When the term “comfort show” is brought up in conversations about TV, what do you think of first? For many people, it’s situational comedies that are easily binge-able – shows like The Office, Parks & Recreation, or Friends. One example that I have noticed popping up more and more on people’s lists is the Canadian series Schitt’s Creek, which received generous reviews when it first premiered in 2015 but has since gained a considerably larger (and growing) audience thanks to word-of-mouth praise. The show follows the wealthy Rose family: Johnny (Eugene Levy), the owner of a chain of video stores; Moira (Catherine O’Hara), a former soap opera actress; and their two adult children, David (Dan Levy) and Alexis (Annie Murphy). When their business manager makes some bad deals that result in the loss of most of their money, the family is obligated to take advantage of their only remaining asset – a small town named Schitt’s Creek, which was purchased years earlier as a joke. They move into a motel in the town, that is in desperate need of renovation, and learn to adjust to being in a completely unfamiliar environment.
In addition to people catching on to how genuinely clever and well-written the show is, there has also been a very positive response to the relationship between the characters of David and Patrick (Noah Reid). Although it feels like the beloved pair have been involved in each other’s lives forever, they aren’t actually introduced until the third season, which makes sense in hindsight; it takes some time for David’s character to develop and for him to get to a place where he’s ready to be fully invested in someone (other than himself, that is).
Before he meets Patrick, David has a relatively short-lived but impactful fling with Stevie – the receptionist, and later co-owner, of the motel. She’s the first real friend that he makes in Schitt’s Creek and it’s not difficult to see why. They’re both cynical and often quite judgmental by nature, bonding over similar humor and a shared dislike for most people, though they are ultimately caring underneath it all. One of the most crucial insights into who David is and how the show approaches sensitive subjects occurs after David and Stevie drunkenly spend the night together and are shopping for wine the next day. At this point, Stevie is confused about where she stands with him and whether or not the previous night only happened because they had been drinking. She had been under the impression that David was gay and tries to communicate her confusion to him by bringing up that she only likes “red wine” and believed that he favored the same. After using a series of not-so-subtle wine metaphors to explain himself, David essentially wraps up the clarification of his sexuality by saying, “I like the wine and not the label.” The comedic element of the scene comes with the ridiculousness of the metaphors and situation, rather than making the subject of something so personal a laughing point.
The reveal of his identifying as pansexual is special because it’s not a traditional reveal. It isn’t a dramatic “coming out” scene with high stakes like we have seen in so many other shows that feature LGBTQ+ characters. His sexuality is something that he is clearly comfortable with, so explaining it to someone else feels natural and easy, as it should be in an ideal, more open-minded world. It’s also special because it isn’t just mentioned and never spoke of again, nor is it treated like a passive label. We see and hear about David’s romantic endeavors with men and women throughout the series and that part of his identity doesn’t get erased once he starts seriously dating Patrick. If Schitt’s Creek aired years ago, it’s likely that David being pansexual would have been brushed off as a phase and he would be labelled as gay, rather than anything implying that sexuality can be a spectrum.
As a co-creator of the show along with his father Eugene, Dan Levy made an intentional decision to craft the small, rural town of Schitt’s Creek as a place full of people who are generally kind and open-minded, subverting our usual expectations of how a person like David would be treated in such a town in real life. In doing this, David’s relationships are completely normalized and the focus on them becomes more about the relationships and people themselves, just as any heterosexual relationship would be treated. It’s especially satisfying to see the often-judgmental Rose family completely embrace that aspect of their son’s identity, while still showing that there is room for all of them to grow.
A perfect example takes place in the same episode as the wine metaphors, when Johnny is explaining his son’s romantic life to the town’s mayor, Roland, after everyone learns about David and Stevie. He mentions that David “loves everyone” to put it plainly, and expresses that as his father he worries that life isn’t going to be easy for David. Although he’s accepting of the situation, he wishes that everything could be less confusing for his son. Roland, who moments earlier believed that the term “pansexual” meant “someone who has a cookware fetish”, simply tells Johnny that when it comes to matters of the heart, they can’t tell their kids who to love. The exchange is as earnest as it is silly and shows that although Schitt’s Creek is almost idealistic in the respect of how they handle acceptance of sexuality, everyone can still learn from each other.
When the character of Patrick was introduced into David’s life, he wasn’t initially meant to be a prominent, recurring character. But it was clear from the beginning that the two had unmistakable chemistry, even if they disagreed constantly when it came to decisions about Rose Apothecary: the general store David started with the help of Patrick as business manager. Their dynamic could have easily turned awkward, with the two having vastly different personalities and opinions about how to conduct business. Instead, we get to see them use their differences to balance each other out and develop an immensely charming relationship that becomes romantic in a way that feels totally natural.
There are a number of moments between the two characters that are worth talking about for being sweet, hilarious, or just incredibly earnest, but one that stands out to a lot of fans is when Patrick performs an acoustic version of one of David’s favorite songs (“Simply the Best” by Tina Turner) at an open mic night and dedicates it to him. It’s a simple thing, but also is part of what makes Schitt’s Creek such a comforting show for people; because of the open-minded world the show has crafted, David and Patrick get to love each other openly and without hesitation. The expression on David’s face when Patrick sings “Simply the Best” says it all: the lyrics feel personal to their relationship and how they see each other, and it’s clear that David isn’t quite used to receiving that kind of public, straight-forward affection, but Patrick is more than happy to show him (and everyone else) how he feels.
By creating a balance between honestly portraying sexuality and allowing the characters to exist in the small town without it being a large conflict, the focus shifts to David and Patrick as individuals and everything that makes their relationship wonderful to watch develop over the course of five seasons. Schitt’s Creek deserves recognition for not only giving us a couple worth rooting for time and time again, but also for showing us the importance of open conversations about being part of the LGBTQ+ spectrum, and serving as a reminder that there’s always more we can learn from each other.