It seems that every year, the amount of content being released increases. Yet only a handful of shows manage to truly stand out. The reasons for this vary. Some are great because of the themes they tackle, others because of the premise they offer. However, one could argue that the bottom line is always the same, the shows that stand out do so because they are refreshing.
Schitt’s Creek which only came to my attention at the end of its run, stands out for that very reason. Unlike the average sitcom, it is optimistic in its outlook and positive in its message. It also seems to tackle conflicts differently. Let me explain.
Warning: While I won’t spoil the plot, I do discuss the general nature in which the story plays out.
The premise of Schitt’s Creek is simple, an ultra-rich American family loses all its money and is forced to come live in a motel in small town America. Fish out of water, that’s where it begins. If handed to any other writer, the show would have spent seasons mocking either the simple mindedness of small town Americans or the snootiness of the urban upper class. Instead the show makes every character, urban or rural, complex, fun and likeable in their own way. No one is reduced to their economic class and the tropes surrounding it.
The Roses, the family that has to move to Schitt’s Creek, are selfish, and self-centered. Their predeliction for the luxurious experiences is paramount. And yes, they do not know what living in a community means and what value it holds. But this is perhaps the key and only “lesson” the show tries to teach them. The writers do not try change who the characters fundamentally are. The Roses do not lose their taste in materials, their sense of humor, or their personalities. They simply come to value being part of a community; which is really the first thing a big city takes away from you. In metropolitan cities, you can get lost (and that can be valuable) but in a small town, you are part of a visible ecosystem and that too is valuable.
In the same vein, while the Roses learn the value of community while remaining the well travelled people they are, the denizens of Schitt’s Creek also learn from the Roses. They gain a sense for business and ambition that can often be lost when safe in a small town. And though they gain this, they do not lose their values or preferences. They retain the quirks they have and that is what makes the show feel wholesome.
It could have been easy, with this premise, to have mocked one side or the other. To have written a cringe comedy. The show does none of that, embracing both sides of America and bringing them closer.
The other aspect of the show that is thoroughly refreshing is how it tackles conflicts. Conflicts are essential to movement of plot. Without conflict, characters have no reason to act, life is in stasis. However, in most shows, and understandably so, each conflict is large and the reaction to it, dramatic. Consider “Friends”, the Ross-Rachel conflict sustains itself for multiple seasons, and is based on one mistake Ross made. This would never happen in Schitt’s Creek. People are sensible, they make mistakes, they talk it out, love always wins. There are no overreactions, nor melodramatic scenes. But there is a lot of heart. It is this heart that makes it plausible for so much of the story to be resolved in the dramatic (but not melodramatic) manner that it is.
Lastly, I think I would be amiss if I didn’t mention the show’s refreshing take on character arcs. Because it does not change who the characters fundamentally are, it also gives them refreshing outcomes. The women don’t eventually realize that all they ever wanted was to settle down and get married. And the men aren’t all commitment-phobes prone to cheating or toxic behavior. In a way, the show sets a bar for healthy relationships and what’s wild is that it does so while placing selfish characters as its protagonists.
In a world plagued by apathy, hatred, and cynicism, Schitt’s Creek seems throw in its lot with those still willing to talk, listen, love, and hope. And its all the better for it.