Schitt's Creek

The fifth season of "Schitt's Creek" is now playing on Pop, but its word-of-mouth success got a big bump due to its presence on Netflix. 

I would guess few people first discovered the Canadian comedy “Schitt’s Creek” at its permanent home on the Pop cable network. A lot of people probably don’t even know they have a channel on their cable system called Pop. Apparently it used to be the TV Guide Network until 2015.

Instantly a top-rated show in its home and native land, “Schitt’s Creek” became a word-of-mouth hit in America in large part because it began airing on Netflix in 2017, becoming available to a whole new audience. A similar bump happened with Lifetime’s “You" when it came to Netflix: that show discovered a bunch of new viewers who never thought they’d watch a Lifetime TV series.

“Schitt’s Creek” is now so big that the cast — including show creators Eugene and Daniel Levy (father and son in real life as well as on the show), Catherine O’Hara and Annie Murphy — are going on a national tour that includes two shows at the Chicago Theater in February. I know at least one Madisonian who is making the trip.

With so much focus on the avalanche of new shows on Netflix and other streaming sites, it’s worth remembering that such platforms can make unlikely hits out of network and cable shows too. It’s been perfect for “Schitt’s Creek,” a show that has gotten better and better over its four seasons, and premiered its fifth season on Pop last week. Fans who can’t wait for Season 5 to hit Netflix this fall had better find Pop in their cable guide.

“Schitt’s Creek” may be the best show based on the worst pun. The small town (it's filmed in Ontario, but the show has purposefully never said where the fictional Schitt's Creek is located) was purchased by video store magnate Johnny Rose (Eugene Levy) as a joke. But the joke’s on him; when the Rose family’s business manager robs them blind, the only asset they have left is the small town. Gold-plated tails between their legs, the Rose family — Johnny, his faded soap opera star wife Moira (O’Hara), and their pampered adult children David (Daniel Levy) and Alexis (Murphy), relocate to the motel in Schitt’s Creek. It’s like a reluctant “Green Acres.”

SCTV veterans Eugene Levy and O’Hara are comedy royalty, and it’s a blast to see them interact together on-screen, the gruff Levy often playing straight man to the theatrical, self-involved O’Hara. Moira is clearly a role written for O’Hara, who plays her as sort of a screwball Norma Desmond, desperate to cling to her fame. In the fifth-season premiere, she’s in Bosnia playing a role in a bad horror movie as a half-woman, half-crow, and it’s hilarious and even a little heroic to watch how deeply Moira commits to such a ridiculous part.

Daniel Levy (also head writer and show runner) and Murphy have inherited O’Hara’s goofy energy as the squabbling siblings, masters of the rich-kid half-sneer/half-pout. But while they're delightfully silly, they also grow and evolve over the course of four seasons as they become part of the little town. Also, David’s taste in questionably trendy sweaters is a riot.

While the fish-out-of-bottled-water sitcom premise of “Schitt’s Creek” feels as familiar as television itself, the show is remarkably progressive. In particular, David’s sexuality and his relationship with his business partner (Noah Reid) doesn’t face any homophobia in this rural town. And as the show’s gone on, it’s emphasized the affection between the members of the family. Johnny’s pining for Moira while she’s off in Bosnia is rather adorable.

Aside from “funny,” “adorable” seems to be the most fitting adjective for “Schitt’s Creek,” which doesn’t have a mean bone in its body. Even the disgusting local mayor (Chris Elliott), who initially seemed like he would be an antagonist for the Rose family, has been won over by them. Whether you visit “Schitt’s Creek” on Pop or Netflix, its generosity of spirit will keep you coming back.

Also on streaming: In case you’re not feeling creeped out enough in your daily life, Netflix premieres the four-part docu-series “Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes” on Thursday. The series features hours of never-before-heard audio interviews with the notorious serial killer and other key figures in the investigation of his murders.

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Rob Thomas is the features editor and social media editor for the Capital Times, as well as its film critic. He joined the Cap Times in 1999 and has written about movies, music, food and books.