A couple of weeks ago, we explored The Office on the occasion of its 15th anniversary, finding ways to appreciate its greatness and the density of its characters. A thing that I fixated on was growth: how Michael softened, how Jim and Dwight reached detente, and the test that Jim and Pam endured in the show’s final season. It’s such an underappreciated blessing for a show to have the longevity, personnel, and courage to resist the urge to play, exclusively, to applause. So rare for a show to expand out while keeping its soul intact, taking characters to unique places that seem to challenge (but which ultimately affirm) an audience’s faith in them. That’s what’s on my mind following the pretty perfect series finale of Schitt’s Creek. That and the idea of what makes certain shows timeless and eminently rewatchable.
I am lazily working through my 5th or 6th rewatch of The Office, eschewing what feels like a professional responsibility to check off myriad other shows and films that I have never had time to absorb. It’s just comfortable and uncomplicated. Familiar. Parks And Rec is another show that fits that description. A lot of people also seem to be refinding Cheers and leaning on its comedic reliability. (What a time for Friends to be out of sight and out of mind.) The common thread is, to me, that penchant for character growth — even when it’s subtle. But there’s something else.
Seinfeld, for all of its titanic genius, doesn’t appeal to me right now even though, historically (and thanks to an overdose of WPIX reruns in the NY metro area in the ‘90s and 2000s), it’s the show I’ve watched most in my life. The same goes for Arrested Development and Curb Your Enthusiasm — amazing shows nearly unrivaled in their wit and ability to spark a laugh. And yet, no one really gets closer — either to a better version of themselves or, really, to the people around them. There’s just no heart or care tying characters to each other. There’s nothing usefully aspirational. And aspiration is very in and necessary right now.
Contrast that to Schitt’s Creek. When we first met the Rose family, they were a vapid collection of fallen rich folks slumming it in a roadside motel and drowning on the quirk and commonness of their surroundings. Six seasons later, and they’re still a little vapid, but their hearts have (slowly) opened up thanks to the swell of an extended family that crashed into their orbit, altering attitudes and priorities. Stevie and Roland allowed Johnny to find a way out of his rut, Alexis was forever changed by her relationship with Ted, and David’s eyes were opened to his own potential as someone who could build tangible things — like his business and his relationship with Patrick. And, of course, there are crossovers and several other interactions that have elevated these characters and the show. It all stands as a reminder that good things can and do happen when you let good people into your life.
Moira has been, without a doubt, the character that changed the least, and that’s been a gift. Her theatricality and (mostly benign) snobbishness has been the show’s most enduring hook (right down to her epic headgear at David and Patrick’s wedding in the finale) and Catherine O’Hara has reminded us of her legend status while playing her. With that said, though, the feels have come for Moira as well in season 6 and it’s been a delight seeing her and Alexis bond in a way that has helped Alexis take a huge step in her life.
I cannot stress enough how organic this has all felt. It’s something co-creator and star Dan Levy prioritized and something that filmmaker Cameron Crowe highlighted on the Schitt’s Creek behind the scenes special that followed the finale, saying, “the love that started to come in was really well earned.” It’s even more miraculous that that slow burn was allowed to come to a boil when you consider that the show moved along as a cult favorite before a mid-life burst of interest elevated it to a higher space in the cultural zeitgeist. A switch that did not cause it to wither. Through it all, Levy held firm and the show maintained its sense of self and level of quality from start to finish, never hitting the valleys that other shows do. It’s approach to character growth and its reflection on small-town life, family dynamics, love, and sex (and sexuality) stand as a blueprint for other shows to follow, one that mined the absurdities of life while also ignoring cynicism and wearing its heart on its sleeve.
I’ve got a friend who is three months into an exercise in futility — keeping himself from watching the final episodes of Hulu’s The Runaways because he loved it so much that he doesn’t want to see it end. There are a lot of holes in his logic, primarily being that endings are part of the process. But with Schitt’s Creek, I kind of see his point. It would be lovely to know that, week after week, we’d continue to get a little dose of the chicken soup that the show brings. But to put a positive spin on things, I’m not looking at this finale as an actual ending, more a reminder of all this show could be and an enticement to go back and watch them do it all over again with a near-immediate binge-watch, safe in the knowledge that it’ll offer the kind of warm hug that only the classics can deliver.