Seldom has a title been more descriptive than “Schitt’s Creek,” a tired reunion of SCTV’s Eugene Levy and Catherine O’Hara that makes a case for putting a cap on Canadian imports. Arriving in the U.S. on the rebranded Pop network, the half-hour series — created by Levy and his son Daniel — essentially builds a “Green Acres”-like show (with a pinch, perhaps, of “Arrested Development”) around a slim and juvenile pun, hoping the auspices and talent will carry through. Perhaps it will for Pop’s undemanding purposes, but that odor emanating from “Schitt’s Creek” is, at best, stale.
Representing the first scripted exercise from Pop (the channel formerly known as TV Guide Network), the CBC-commissioned series stars the elder Levy as the wealthy Johnny Rose, who suddenly finds himself impoverished after being cleaned out by his business manager. As a consequence, Rose and his soap-opera star wife Moira (O’Hara) and two entitled grown kids, David (Daniel Levy) and Alexis (Annie Murphy), are forced to move to the town they bought as a joke because of its name, taking up residence in the fleabag motel.
They are pestered, naturally, by the mayor, Roland Schitt, played by Chris Elliott in what’s merely the latest permutation on an easily riled loon that he’s done to the point of exhaustion.
Various indignities follow, which is mostly just an excuse for Levy and O’Hara to sport pained expressions, without exhibiting much of the improvisational wit for which they’re known or have displayed, say, in Christopher Guest’s films. When Johnny tries to buck up everyone’s spirits by saying, “I feel good about this,” well, by the time episode one’s in the can, that makes one of us.
As for the kids, they spend the previewed installments much like their parents, exasperated by these strange new circumstances and completely oblivious to how absurd their privileged, bratty demands and whining must sound to the motel’s bemused desk attendant.
Sitcoms have long reveled in this fish-out-of-water formula, but almost every gag here — starting with the name — is of the low-brow variety, such as a town sign in which the early inhabitants appear to be engaging in an activity that wouldn’t be featured on most brochures.
While one can appreciate why Levy would relish the opportunity to work with his progeny, this is the sort of slapdash exercise that can give nepotism a bad name. And if it’s similarly easy to grasp how a start-up like Pop would be drawn to the auspices — and to the Canadian partnership as a means of potentially making a small splash on the cheap — “Schitt’s Creek” leaves everyone concerned looking adrift without much of a clue, much less a paddle.