Did ‘Schitt’s Creek’ end too soon? How the cast feels about wrapping during the pandemic
The Rose family is all here, albeit in small rectangular windows on screens scattered across North America. Dan Levy is in his Los Angeles home with his rescue pup, Redmond. Annie Murphy connects from Toronto. Catherine O’Hara can’t get her video to work but then appears in all her glory from L.A. Eugene Levy is the last to join. Apparently his watch is 10 minutes slow — he holds it up to the camera as proof — prompting an eye roll from son, Dan.
“You could use your phone, you know?” he says, his tone of exasperated reproach instantly recognizable from the beloved television show the Levys created, the late, great “Schitt’s Creek.”
This quartet has done this kind of thing before, gathering with the show’s cast and crew to watch the “Schitt’s Creek’s” series finale on Zoom in April. It was a bittersweet evening. They were together, but, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, not in the same room, a celebration punctuated by laughter and a few tears — not all that different from the conversation today. Of late, almost every time this group unites, there’s a couple of lump-in-the-throat moments amid the acerbic humor and good-natured ribbing.
“Here we go,” Eugene says after longtime friend O’Hara reacts with sympathy to an emotional story Dan tells about the final day of filming. “It never ends.”
Except it has. After six seasons and a journey that has taken the series from cult status to Emmy favorite, “Schitt’s Creek” has finished its run in a manner that few shows do — on its own terms, at the peak of its popularity and, perhaps, just a bit sooner than some of its cast members (and nearly all of its devoted fans) would prefer. When Dan Levy, who took over running “Schitt’s Creek” in its third season, laments ending the series just as many people began binge-watching it on Netflix during the COVID-19 quarantine, Murphy perks up.
“And that’s why you decided to write Seasons 7 and 8,” she says, laughing.
Levy doesn’t miss a beat.
“Being cooped up in my house for months has led me to write seven more seasons,” he says.
“And shop for wardrobe,” O’Hara interjects.
“You’ll be getting a call in a couple of weeks, Annie,” Eugene says.
“Schitt’s Creek” premiered on the little-known Pop network in 2015 as a straightforward fish-out-of-water comedy about the wealthy Rose family — businessman Johnny (Eugene), soap actress Moira (O’Hara) and their adult children David (Dan) and Alexis (Murphy) — who lose their entire fortune, save for ownership of the isolated titular town once purchased as a gag. They relocate there, taking up residence in adjoining rooms at the shabby Rosebud Motel. Initially, the show’s stories followed the Roses’ attempts to scrape some money together and restore some semblance of their old lives. But slowly, over the course of 80 episodes, the family discovers the small pleasures of community and a real love and understanding for one another.
The Roses’ perfectly paced journey of self-discovery, which included David meeting and, in the finale, marrying his fiance Patrick, imbued “Schitt’s Creek” with a warmth that deepened its connection with its audience. You could feel that appreciation not long ago when the cast toured the country with the “Schitt’s Creek: Up Close & Personal” evenings, gatherings that fostered such a sense of tribal belonging that, O’Hara says, “We almost didn’t need to be there.”
“There was a family thing going on in the audience, and we just got to have the love come our way,” she says.
The cast was scheduled to take a victory lap with a farewell tour this spring and summer. In fact, we spoke when they were supposed to be together in Los Angeles for an evening at the Orpheum Theatre. “I miss it,” O’Hara says. “Oh, how I miss the kindness that you’d feel radiating toward you on those nights.”
But there’s a difference, Dan says, between communing with the fans and being beholden to them. One benefit from having the show fly under the radar for most of its run came with the timing of its conclusion. When “Schitt’s Creek” was renewed for two more seasons after its fourth year, Levy began charting the arc of its ending. The series had seen a bump in its viewership since Netflix began streaming it in January 2017. But it didn’t really start peaking until its fifth season, by which time Levy knew when and how he wanted to wrap up the show. And he had plotted it without worrying about satisfying audience expectations — though, of course, he hoped everyone would like it.
“It was important to make the show’s last episodes just feel like very great episodes and not feel bloated with a backlog of revelations that we need to quickly wrap up,” the younger Levy says. “To me, ‘Six Feet Under’ was one of the greatest finales ever made — fresh, unexpected, creative, emotional. It spoke to the format of the show in a way that was, ‘Of course, this is how it should end,’ and yet, as a viewer, it was the last thing you could have ever imagined.”
Levy did make one concession to fan service in the “Schitt’s” finale. He knew Moira’s ensemble would have to somehow top all the fabulous wigs and iconic couture that had come before. When O’Hara learned she would be officiating David’s wedding in the episode, she suggested a papal theme. That’s the only direction costume designer Debra Hanson needed. Moira wound up wearing a white Alexander McQueen gown, along with a gold chain belt and gold metallic gloves, her Botticelli-inspired hair wrapped around a hat that Pope Francis would bless.
“I will always remember Catherine walking on set for the first time in that garb,” Murphy says. “There was a long silence and then a collective intake of breath and then just slow applause from everyone on set.”
“I loved that the look could be what it was and not take the focus from the beautiful wedding,” O’Hara says. Levy nods. “It’s something to consider when you have a look like that,” he says. “But even though she was in knee-high gold Tom Ford boots,” and here O’Hara bursts out laughing at the image, “there was a calmness and softness about it that allowed it to sit in the background.”
Now that we know David and Patrick are married, Alexis is pursuing a career in New York, and Johnny and Moira are heading to Los Angeles so Moira can work on a soap opera reboot costarring Nicole Kidman (“I’m not sure I like the direction my career is heading, but I’d do anything with Moira,” Kidman says with a laugh over the phone from her Nashville home), it would seem the story is over. But Dan, who has a three-year deal with ABC, does remain open to revisiting the characters.
“Believe me, it’s hard to let go,” he says. “I could have done 100 more seasons.”
“The hardest thing for me these past few years,” Eugene interjects, “was just to kind of walk in and pretend it’s just another day at work without going up to everyone on set and saying, ‘What do you think about the work this kid is doing?’ It’s been a very rewarding experience for me.”
The Canadian comedy “Schitt’s Creek” racked up major Emmy nominations -- including for comedy series and its two leads, Eugene Levy and Catherine O’Hara. They play the parents in the show’s fish-out-of-water, formerly wealthy family, but it’s a real family affair for Levy: Son Daniel co-created and stars in the show.
“And I understand people are sad it’s over,” he continues. “I’m sad too. For the past few years, people have been looking for something to pick them up a little, and they’ve gravitated toward this show as this tonic they could go to for a half hour and forget what was happening in the world.”
Eugene pauses. “When you think about it, the fact that it went out [during] a pandemic seems almost apropos in a way. People couldn’t feel any worse, and here’s our show going out.”
Trailer for the sixth and final season of “Schitt’s Creek”
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