Schitt's Creek cast raises over $165K for food banks as final episode airs

Co-creator Dan Levy calls the last episode of the hit comedy 'a warm hug.'

Co-creator Dan Levy calls the last episode of the hit comedy 'a warm hug'

The final episode of Schitt's Creek airs tonight. (Schitt's Creek, Episode 101)

One of Canada's biggest-every comedy series is drawing to a close tonight — and it's ending on a charitable note.

Six seasons ago, Schitt's Creek began as a modest Canadian production about a wealthy family that loses its riches and is forced to live in the small town it bought as a joke. 

But the show has become one of the country's biggest-ever comedies, garnering heaps of awards, landing four Emmy noms, inspiring adoring tweets from top celebs, appearing on the cover of Variety, and winning a fiercely loyal audience on both sides of the 49th parallel.

Leading up to the final episode, the cast — which includes Eugene Levy, Catherine O'Hara, Dan Levy and Annie Murphy — has been posting Instagram videos for Schitt's Creek Gives Back, a fundraising initiative for Food Banks Canada and Feeding America to help provide food during the COVID-19 crisis.

Their initial fundraising goal was $100,000; by late afternoon Tuesday the team had raised more than $180,000.

"It's a beautiful reminder that in darkness there is light, and that people are wanting to help in any way possible," said Dan Levy, who is also the co-creator and writer of the show, in an interview with q host Tom Power.

"It's a tough time to be asking for donations from people because people are losing their jobs. So for us, it was really about giving what you can. And if you can't give anything, then just tune in."

During these unprecedented times, the Schitt's Creek cast wanted to show people "the same kind of generosity and goodwill that our fans have shown us over the last six years," according to a written statement on the show's fundraising page.

With unemployment rates skyrocketing, demand at food banks has risen exponentially. At the same time, food bank donations have decreased, volunteer numbers have fallen, and runs on grocery stores have created supply-chain issues.

Levy says the week-long campaign got halfway to its $100,000 goal within the first 24 hours.

"I was stunned by the excitement and people's ability to give," he said. "It's always quite moving to be in such strange and precarious times and be reassured that there's a lot of goodness out there."

An emotional ending

Watching the show come to an end has also been an emotional experience, says Levy — first saying goodbye to the cast and crew, then editing the final episodes, and now watching the final episode go to air.

"I really didn't think I would be quite as emotional as I've been over these last few weeks watching the last episodes," he said.

"But there's something to be said about watching the show wrap itself up and also simultaneously getting to see the fan interactions as these episodes air."

Levy said he never took fans' expectations into account when writing the show, because you run the risk of veering off track. But for the final season, he took a different approach.

"This last season was really the first time I had to take fan expectations into mind because the last season of a show, I think, is inherently for the fans," said Levy, who needed to decide when and how to meet their expectations.

"So I've been very nervous this season to see whether the viewers have responded in the way that I hoped they would to these episodes. And fortunately, they have."

'A warm hug'

Levy points out that the show was made by 147 Canadians with a completely Canadian cast — except Chris Elliott.

Networks wanted to keep the show going, but Levy says they made the difficult decision to end it on a high, rather than to keep it going for as long as possible.

"I feel like the idea of legacy is so important in television. All of the shows I love are shows that ended with people wanting more, and those are the shows that I go back to. I never go back to the shows where I sort of dropped off."

"And I do feel like this season has been our best and that the episode that's airing tonight is, I think, my favourite episode we've ever done."

So what's the key to Schitt's Creek's remarkable success? Levy said that in dark political times, it offered a view of a town where acceptance is key, where bigotry isn't part of the equation, and where conflict is resolved in a thoughtful and respectful way.

"People have really been tuning into the show as an escape from their reality. And it's interesting that our last episode is airing in the height of a global pandemic where people are at home and scared," said Levy. "Because I do feel like this last episode is just a warm hug."