Mediascape: ‘Schitt’s Creek’ is guaranteed to lighten today’s grim mood

Sublime cast and writing put a bow on one of television’s finest sitcoms

“Schitt’s Creek,” Netflix

With television news seemingly getting darker and our blood pressure and anxiety rising by the minute, there are plenty of shows from the lighter side of life we can watch to lower the temperature.

One of those programs is the critically acclaimed, award-winning Canadian off-kilter series “Schitt’s Creek,” which is sure to spur some laugh-out-loud binge-watching from this cult-classic comedy masterpiece.

Helmed by actors Eugene Levy and Catherine O’Hara, two veterans of television’s quirky “SCTV” and the Christopher Guest-directed mockumentaries “Best in Show,” “Waiting for Guffman” and “A Mighty Wind,” “Schitt’s Creek” runs with a fish-out-of-water premise that easily could have worn out its welcome midway through its first season. But its collection of wry, witty and subversive writers hilariously showcases the series’ sublime cast of Canadian actors who deftly take on the collective persona of the Roses, a dysfunctional, once-wealthy family and the town’s oddball collection of residents who reside in the backwater burg of Schitt’s Creek.

Here’s the premise, if you don’t know by now: The Rose family’s video rental business — and million-dollar fortune — went up in flames, thanks to the shady dealings of their unscrupulous business manager. The only remaining asset still in the Rose family name is the tiny town of Schitt’s Creek, which family baron Johnny purchased years ago on a whim for his son David’s birthday. It’s the setting for television’s funniest sitcom of the past decade.

The term dysfunction doesn’t quite do justice in describing the miasma that is the Rose family. In addition to befuddled Johnny, who can’t quite the misfortune that has struck his formerly gilded life. He’s married to Moira, a trainwreck of a former soap television star who has more in common with her vast collection of wigs and handbags than with her two grown children. Moira’s affected, indecipherable accent slings her haughty zingers, veiled putdowns and sometimes incoherent gibberish at the town’s bemused townsfolk.

The show’s breakout stars are Daniel Levy (Eugene’s real-life son) and Annie Murphy, who play the Roses’ son David and daughter Alexis, respectively. David is a scatterbrained dilettante most accustomed to looking out for Number One (himself) than in caring about the problems of anyone within his orbit. And Alexis, a pampered, beautiful knock-off of Paris Hilton, can’t quite grasp just why she has found herself in this horrible social dilemma (eww!).

The town’s assorted cast of characters is a laboratory of strange human gene pool varients. There’s guileless Ted, Alexis’s erstwhile puppy-dog veterinarian boyfriend. They make a cute couple — Ted is the lovelorn on-again, off-again suitor of the childish, insecure young diva who is a few loaves shy of a fully formed woman. Then there’s the cynical Rose Motel’s sarcastic front-desk clerk Stevie Budd, who finds herself drawn to soulmate — and pansexual — David, sauntering garage owner Bob, and ever-skeptical City Council member Ronnie Lee. The sole American in the cast is Chris Elliott, who plays dim, nettlesome town mayor Roland Schitt.

These talented actors are a delicious mixture of misfits who keep viewers coming back to watch. But make no mistake, Canadian doyenne O’Hara is the show’s star, with all of her grandiosity and insecurity on display. She’s a reliable hoot in each episode and nimbly plays alongside her longtime screen mate Levy, who plays befuddled straight man to these goofballs. One of the show’s legendary catch phrases “Fold in the cheese” is introduced in this video clip.

While the Rose family and their townsfolk might come across as unlikeable, the show’s brilliant team of writers and the aforementioned actors make sure the premise doesn’t come off the rails. And over the course of the series’ six seasons, the Rose family members come to grips with life without wealth and glamour through personal epiphanies, allowing them to emotionally grow and blossom.

The growing pains are most apparent with Alexis, who finally understands that her relationship with Ted is at odds with their individual goals and dreams. In a couple of tearful, moving scenes, two couple tearfully concludes their lives are headed in different, more rewarding directions. Annie Murphy’s scenes with Dustin Milligan, who plays Ted, are heartbreakingly emotional and lay bare Alexis’s vulnerabilities.

Dan Levy, like the chip off the old block that he is, deftly handles his snarky lines with the exquisite timing of an old pro, like his dad. Young Levy wrote many of the show’s scripts and directed some of the episodes — while also serving as showrunner for “Schitt’s Creek.”

“Schitt’s Creek” deservedly swept the Emmy Awards a few years back for its final culminating season. It also accomplished something that other very funny, popular sitcoms didn’t do — call it quits while at the top of its game (“The Office” comes to mind).

You can catch all six seasons on Netflix, but sometime this fall, the sitcom will shift over to Hulu.