Photo: CBC

Worth The Wade?

Schitt's Creek is Canada's favorite new show and PopTV's only show. Should you take the plunge?

What Is This Thing?

Schitt's Creek is a CBC original series from father-son creative team/co-stars Eugene Levy and Dan Levy. It's been airing in Canada since January, and began its U.S. run in February on PopTV, formerly known as the TV Guide Network, formerly known as Prevue. The CBC has already picked up the show for a second season, so American viewers should look for it on whatever PopTV is called by then.

When's It On?

Wednesdays at 10 PM ET on PopTV. Repeated throughout the week. As of this writing (March 4), we're five episodes into the 13-episode first season.

Give Me the Elevator Pitch!

Mad Men in the desert, with bombs. Wait, sorry, that's Manhattan, which I just found out is streaming on Hulu Plus, so no more excuses for you. Schitt's Creek is Arrested Development meets either Northern Exposure or Doc Hollywood or Cars. Take your pick, because all three of those are the same thing.

Sounds Decent. What's It About?

The super-rich Rose family loses everything and is forced to move to a town Johnny Rose (Eugene Levy) once bought for his son, David (Dan Levy), as a joke back when money was no object -- the (very) rural town of Schitt's Creek. There they have to try and put the town up for sale, all while dealing with obstacles like Chris Elliott's unctuous, skeevy mayor, the dumpy motel they use for home base, and, more than anything else, themselves.

The Roses are deluded rich people who've never had to buy their own toilet paper, and who've gone a good, long while without knowing how most people live. The Rose children, David and Alexis (Annie Murphy), are jet-setting rich dicks (think Paris and Conrad Hilton) whose newfound poverty has seen them abandoned by all their friends. I'll get to Moira Rose (Catherine O'Hara) in a moment, but Johnny Rose is kind of sort of maybe the most down-to-earth of the four -- he's the Michael Bluth of this situation -- and yet, he's still spectacularly ill-equipped to live without lawyers and money managers.

Let me put it this way: you know those movies where a group is stranded somewhere or post-apocalypsed and there's a rich princess-type who just can't deal? That's 3/4 to 4/4 of the Rose family at any given time.

So It's Hack?

It is definitely not hack, but the first episode may not fill you with confidence, either. Power through, however, and you may well be hooked. It's not that the first episode is bad, it's that the rules of setup require it to play into the show's well-worn scenario, whereas most of the ensuing episodes are about playing against it.

Am I On Board Yet? I May Not Be

Oh, then I've got two words for you: Catherine O'Hara. As former soap star Moira Rose, she treads -- on paper -- some of the same territory frequented by noted go-to rich-lady Jessica Walter. But where Walter's characters (Lucille Bluth, Malory Archer) often show barely contained indignant fury at their reduced circumstances, O'Hara plays Moira as a woman who was born knowing only how to be wealthy and famous. Moira treats poverty as a kidnapper, like she's tiptoeing around it and smiling super-hard so as not to set it off -- and if she's good, maybe it'll wise up and let her go. But every now and then she also blows up at her captor, such as the amazing scene where she's baffled by some uncooperative sheets and ends up screaming at the bedding: "Seriously? Go to Hell. YOU'RE A FOOL!"

O'Hara's always played characters, especially in Christopher Guest's mockumentaries, whose pained fragility is just below what we're seeing. Here she gets to play an amazing gamut of emotions as one nightmare after another comes true for Moira and her family.

I Forgot About The Christopher Guest Angle!

Despite the pairing of Eugene Levy and Catherine O'Hara, Schitt's Creek really is its own thing -- and not a lesser version, like when Leslie Nielsen used to appear in "comedies" that weren't The Naked Gun. It has a slower, more deliberate rhythm than the best-loved Guest movies, and is also sweeter, even earnest. There's a lot of pleasure in watching a genuine friendship warily arrive between uber-cosmopolitan David Rose and cynical front-desk clerk Stevie (Emily Hampshire), or in seeing the would-be no-brainer romance between Alexis Rose and the mayor's lumbersexual son (Tim Rozon) evolve into something more complicated. Schitt's Creek knows its familiar premise makes for a good hook but isn't enough to carry a show in 2015, so it knows it also has to use its cast to the fullest, and play out its moments. Put more simply: check your Guestpectations at the door.

Important Final Question: Does Chris Elliott Wear A Gross Mullet/Ponytail In This Show?

Yes! Now will you watch?

Discussion

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