The core executive team at Pop TV expected to be disappointed, but they still gathered at the CBS-owned cable channel’s Playa Vista offices early Tuesday morning for the reveal of this year’s Primetime Emmy Awards nominations. They were not disappointed.
“Schitt’s Creek,” the quirky comedy series that has punched above its weight for Pop since its 2015 debut, broke into the kudos race with its fifth season in a big way. The show grabbed four Primetime Emmy Award nominations, including a bid for the top comedy series prize. Stars Eugene Levy and Catherine O’Hara earned lead comedy acting noms. The penchant of O’Hara’s Moira Rose character for outlandish outfits also helped the show earn a nom for contemporary costumes.
“Oh my god, we got something.” That’s what Pop president Brad Schwartz blurted out when he heard the news. “We’re just beaming with pride. When you look at all the other networks nominated, we certainly stand out,” he said.
For sure, Pop has a lower profile in the increasingly crowded arena of channels offering original programming. The timing of the Emmy affection couldn’t be much better for Pop, even if it comes just as “Schitt’s Creek” is heading into its sixth and final season in January.
“From the beginning, people underestimated the audience’s passion for this show. This cast sells out the Beacon Theater and the Wiltern Theater [for table readings]. We had 100 people who couldn’t get in to our TV Academy screening,” Schwartz said. “In every article about the Emmys, ‘Schitt’s’ was mentioned as the show that should be nominated but probably wouldn’t squeeze in.”
Last week, Pop launched another original comedy series “Florida Girls” and is eagerly anticipating the arrival of a new season of “One Day At a Time,” rescued after its cancellation by Netflix, early next year. Also on deck for next year is the father-son comedy “Best Intentions.”
Behind the scenes, Pop has also benefited from the buyout in March by CBS of Lionsgate’s 50% stake in the cabler. Instead of being run as a joint venture, Pop is now firmly under the CBS umbrella.
“I think we’re on a little bit of a roll,” Schwartz said. “Just being fully part of CBS, we feel a lot more love and support for what we’re doing.”
The recognition for “Schitt’s Creek” is especially sweet for Schwartz because the series has been such a defining program for the cabler, formerly TV Guide Network. “Schitt’s Creek” premiered on the heels of the channel’s 2015 relaunch as Pop, a moniker meant to indicate its focus on pop culture.
“When we were building the Pop brand and deciding what we wanted it to stand for, ‘Schitt’s Creek’ ticked every box,” Schwartz said. “It was funny, warm and had a little of that nostalgia factor with Eugene and Catherine.”
“Schitt’s” revolves around the Rose family, a once wealthy clan forced to downsize after getting wiped out by an unscrupulous business manager. The Roses had to decamp to the only asset they were able to hang on to, Schitt’s Creek, a tiny town bought as a joke.
“Schitt’s Creek” was created by Dan Levy, who co-stars with his father and O’Hara. Dan Levy worked with Schwartz as an on-air personality during Schwartz’s time as the head of MTV Canada. Dan Levy set the series up with Canada’s CBC but needed a U.S. network partner to help cover the production costs. When Levy pitched him the idea, Schwartz was sold.
“I bet on Dan once, and it worked. It was not hard to bet on him again,” Schwartz said. “He has severely outperformed any of our wildest dreams about how far he could build this show.”
From Season 1, “Schitt’s” emerged as a blend of the broad comedy that Eugene Levy and O’Hara were known for from their “SCTV” days with the character focus of single-camera fare. Along the way, the show has earned praise for its deft touch in taking on family dynamics and the depiction of LGBT relationships that are not side plots but presented as part of the fabric of the family.
“What is really most significant to me is the character development we’ve seen over five seasons. These are characters that keep learning from the situations that affect who they become in future episodes,” Schwartz said. “They’re not the same people in Season 5 that they were in Season 1. Character development on this show is as good as I’ve ever seen.”
“Schitt’s Creek” got a big boost in 2017 when Netflix acquired the rights to older seasons. Schwartz is confident the Emmy spotlight will help turbo-charge the audience that comes to Pop for its final 14 installments.
Will the Emmy momentum fuel thoughts of extending the show’s life or generating a spinoff? Only time will tell.
“As a television executive with a huge hit, I would love nothing more than to continue to explore the ‘Schitt’s Creek’ world,” Schwartz said. “But that is completely up to Dan and Eugene.”