show creator Dan Levy very good as the ultra-hipster son, although one questions exactly how old he and his sister (Annie Murphy) are supposed to be. The show is also equally at home at showing that while the rich Rose family have unrealistic expectations of life in a motel, the members of the town are pretty much bottom of the barrel, low-achievers whose idea of customer service is providing an espresso machine or who steal doors to get their revenge.

But even after two episodes, I found very little redeeming about the show. Even on its own terms, it’s stupid – rich people may be out of sorts among the poor, but when they’re dealing with money (especially if they’re self-made), they know what they’re doing, and the idea that it might not be easy to sell an entire town in one go doesn’t hit home until the end of the second episode and even then, only when it’s pointed out by another character. One would have imagined breaking the town up into individual plots or selling the whole thing off to a mining concern would have been obvious options, but at this rate, it’ll be episode 13 before anyone even thinks of that.

So despite the fact it’s already been re-commissioned for a second season and sold to the US, file this one away in the long collection of Canadian comedies that fail to excite. Maybe next time, hey?