I really wanted to like this one but, while occasionally brilliant, Schitt's Creek is flawed in many departments, including the writing. Marketed as a sit-com, it needs to pick an age demographic and a direction.
The writing is miles ahead of the acting, and that's one of Schitt's Creek's biggest downfalls: The actors are routinely unable to convey the depth of non-comedic scenes. The other downfall is that the writing isn't that great.
For one thing, they keep placing these actors in non-comedic scenes they can't carry. For another, most of the cast are one-dimensional plot devices, not fully-realized characters, and many of them are repetitious and unnecessary. Schitt's Creek hasn't figured out what story to tell or how it's best told, either - it frequently bounces from '80s teen sex-romp to '90s teen dramedy to buddy situational to rom-com to indie film, sometimes in the span of a single scene! Many episodes establish the children's ages as late-30s, but they dress, look, and act like 20-somethings, and the stories paint them as precocious teens - which should be hilarious but, like most comedic opportunities in Schitt's Creek, it's barely touched-upon.
This uncertainty carries over to the plots, which are staples of whatever sub-genre the show is emulating that week: The pampered, urban family goes camping; the clueless, rich kids are forced to get menial jobs; the gay guy and his female best friend get drunk and "accidentally" sleep together; and so on. Instead of recycling weak, B-stories that remind us the Rose family was once rich, or Moira Rose was once undeservedly famous, it should spend that time furthering ongoing storylines while referencing those points with running jokes.
A rich backstory filled with comedic promise is instead a nest of missed opportunities, but Schitt's Creek is not without its charm. While not strong, the actors are personable, and easily one of the most attractive casts on TV - it's kind of like Baywatch with their clothes on, only more entertaining. The early episodes of season one, in particular, are funny almost as often as they are uncomfortable. This might be the show's saving grace, as the actors' natural likeability could sell scenes that might otherwise fail, or be too dramatic to maintain an even tone. The show can't decide if it should laugh at certain subjects, characters, and characteristics or identify with them, so neither can the audience.
To those ends, Schitt's Creek needs to firmly position itself outside of traditional sit-com boundaries, and present those dramatic arcs it desperately wants to explore. A lot of the awkwardness of the show comes from its attempts to force humor, and a lot of the storylines involve serious changes in characters and relationships that never seem to resolve - all of which can be solved by refocusing the show as a dramedy.
Schitt's Creek is any quirky, '90s-era, coming-of-age film brought to series by an indie company - too many ideas with no decisive means of conveyance, trying too hard to be poignant and understood. Equal parts hyperbolic fantasy and self-effacing introspection, the most comedic aspects of Eugene and Daniel Levys' project are downplayed or ignored, resulting in a confusing and uneven tone. Worse, the actors are not strong enough to convey the more serious issues of the show - income inequality, social status, interpersonal relationships, sexuality - and complex character development arcs are routinely started then unceremoniously dropped.
No matter what you think of the show, Schitt's Creek is worth watching just to analyze the writing.
© C Harris Lynn DBA The Weirding, 2017