Within the first fifteen minutes of the 2020 Emmys, it became clear that “Schitt’s Creek” would own the night as, to the cast’s mounting disbelief, it went on to sweep every major comedy award like no other show ever had. And yet, with every new award, I couldn’t summon a single ounce of surprise. Not much about 2020 has been predictable, but a show like “Schitt’s Creek” winning an armful of awards now — a time so chaotic that Emmy winners got their awards from people in tuxedo hazmat suits lest they breathe in a deadly virus — makes perfect sense.
“Schitt’s Creek” began in 2015 as a low-key, charming Canadian sitcom about rich people losing everything quickly became something much more nuanced and rewarding. After losing all their money and fleeing to a tiny rural town, the Roses — played by Catherine O’Hara, Annie Murphy and co-creators Eugene and Daniel Levy — reluctantly settled into a life without bottomless bank accounts, and before they even realized it was happening, learned how to be better people. The Levys, Murphy and O’Hara — all Emmy winners after tonight — portrayed their characters with pitch perfect comic timing, but also with a deep sense of shared humanity that kept them from ever being the wacky caricatures they could’ve been.
And so over the course of the series, the Roses become more considerate, more grounded, more willing to push themselves and each other. They embrace their strengths and confront their weaknesses. They love more openly and without shame. And because of the way in which head writer Daniel Levy shaped the show, the Roses do all that in a town deliberately free of prejudice. When David (Daniel Levy) and Patrick (Noah Reid) get married in the series finale after years of heartfelt courtship, they do so without fear that anyone might not accept them. The entirety of “Schitt’s Creek” unfolds in a benign, hopeful fantasy world in which jerks exist but true villains don’t, where the possibility of rejection dies in the absence of any true hostility. It’s a warm blanket of a show that assures its audience that every episode will make them feel good by the final credits. Is it any wonder that this is the show that got such a decisive stamp of approval this year, of all years?
In the five years since “Schitt’s Creek” began, the world seemed to turn upside-down. This year alone has seen a whirlwind of political turmoil, raging wildfires and a worldwide pandemic of catastrophic proportions. Even just picking up your phone becomes a practice in steeling yourself to prepare for whatever fresh new horror awaits in your notifications. And now, of course, many of us are withstanding it all without the comfort of other people, sitting in our homes until further notice awaiting a vaccine that may or may not arrive. Getting from day to day can be overwhelming, demoralizing, and utterly exhausting. “Schitt’s Creek” has been a delightful escape for years now, but in 2020, it seemed to become even more of a refuge for viewers who would much rather live in the gentle world of “Schitt’s Creek” than their own. So yes, the absolute, total sweep breaks with tradition in a big, startling way. But in the context of this no good, very bad year, watching the Emmys shower this nice show about nice people with awards is as logical as 2020 will ever get.