On the internet, the meme-ready phrase “live, laugh, love” is used to pass millennial judgment on things shallow or basic. It conjures images of tacky inspirational posters and moms who live for wine o’clock. But it can be equally comforting, knowing that a simple, consistent thing can bring joy. I am confident that fans of Schitt’s Creek would not be offended if I were to posit that the expression is the most pure of descriptions for their beloved show. After last night’s series finale and behind-the-scenes documentary on CBC, it is safe to say that viewers satisfyingly lived, laughed and loved with their favourite TV family one last time.
A lifetime ago – the more innocent, prepandemic days of March, 2019, – co-creator Daniel Levy announced that his hit comedy was wrapping up after six seasons. Although Levy has said he always knew how the show would conclude, no one could have predicted the self-isolated world in which the finale would arrive. Escapes from reality have been few. So as millions of Canadians and Americans remain homebound and glued to their screens, the conclusion of Schitt’s Creek provided a rare feel-good, must-see TV moment for a strange time.
Season six, episode 14, opens on the morning of the big day. The wedding of David (Daniel Levy) and Patrick (Noah Reid) has arrived, and so have the storm clouds over their outdoor ceremony. But the once down-and-out Rose family – David, father Johnny (father Eugene Levy), mother Moira (Catherine O’Hara) and sister Alexis (Annie Murphy) – have learned how to live to the fullest without their riches, and their last hurrah will not be rained on, literally. In good-hearted sitcom fashion, the people of the titular town help get the nuptials back on track.
Laughs ensue, of course. David, despairing over the weather, starts off the half-hour with an endearing string of F-words (a wonderful, censor-pushing outburst). To calm David down, Patrick engages the services of a masseur who provides the finale’s first happy ending, however inadvertent (“All I did was leave an envelope full of cash and a note to take very good care of you!”). Later, Moira steals the show for a final time, pressed last-minute into officiating the ceremony – although surely no one had to press her into an outfit best described as: the pope, but make it fashion.
Above all is a tear-jerking, snotty, sobbing love. With the family’s paths laid clear in previous episodes – Moira reboots her soap-opera career, Johnny builds a motel empire, Alexis chooses independence over love – the focus is all on saying I do and farewell. The wedding begins with a nod to long-time fans as the townspeople sing James Morrison’s Precious Love, a callback to a favourite party scene from the second season; it ends with the final cover song of Schitt’s Creek – a series full of viral musical moments – as Patrick sets his vows to a solo rendition of Mariah Carey’s Always Be My Baby. Was there a single dry eye tuned into the CBC last night?
Then, the final happy ending. The family hugs goodbye outside the motel they’ve called home. Moira and Johnny leave town in a black SUV, but not before turning back for just one last look. “Welcome to Schitt’s Creek,” the town sign reads, “Where everyone fits in.”
The 45-minute postfinale documentary is a victory lap centred on the show’s celebrity in its latter seasons as it nailed the Netflix sweet spot and made famous friends along the way. At the season-four mark, the trajectory of Schitt’s Creek seemed all too familiar: A minor cult hit created by Canadian comedy royalty, co-produced by the CBC and destined for a shelf full of Canadian Screen Awards. Then, in a serendipitous mix of word of mouth, memes and Netflix, the show broke through the maple-leaf ceiling.
Schitt’s Creek did not need to go to great pains to fete itself; tastemakers did all the heavy lifting. Carol Burnett, Cameron Crowe, Will Arnett and Paula Abdul are among the celebrities who sing the show’s praises and gush about binge-watching it along with the rest of America. Thousands of those fans show up, screaming, in footage of the cast’s speaking tour, packing theatres across North America. If there is one familiar signpost of the show’s final trajectory, it is the implicit message that while making it in Canada is nice – making it in America is worth four 2019 Emmy nominations.
The real-life happy ending of Schitt’s Creek is the story of Daniel Levy, who had an idea to create a comedy with his father and now is an in-demand creator with a three-year deal from ABC Studios. The documentary lingers happily on the parts of the show that matter most to him: the writing and camaraderie, yes, but also its meticulous costume design and heartfelt depiction of David and Patrick’s relationship. Viewers are shown the impact on LGBTQ culture, from the iconic billboards of David and Patrick kissing to Levy, teary throughout the feature, relating how a fan came out to his family using David’s onscreen analogy: “I like the wine, not the label.”
One potential scene remains elusive from the Schitt’s Creek love-in. There is much footage of the cast winning CSAs over the years and walking U.S. red carpets in the latter heyday. Perhaps in September, even if it is through a virtual ceremony, a scene can be added of Levy and company hoisting an Emmy for the little Canadian show that made it.
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