Eugene Levy, of “SCTV,” “American Pie” and the films of Christopher Guest, was waiting at the old Culver Hotel in Culver City for his son and collaborator, Dan, to arrive.
“It’s the fashionably late thing they [young people] really take to heart,” Levy said.
The Levys, 69 and 32 respectively, are the co-creators and costars of “Schitt’s Creek,” an exceedingly funny situation comedy of Canadian origin that plays in the United States on the Pop channel. Its second season begins Wednesday; a third has been ordered.
Dan arrived. “You look sharp,” he told his father, who was wearing a suit the son had picked out for him. Dan also looked sharp, in a more casual way, and more genuinely stylish than his fashion-defined “Schitt’s Creek” character, whose tastes are more cutting-edge than classic.
The series focuses on the Rose family, defrauded of their fortune and forced, by their own inability to frame a better option, to live in two connecting motel rooms in a monetarily worthless town they happen to own. (Eugene’s Johnny Rose, the father, had bought it for his son, Dan’s David, as a kind of gag gift; they were that kind of rich.) It’s a familiar idea on paper, but in execution it has a life all its own.
It was not long before the Levys were competing against each other in the best actor in a television comedy category at the Canadian Screen Awards.
The series and its cast would go on to sweep the TV comedy categories, with father besting son. There were awards too for Catherine O’Hara, Eugene Levy’s frequent castmate and fellow comedy icon who plays Johnny’s wife, Moira; for Chris Elliott as Mayor Roland Schitt; for Emily Hampshire, who plays David’s dark, deadpan, antagonistic soul mate, Stevie; and for the show itself.
Annie Murphy, who plays Dan’s sister, Alexis, and Jennifer Robertson, who plays Roland’s wife, Jocelyn, were also nominated. (Dan’s actual sister, Sarah Levy, is also on the show, as the town waitress, Twyla.)
Is there anything in their own relationship they’ve transferred to their characters?
“Our relationship?” Eugene asked. “There’s not much of a relationship, I’m afraid to say.”
“Yeah, it’s a shame,” Dan said, laughing. “Obviously you’re at an advantage when you’re writing a family dynamic and you’ve experienced the dynamic. I know where we can take the character of Johnny — a lot of the time it’s just how far can we take the character of Johnny before I get an email from my dad reading the notes at the end of the night saying, ‘you know, I have a problem with how far you’ve taken Johnny.’”
The younger Levys were not discouraged from following their father into show business.
“No, I didn’t,” Eugene said. “I was lucky. Horrible experiences meaning you’re sleeping on the floor blowing dust balls away from the crumpled-up shirt you’re using as a pillow …"
“I think that’s just college,” Dan cut in.
"… that was actually fun.”
Dan had appeared as an MTV Canada host for some years before he worked with his father in an improvised spoof of a “Super Sweet 16" episode that “I did for my actual 26th birthday — the first time I had ever acknowledged who my dad was.”
“It was fun,” Eugene said, “because he was doing very well, not trying to be funny, just playing the premise of the scene — which is what a good improvisation is.”
“But you were tentative about this,” said Dan, meaning the series.
“I can’t say I was tentative about it,” Eugene said. “I was excited about the prospect of working with Dan, but this is a different animal. This isn’t like sketch work, this is creating a character you want the audience to be emotionally involved with — it’s a character-driven show, but you’ve got to have the audience with you. Otherwise when you hit your first bad joke, you lose them and that’s it. What I didn’t know was, as an actor, could he create a character that has that kind of depth to it?
Then came the first episode, and “he just popped right out of the gate,” said Eugene, very much the proud papa. “It was like, pow! It happened.”
When: 8 p.m. Wednesday
Rating: TV-14 (may be unsuitable for children under the age of 14)