‘Schitt’s Creek’ and the Appeal of Vanilla Gay Romance

Live in Austin, the Comiccon that Never Ends

Living in Austin, Texas, is like existing in a sort of permanent ComicCon. No fandom goes unrewarded. Any minor roadshow or piece of intellectual property can appear in front of large crowds to roaring adulation.

Exhibit A: “Schitt’s Creek: Up Close and Personal,” which sold out Austin’s Paramount Theater for two shows last Saturday night as a headlining act at the Moontower Comedy Festival. Only show creator Daniel Levy and his father, comedy legend and Eugene Levy (Schitt’s Creek’s own Johnny Rose), appeared on the bill. After a bit of banter, they brought out the rest of the surprise ensemble: co-stars Noah Reid, Emily Hampshire, and Annie Murphy, and Catherine O’Hara, the greatest comic actress of our time. When O’Hara appeared, the crowd rose as one, screaming as though she were the Pope crossed with Michelle Obama crossed with the cast of Avengers: Endgame.

When this happened, O’Hara hadn’t even done anything yet. Then she and Levy gave a cute rendition of the God Loves A Terrier song from Best In Show. She did a little bit on the accent of Moira Rose, her epic Schitt’s Creek character, calling them Moira’s “oral mementos of her world travels.” She also talked about Moira’s wigs, saying, “I could no more choose my favorite wig than I could choose my favorite baby.” The crowd yelped as though she were healing them at Lourdes.

Schitt's Creek
Catherine O’Hara, star of stage and screen, appears at Schitt’s Creek Live in Austin.

I love Schitt’s Creek as much as anyone else. It’s a classic sitcom with an immensely appealing cast. There’s a reason I sought out this particular ticket. In fact, I gave the Canadian show one of its earliest write-ups in the States. My thesis then was that Schitt’s Creek was a gentle political parody of rich idiot liberals forced to deal with “real people” when their fortune collapses. That turned out to be a total misreading of the leaves. People wouldn’t fill a concert hall to applaud a sitcom that makes fun of them.

Midway through Season 3, the show ceases to be about the Rose family trying to adjust to life in Schitt’s Creek, and becomes about something very different. David, the family’s oldest child, receives a $40,000 windfall as part of a bankruptcy settlement from his employer, a store called Blouse Barn. He uses the money to start his own business.

A kindly and adorkable town employee named Patrick (Reid) helps David do the paperwork, and somehow becomes his business partner. Selfish, neurotic, and insecurely pansexual, David doesn’t understand why Patrick is treating him so kindly. They open an absurd hipster knick-knack shop called Rose Apothecary, which would have trouble staying open in West Hollywood, much less rural Ontario, and then they fall in love.

The cherry arrives atop their romance one night during some sort of fundraising party at Rose Apothecary, when Patrick serenades David with an acoustic version of Tina Turner’s “The Best.” When we saw that scene, my wife and I looked at each other and cringed. This felt like a shark-jumping moment for Schitt’s Creek, every bit as disastrous as the “I love you Johnnycakes” line from The Sopranos. Boy, were we wrong.

 

It turns out that Schitt’s Creek had been heading in that direction, quite deliberately, for a long time. Daniel Levy created the show, after all. At that moment, David became the protagonist, and the show became about his journey toward love, happiness, and self-realization. At the live Schitt’s Creek show in Austin, Levy described sitting alone in the dark, watching Downtown Abbey, and sobbing after hearing a recording of Reid, who’s a musician, doing his initial rendition of The Best. It was Levy’s dream moment.

In that same scene, scene, Moira gently touches David on the shoulder as David mists up while he’s hearing the song and falling in love. She’s the avatar of a parent supporting their queer child. “Imagine how much more emotional that scene would have been if Johnny had been there, too,” Eugene Levy, Daniel Levy’s actual father, said wryly.

To close the show, Reid played his acoustic version of “The Best” live. The crowd responded as though he were Tina Turner herself, or Paul McCartney playing Yesterday.

“Why are they so into him?” a friend asked. “He’s not even cool.”

That’s true. Patrick, while quite cute, is about as charismatic as a Tim Horton’s pastry. But he clearly doesn’t exist to be cool. When he appeared, Schitt’s Creek immediately morphed into the first PG gay romantic comedy. Maybe PG-13 because of the occasional f-word. It’s an amazing fantasy for Levy to play out, because Patrick, in the show, has never had a gay relationship before David. So not only do they fall in love but David allows Patrick to realize his true self. And vice-versa.

It’s fundamentally conservative, extremely appealing, and, to me, kind of sleepy. But what do I know? I’m an aging straight hipster who’s mostly dead inside. To the crowd at the Paramount, a babyfaced white guy in a button-down shirt singing a bad acoustic cover of an 80s soul-rock song was some sort of deep-feeling apotheosis, a genuine Cultural Moment. Schitt’s Creek has become revolutionary comedy vanilla.

“We never thought we would be here doing this for all of you,” Levy said to the audience. “It’s truly amazing.”

Truly.

Neal Pollack

Book and Film Globe Editor in Chief Neal Pollack is the author of 11 semi-bestselling books of fiction and nonfiction, including the memoirs Alternadad and Stretch, the novels Repeat and Downward-Facing Death, and the cult classic The Neal Pollack Anthology of American Literature. He's written articles and humor for every English-language publication except The New Yorker. Neal lives in Austin, Texas, and is a three-time Jeopardy! champion.

22 thoughts on “‘Schitt’s Creek’ and the Appeal of Vanilla Gay Romance

  • Pingback:Schitt's Creek, the Surprise Gay Romcom – Book and Film Globe – Gay News Blog

  • May 15, 2019 at 8:15 pm
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    Peak straight privilege. I’d laugh if it weren’t so depressing, but I admit there’s something interesting about a person completely lacking in self-examination. Straight men are such emotionally shallow creatures.

    Reply
  • February 15, 2020 at 4:55 pm
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    that “romance” is lame and distracting. its total cringe. whats sad is the rest of the show doesnt really have any attempts at a ‘romance’ and those parts are far more watchable and funny. the whole patrick romance thing is just lame – the funny business weird thing with stevie and david was much, much funnier and better.

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    • February 15, 2020 at 8:32 pm
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      Thank you for agreeing with me! I thought I was the only one…

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      • April 10, 2020 at 6:52 am
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        Look Neal….Critics are either failed Actors, Writers or Directors…you are the slimy afterbirth of entertainment. You obviously have no idea what you are talking about. David and Patrick’s relationship is far from vanilla and you would know that if you ACTUALLY paid attention to what you watch. So my advice to you Neal is stick to what you know, Mighty Mouse cartoons and wrestling, two things your pea sized brain can understand.

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      • April 10, 2020 at 6:54 am
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        You are the ONLY one. And your opinions are as relevant as a flea’s.

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        • April 10, 2020 at 10:30 am
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          I will say I’ve been watching the recent seasons and they’ve given that relationship a nice depth, and it’s gotten funnier as the show has moved along. I will stand by the cringe-worthiness of the “simply the best” song from Season 4 though. It was awful.

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      • April 10, 2020 at 2:59 pm
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        Oh and just to clarify, the 40,000 that David got from the owners of Blouse Barn was not part of a bankruptcy ANYTHING but was part of the settlement the owner got from the Australian company using the Blouse Barn name without permission. So you are wrong about that too…” Battin’ a thousand, Neal”

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  • April 10, 2020 at 6:48 am
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    You are full of shit.

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  • April 10, 2020 at 2:39 pm
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    Do you ACTUALLY think that Dan Levy, the rest of the cast or the MILLIONS of fans give a flying fart in space about your opinions? Look Neal you are just an embittered man, who makes his livelihood, critiquing people who are successful. Excuse me but what have you actually accomplished as a writer, except being critical of the work of others? You want to discuss something that is cringeworthy? 1) Your photo, is that ACTUALLY the best one? 2) Your grammar and syntax is atrocious. 3) Your opinions on this show and especially the particular scene which you find ” Atrocious ” when the simple reason you do not like it, is it only reminds you of your emptiness and the fact that no one will ever (even by acting) ever look at you with such affection. So just stfu you are just embarrassing yourself.

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    • April 10, 2020 at 2:48 pm
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      No, I don’t think Dan Levy cares about my opinions. Nor should he. I was just surprised when a show that was initially about rich people forced into unusual circumstances became a light relationship comedy.

      My wife does intermittently look at me with such affection, however. And I have published ten books and thousands upon thousands of articles. Thank you for reading the piece, and for expressing your point of view.

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      • April 10, 2020 at 3:08 pm
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        Oh please Neal, since you have a WIFE your opinions on gay romances is as irrelevant as an atheist giving his opinions on the taste and consistency of a communion wafer. You last comment was essentially a TRUMPISM you mischaracterize the entire plot and the David and Patrick plot was just 1 part of the fabric of Schitts Creek and the fact that you seem to blather on and on about it only shows that you are a homophobic fool who has no business commenting on this show. Oh and just to let you know I gave 9 more books published than you, also 3 plays and created 2 series for American television and 1 for Australian television, 12 technical books on stage design, directing and lighting design….so are we done with the measuring?

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      • April 10, 2020 at 3:16 pm
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        The Greatest Living American Writer…. wow, so you write comedy? Read a few of your articles before commenting and what I discovered is a plethora of self-important, Self-concious, and egocentric musings. Many times completely incorrect on plot points and information about the subject you are criticizing. Most of them are written as if you were writing about a show from 3 party Cliff Notes. Perhaps you should just stick to your under researched and over written fiction?

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  • April 10, 2020 at 3:33 pm
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    Well, I’m clearly not going to turn this into a friendly exchange, but I did write one of the earliest reviews of Schitt’s Creek, before it was on Pop, back when it was still hiding in plain sight on Netflix. I called it “the best sitcom on TV right now.” I don’t know if that’s true anymore, but it’s obviously taken its rightful place in sitcom history. I just find the central relationship a little bland, that’s all.

    https://decider.com/2017/03/16/schitts-creek-dan-levy-netflix-amazon-prime/

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    • April 10, 2020 at 4:17 pm
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      Friendly exchange? Since I cannot stand you or your review of this show. I am not really interested in a “friendly” exchange with you. As for your mention of a previous review….who cares??? You are wrong and the ONLY voice among Millions of fans and HUNDREDS of reviews. Bland??? What is really bland is a tired mystery cliche about a yoga instructor who solves crimes with absolutely NO expertise in forensic science or even ACTING the part of an investigator.

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    • April 10, 2020 at 4:20 pm
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      Also it was on Pop TV BEFORE Netflix, so just another example of your 2nd hand information from a 3rd hand source.

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      • April 10, 2020 at 4:35 pm
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        You are correct about that. Also, my detective in the yoga mysteries was a cop with forensic experience before becoming a yoga teacher. Be well, stay healthy, and thanks for your unfriendly input.

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        • April 11, 2020 at 2:29 pm
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          Read the reviews of your so called writing….I am ACTUALLY quite amazed that you have the gall to be critical of anyone else. Your condescending and patronizing comments are quite amusing. You have many facts incorrect about Schitts Creek in your review so, your entire review is meaningless. So let me see, you are from Texas so, a less ” bland” storyline for David and Patrick would be in your opinion that Rose Apothecary is set on fire by a bunch of Texas rednecks and both Patrick and David are beaten, raped and castrated because in the opinion of a proud Texan, queers don’t matter, queers don’t love and those that do deserve what they get. So I guess that plot would be more to your liking?

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          • April 11, 2020 at 2:46 pm
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            No I just think Patrick is a little boring, that is all.

          • April 11, 2020 at 3:10 pm
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            Well If that’s your opinion, then you really have not watched the show very carefully. And although you typed ” No” I have a feeling that your actual response is ” Yes” but you prefer to hide your bigotry as most Texans do, behind a screen of false genteel manners.

  • May 6, 2020 at 7:39 am
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    I’m on season 4, I think episode 3 or 4 so haven’t gotten to the song yet (I had read about it before)-but to me the David and Patrick romance feels like the show jumping the shark-I’m hoping it turns around-I think David has kind of lost his edge-I miss it-is there anything worse than hanging around a new couple who greet each other with a kiss every time they see each other? lol .You also answer the most important question I’ve been wondering-how in the world would that store stay open in a town like that? It looks like Bath Body Works without any candles on display

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    • May 6, 2020 at 9:22 am
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      Thank you! The previous commenter made me think like I was some sort of crazy homophobe for calling out how boring the relationship was. That said, I’ve found Schitt’s Creek relaxing during the COVID era, and some episodes are quite funny. But I feel like it descended into sap and sentiment like other sitcoms do in late seasons. The Office and Parks and Rec also lost their acid touch once they got popular.

      Reply

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