Living in Toronto for much of the past 40 years, comedy legend Eugene Levy never fully left his Canadian roots. In fact, he proudly wears his Order of Canada pin on a regular basis. Originally hitting it big as part of the comedy dynasty that was SCTV, Levy is still generating an exceptional career both north and south of the border.
When he and his son, Daniel, formulated the original idea for Schitt’s Creek, they knew the best place to shoot would be their northern home base. The Levys sold the concept to CBC, formed Not A Real Company Productions with Producer Andrew Barnsley, and hit the ground running. Prolific Producer Colin Brunton then joined the production team.
For Colin, it’s “the dream gig. A thrill working with the cast” - comedy legends and upcoming talent, now stars in their own right. The family sitcom with its hilarious plot and a hint of social commentary has become a fast success, already on to shooting its fourth season.
The show began with Eugene, Daniel, Catherine O’Hara and Chris Elliott signed on. They then found their additional leading ladies, Annie Murphy and Emily Hampshire. Eugene and Catherine go back as far as their SCTV days. With daughter Sarah Levy joining the cast, it’s truly a family affair.
The show airs on CBC, on Pop TV in the US and is distributed worldwide. Now airing on Netflix as well, the show has gained fans in Britain, Australia and New Zealand. Its success lies somewhere in between providing “viewers with a break from reality, while still exploring the relatable issue of what it means to be a family,” explains Andrew.
As head showrunner, Daniel is proving that his comedic inheritance and a lot of hard work pays off. He’s found his footing behind the camera and delivers a hilarious performance in front. “OMG, how we love this character! Just a facial expression, a quizzical look, a double-take nod of the head sends us into laughing fits!” exclaims a fan on CBC’s website. What’s more, he’s created a world for his characters that is ultimately accepting and non-judgmental of these fish out of water, including their sexualities. As Daniel told Variety, “the best thing we can do right now is show a world where sexuality is not part of the conversation - it’s just who people are.”
With other shows in development, the team has a specific window for production. First drafts are written ahead of prep. In spring, they shoot all of the in-studio scenes, followed by a two-week break. Then they hit the road for a month, getting exteriors and other locations around Ontario. For Colin, the quality of the show is confirmed by the ratings and the engagement of fans on social media. The show and its cast members have a strong presence on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Some of their more famous fans include Elton John, Michael Bublé and their compatriots from Modern Family.
Schitt’s Creek has won 16 awards and been nominated for an additional 14. In 2016, they swept 9 out of 10 of their categories at the Canadian Screen Awards including Best Comedy Series. Again in 2017, Catherine and Emily took home the awards for their Leading and Supporting Actress roles. Colin is proud of what the team has accomplished, with 200 people working on the show and 99% of them returning year after year. For Andrew, he’s honoured and gratified that “it resonates around the world – this doesn’t happen every day. We’re taking nothing for granted.”
And that includes the set. Shooting on location in a community not too far outside Toronto has provided the small-town charm and family feel they needed. Andrew remembers before the first season, how it was quite funny to talk to local business owners and suppliers in the area. Who would of thought that a TV show would come to their small town? But it wasn’t long before everyone got in the spirit. The local Lions Club became the Schitt’s Creek Lions Club and the motel that is central to the show has become something of a landmark. And don’t get Eugene started on the amazing local butter tarts!
For more laughter and behind the scenes stories on this crazy town, check out the show’s webseries and blog, re-watch Seasons 1-3 online and look forward to more Schitt’s in 2018 on CBC.