As Schitt's Creek bids farewell, fans cling to its levity and 'humanity'
After 6 seasons, beloved Canadian comedy airs finale
It has earned multiple Emmy Award nominations and a celebrity following that includes singer Mariah Carey and NBA star Steph Curry.
Schitt's Creek wraps its sixth and final season tonight, and its rare dose of good-natured comedy has many fans turning to the Canadian sitcom for respite during particularly dark times.
"It's a show that's really about the power of community and the power of acceptance," said show co-creator and star Dan Levy.
"I think those are messages that mean more than ever before."
WATCH | Dan Levy shares how he and the Schitt's Creek team will be celebrating the series finale.
Zia Ahmed, a self-professed superfan in Toronto, echoes the feeling. "You have all these characters thrown into this dire situation in their lives. And now they're trying to make the best out of it, and find humour."
Ahmed, 49, and his American-born husband, Scott Weidler, 60, say they're trying to do the same, like so many people who are forced to remain inside their homes to prevent the spread of COVID-19. But they've noticed their attitude to the show has gone from simple entertainment to creature comfort.
"Before the pandemic, we weren't so focused on watching it right away when [a new episode] came out," said Weidler. "But I think these last few weeks, we've been like, 'Oh, it's coming, it's coming!'"
The CBC comedy follows the once-wealthy Rose family in a riches-to-rags plot. Patriarch Johnny (played by Eugene Levy) used to be a video store mogul alongside soap star wife Moira Rose (Catherine O'Hara), before bad managers drained them dry and forced them to move to a small town.
Their grown but emotionally stilted children, David and Alexis (Dan Levy and Annie Murphy, respectively), come into their own as they're forced to mingle with common folk and get real jobs.
What the Roses have lost in fortune, they end up gaining in relationships.
The characters' quirks, from David's emotional detachment and germaphobia to Moira's outlandish outfits and inexplicable accent, have provided endless GIFs and one-liners, some of which have landed on T-shirts ("Ew, David!") and coffee mugs.
In one of the show's most famous lines, David says (while under his bed covers), "I'm trying very hard not to connect with people right now." But it's clear the series has done the opposite.
The comedy has drawn a cult following, which began in Canada and gradually migrated south of the border after the series became available on Netflix in 2017. It gained prominence as a much-needed distraction in some American households.
"It's a comforting and wonderful show about love and humanity and friendship and community," said L.A.-based Variety editor Kate Aurthur. "Something people really wanted and needed after the 2016 election."
'It's moved the bar'
As the series evolved, the writing became more confident and the zingers landed more naturally in subsequent seasons. The New York Times, which called the series "drab and underwritten" when it debuted in 2015, began championing it several years later as "funny and light and loopy."
WATCH | Dan Levy discusses what makes Schitt's Creek such an open-minded place
"It's not humour at anyone's expense," said Murphy. "It's kind storytelling. And I hope it can be a model going forward to promote more of that."
Murphy and other cast members have become familiar faces at awards shows and on the U.S. talk show circuit, having appeared on the couches of Ellen, Stephen Colbert and Jimmy Fallon, among others. And in the face of COVID-19, as studios were forced to shut down production, the series has made myriad "what to watch" lists while in quarantine.
"The ensemble, the meaning of the show, the representation of LGBTQ characters, these are revolutionary things. I think it's moved the bar," said Aurthur, adding that O'Hara's portrayal of Moira Rose will go down as "one of the great characters in television history."
A documentary called Best Wishes, Warmest Regards, which captures the making of the sixth season, will air right after the finale to give fans a glimpse of the cast and their camaraderie on set.
"I've been telling people that we're not necessarily saying goodbye," said Dan Levy. "We're just saying farewell for now. But the magic of TV is that these characters live on…. All we're really doing is closing a chapter on this story."
And that means in every respect.
He added: "I think we saved the best Moira 'look' for last."
The series finale of Schitt's Creek airs on CBC Television and CBC Gem April 7 starting at 8 p.m./8:30 p.m. NT.
With files from Deana Sumanac