This is a spoiler free review.
2018 seemed like the year the US finally discovered Schitt’s Creek. It’s the perfect time, since the show’s nonstop humor and overall positivity make it a pop culture antidote to our news cycle. Coming hot on the heels of a great holiday special, Schitt’s Creek Season 5 maintains the series’ high standards – somehow, every season seems better than the last. Laugh out loud funny even when you stream it alone in your room, the Canadian half-hour comedy is reliably full of heart without being smarmy, and smart without feeling preachy.
Created by father-son team Eugene and Dan Levy, Schitt’s Creek is so much more than its goofy premise of a rich, entitled family forced to live with nothing in the eponymous town. Consummately Canadian, the show makes expert use of its SCTV alums Catherine O’Hara as matriarch Moira Rose, Chris Elliott as Mayor Rolland Schitt, and the elder Levy. Breakout star Annie Murphy humanizes selfish socialite daughter Alexis, a part that could be flat and stereotypical in other hands but is somehow endearing instead. Dan Levy serves as showrunner, writer, and the family’s son David, whose name you probably just read in Alexis’s annoyed voice. David competes with Moira for most GIFable and best-dressed character on the show, but the younger Levy definitely has the best reaction shots and sweetest love story.
After watching the first five episodes of the 14-episode Schitt’s Creek Season 5 (which has a larger order than the prior 13-episode seasons), the overall theme hasn’t quite taken shape yet. The first two seasons were largely focused on the Roses trying to get out of dodge as fast as possible, whereas in the next two seasons, the Roses focused more on making a home for themselves in Schitt’s Creek. It was also during seasons four and five that the Roses stared to become better, more capable people, and we got to see a sweeter, more capable side of Roland. My biggest concern at the end of season four was where, exactly, the show could go from here.
Unlike prior seasons, all four of the Roses were in a good place, with no lingering questions. With both Rose children in happy relationships, how will the show keep up its momentum? For one, Stevie’s romantic life will enjoy more screen time. David will always find a way to self-sabotage, but mostly Schitt’s Creek will continue what it has done so well with Johnny and Moira: making good television with a happy couple. This is the season that Ted starts gently roasting Alexis, including her goldfish memory, almost-thoughtful gestures, active lying face, and imitating her trademark “ew!”
Moira is renewing her interest in returning to their old lives, returning to the show’s central premise, and one that’s sure to generate conflict. As the Roses become more successful with the motel, Rose Apothecary, and Moira’s acting career, it will become harder to pretend that they’re forced to remain in Schitt’s Creek. The show previously addressed by having the family no longer try to sell, but it might be time to revisit the issue when the Roses are a bit more financially stable.
The first three episodes are strong, but episode 5 is by far the best. Schitt’s Creek has always thrown a great party, notably season 1’s luau and season 2’s finale barn party – but this tops them all. The high school-themed slumber party might be the best small screen party since Nana’s party on season 1 of American Vandal. It’s fun to see familiar characters in an unusual situation, and the script maximizes the party to pull out new character information and push everyone’s story forward for the rest of the season.
For my money, Schitt’s Creek still has the best reaction shots on television. Jim Halpert could never. Even the ridiculous movie within the show that Moira films, The Crows Have Eyes II: The Crowening has hidden gems in Moira’s dialogue, which she rewrites herself, a la Carrie Fisher. Moira may be living on her own planet, but, “please, quiet our caws so we may take up our cause!” is hilarious writing. I love that Schitt’s Creek continues to treat us to these little in-world gems, in the vein of the Herb Ertlinger fruit wine commercial and Moira and David’s Christmas medley. I can only hope we’ll eventually see the Jazzagals perform the Nine Inch Nails medley they’re working on (“now Ronnie, the line is ‘I wanna *kiss* you like an animal.’”)
Catherine O’Hara and Eugene Levy continue to be stand-outs, and their Moira and Johnny have one of the funniest and most loving marriages on television, in spite of how batty Moira is. I’m still hoping for an Emmy for O’Hara’s performance last season, and she has no intention of letting up for season five, where she goes even bigger and continues to show off her impeccable sense of timing. Moira is, in many ways, an ideal role for O’Hara – she can go as big as she wants and it is somehow never too much. Longtime friend and now three-time onscreen husband Eugene balances her out as the show’s straight man.
The writing on Schitt’s Creek is among some of the best comedic writing on television, a tough honor during the era of Peak TV. Throwaway lines on Schitt’s Creek are funnier than the actual jokes on most American network television. The running allusions to Alexis’s continual kidnappings by various wealthy men throughout the globe and Moira’s affected accent are well worth the price of admission. While it’s still too early to see a clear thesis, this show has more humor layered into every episode than just about any other show on television. At a time when it seems like so little is right with the world, Schitt’s Creek is the perfect getaway to a funnier, happier, more Canadian place.
Schitt’s Creek Season 5 premieres January 16 at 10 p.m. ET on Pop.