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The Emmy-Winning Series Fans Are Binging Hardcore On Netflix

Schitt's Creek started its run as a sleeper hit and concluded its final season with a history-making sweep of the major comedy awards at the 2020 Emmys. It wasn't enough that the series won awards for directing, writing, and Outstanding Comedy Series, but each of the four main cast members — Catherine O'Hara, Eugene Levy, Dan Levy, and Annie Murphy — took home acting awards, a first for any TV show. That's quite a feat for a feel-good Canadian sitcom that airs in the U.S. on Pop TV.

While Schitt's Creek has had fans since the beginning, it wasn't until the show was added to Netflix in 2017 that its popularity exploded (via Vulture). And now that the series is an awards season juggernaut, it's gaining even more traction on the streaming service. At the time of writing, Schitt's Creek sits among the list of Netflix's top ten most viewed shows.

The key to the show's (and possible future movie's) success goes far beyond a goofy premise and outrageous characters. There's a real heart and sense of purpose at the center of Schitt's Creek, which is a large part of the reason why Emmy voters and Netflix viewers agree that it's something special.

What is Schitt's Creek about?

The wealthy Rose family are the type of people who worship at the altars of social status and conspicuous consumption. Well, they were that type of people. The very first episode of Schitt's Creek sees their extravagant lifestyle suddenly ripped out from under their feet after they are sent up the titular creek by an unscrupulous business partner. With literally nowhere else to go, the family is forced to retreat to the last property holding in their portfolio: the small town of Schitt's Creek, which they purchased years before as a joke.

All four Roses pack what few belongings weren't confiscated by the government and head off to their new lives. Family patriarch Johnny Rose (Eugene Levy), a video store mogul who knows the value of hard work, tries to see their downfall as an opportunity to rebuild something better. But his eccentric soap opera star wife, Moira (Catherine O'Hara), has a hard time accepting her new reality of living in a motel and taking her meals at the local diner.

Meanwhile, the adult Rose children are getting a taste of real adversity for the first time in their lives. Alexis (Annie Murphy) is a bubbly socialite who's smarter than she's given credit for, but exactly as vain. David (Dan Levy) is brooding and pretentious, but has no small amount of ambition and taste.

While none of the Roses are happy with their lives in Schitt's Creek when they first arrive, the longer they stay in the run-down town, the more they come to learn about the value of family, community, and what it means to let go of the past and embrace the future.

The fascinating story behind Schitt's Creek's conception

Schitt's Creek came to life thanks in part to a very particular cultural phenomenon: the proliferation of reality TV in the 2000s. Dan Levy, who co-created the show, got his start in the entertainment industry working as a Canadian MTV VJ hosting an aftershow for The Hills. The series is famous for bringing audiences into the world of LA fame chasers like Lauren Conrad and the now-infamous couple Heidi Montag and Spencer Pratt, a.k.a. Speidi. It was the latter two who provided some unexpected inspiration for Levy.

As reported by Bustle, when Speidi started having money trouble after getting a taste of the high life, an idea began to percolate. Levy told Entertainment Weekly's Binge podcast, "What I found really fascinating was exploring that cultural awareness and saying now that we all know the day-to-day of these kinds of people — what would it look like if we played on that, took the money away, and examined what the family dynamic would be like without the money?"

Once Levy had this ember of a concept, he went to his father, Best in Show star Eugene Levy, for help developing it into a TV show (via Variety). The elder Levy was also able to rope in his longtime collaborator and legend in her own right, Catherine O'Hara, to join the series.

This idea of a wealthy family's downfall, played in the style of Levy and O'Hara's particular brand of off-kilter character-based humor, is the engine that makes Schitt's Creek run. But there's one more crucial aspect of the show — the gasoline, if you will — that boosts the show into a category all its own.

The kind-hearted ethos of Schitt's Creek

One of Schitt's Creek's most celebrated storylines is the romance between David and his straight-laced business partner, Patrick (Noah Reid). Unlike many gay relationships on TV, David and Patrick's romance only faces adversity relating to their personality clashes, not the potential bigotry of their community.

Dan Levy told GQ that the decision to not let conflicts of intolerance or homophobia define David and Patrick's relationship was a very deliberate choice. He felt that with other shows featuring same-sex couples, the thinking often seemed to be, "'We'll let every straight character live their lives... but the gay characters are here to teach us a lesson.' The characters were being painted with a different brush ultimately, and that to me was really boring."

Instead of a world where David and Patrick might face adversity, Levy wanted to create one where their relationship was allowed to just exist. And that ethos goes far beyond that one relationship, as Levy explained to Variety: "I feel like as humans, we're creatures of habit. If we just see things, we adjust accordingly. I knew there was a risk in terms of not showing the negative side. But at the time, I felt like there were shows and movies that were doing that so beautifully — so what if we just proposed a different idea? How can we explore that freedom and growth that comes with being accepted?"

That commitment to kindness and optimism is what makes Schitt's Creek a unique treasure of a show. You can currently catch five seasons (with the sixth coming soon) on Netflix.