When someone criticizes someone else’s creation, the standard rejoinder is, “So you think you can do better?”
Usually, the one criticizing says that’s not the point. And it’s not. Nobody has to be a skilled writer, talented artist or trained athlete to dislike something.
Vis-à-vis the embarrassingly bad TV show, Schitt’s Creek, an evident success on a cable network that no one has ever of: I can do better. The only reason to watch this dreck (pun intended) is to revel in the greatness of the two leads, Eugene Levy and Catherine O’Hara, aka Eugene and Kate. If you don’t know who they are, whip out your googlies and find out. I’m sure there is sufficient video on youtube for you to wonder where these two comedic stars have been all your life — or, more likely, during the time you weren’t even born yet.
The show, as it is, employs the very tired “fish out of water” plot, which can be funny if approached in a new and different and clever way. It’s not. Reminiscent of the 1960s Green Acres — except that here the relocators are formerly rich rather than rich — the plot is nonsensical. Dad (Levy) owns this hick town, which he bought as a Bar Mitzvah present for his neurotic gay son, who is now in his 30s at least, and mom (O’Hara) is a has-been soap actress who pronounces her “As” so that they are long enough to span the Verrazano Narrows bridge, and, of course, there is the airhead daughter, who doesn’t do much but twirl her well coiffed hair.
Stuck in this shithole called Schitt’s Creek, they live in a motel (why?) and impose their caricatured mannerisms on the yokels while making half-hearted attempts to unload the Creek and to get the hell out of Dodge.
Disbelief cannot be suspended enough. If the family owns a town, there must be some benefit to it, like, oh, receiving taxes or grabbing property from matured tax liens, or why would anyone own a town? Mom reveals she has been a successful fundraiser on boards of directors of NPs, so why can’t she earn a decent salary and do that now (or even rake in bucks on the B of D of for-profit entities?); sissy boy son is no more or less shallow than every other fag in NYC, SF, or LA, who lives quite nicely on no money and no job, so what’s stopping him from tailing it out of hell town; and the pretty stupid daughter is pretty and stupid enough to be a 30-something model who releases a sex tape on the Web in order to gain notoriety and spare change. A sleazy, obscure cable network, like the one this show is on, could make these cartoon characters the focus of a reality show called From Riches to Rags or something equally banal, thus employing an even older plot device: a show within a show.
Somewhere in this season’s detritus, the gay Gumby son — whose acting technique consists of whispering his lines while raising his vocal pitch, his eyebrows and his trouser hems and repeating, “Wha?” and “I don’t know what that means” — gets a job in a low-rent women’s apparel shop that is reminiscent of a Goodwill store. Although how he gets to and from this place on a daily basis is unclear; another character gave him a ride, but even with a stretch of imagination, it’s doubtful that she chauffeurs him twice a day or that boychik knows how to board a bus.
Here is what I concocted in 30 minutes or less to demonstrate that I could write it better — or at least as badly, and in the same show-in-a-barn nincompoop style. Excerpts are from the episode entitled, “It’s All in the Name.” (Wendy is the shop owner, a part that wastes Robin Duke’s talents):
Wendy: David, I have been thinking.
David: I don’t think that’s really necessary.
Wendy: (ignoring his comment) Things have been going so well since you upscaled the merchandise and décor that I think we need to look at a new name for the store. After all, it’s so much more than a Blouse Barn now. So what do you think?
David: Well I guess it could work. But we need to be careful.
Wendy: How do you mean?
David: Well, it needs to have a cache, but not so intimidating that clients will refer to us as, “You know, that place with the weird name.”
Wendy: Do you think it should be a foreign language?
David: Foreign to whom?
Wendy: Everyone in Elmdale, I suppose. It should be exotic! Something no one expects. How about Arabic?
David: Uh, I don’t think so. Beirut is not the fashion capitol it once was and caftans went out with Elizabeth Taylor (or you could say Alan Carr – if that’s not too obscure or dated).
(He pauses. Wendy stares at him for inspiration.)
How about amuse-gueules?
Wendy: Amused girl. I love it!
David: (Feeling frustrated) Ah-muze-gu-elle
Wendy: What does it mean?
David: (Covering his ignorance) It does actually mean, “amused girl” and it’s also sufficiently hard to pronounce to keep the riff-raff out.
(Bertha enters the store. She is a fat, unkempt, mess of a yokel, resembling Kim Davis.)
Bertha: Hello, there. My, this store sure has changed. It ain’t the Blouse Barn I’ve known since my momma brought me here when I was a little peanut.
David: (Aghast) May I help you? My name is David, but you can call me … David.
(David does his shtick and sells her stuff. He also recommends a “more contemporary” hair style and makeup, i.e., any makeup where there has been none, applied by a makeover specialist.)
(Bertha returns in a later scene. She looks great, à la Jocelyn — the mayor’s wife — when she got made over. Wendy is there with David.)
Bertha: Hey, y’all. ‘member me?
Wendy: Bertha, is that you? Oh my heavens! I almost don’t recognize you even though I’ve known you all your life!
David: Wendy, Bertha had a consult with me and afterwards I sent her to _________ for hair and then to _________ for cosmetological enhancement.
Bertha: And it sure worked! I’ve never been happier … on a lot of levels (wink). (Not so sotto voce) I’m having an affair. I met him at a liberry! [sic]. In the eth-o-no-log-i-cal [sic] section. Did I say that right?
Wendy: What are you saying?
Bertha: It’s those “ic-el” words. They challenge me.
Wendy: I mean, what is this about an affair? You’ve been married to Grady for 30 years!
Bertha: Well, let’s all hope it won’t be 31. Well, gotta scoot. I’ve got a spin class in five.
David: You seem really, uh, worked up about Bertha and Grady.
Wendy: Well, yes, David. He is my brother!
David: (Doing his shaky, twitchy thing) I think I have an inspiration for our rebranding.
Wendy: Or a seizure.
David: No, not Grand Mal. What do you think of L’affaire?
Wendy: Oh, David, that’s not cute or funny. We can’t encourage our customers to have extra-marital affairs. My God, we might be charged with aiding and abetting … adultery!
David: We (he flails about, puncturing the air around him) cannot be held responsible for the effects that our quality items inspire. If that were the case, the House of Chanel would be sued for selling No. 5.
(Door opens and a slovenly woman we’ll call Eller enters, approaching Wendy and David.)
Wendy: (Big false smile) Hello, what can I help you find today?
Eller: Oh, I’m sorry, but I was told by my BFF, Bertha, to especially ask for David. I’m hoping he can help me in the way he helped her. (Staring at David with a ravenous look) I’m in search of excitement.
David: (Terrified, all twitchy and scratchy again) I’m sorry, but I need to maintain my professional demeanor as a stylist and maintenance executive.
In trying to decide on one positive aspect of Schitt’s Creek, other than the two enchanting lead actors, after racking my brain for more time than this post is worth, I managed to come up one admirable feature:
The mulletted mayor is played by the severely untalented Chris Elliott, and this is the first time I’ve been able to watch him without wanting to throw up.