SCHITT’S CREEK, LETTERKENNY LEAD CANADIAN COMEDY TAKEOVER IN U.S.

Streaming platforms, audience demand for authenticity contribute to the trend

Some cast members of Schitt's Creek, including Eugene Levy, centre, pose on the red carpet of Canadian Screen Awards gala honouring Creative Fiction Storytelling on March 27 in Toronto. (Sharon Wu/CBC)

As the Canadian Screen Awards week culminates with Sunday night’s broadcast gala, expect Canadian comedies to be front and centre. CBC’s hit comedy Schitt’s Creek, which just last week announced next season will be its last, has six nominations, while Crave TV’s Letterkenny has three.

But the industry buzz both shows have recently received has less to do with their achievements in Canada and more to do with their success in the U.S. — something that’s eluded Canadian-made comedies for decades, even as Canadian comedians became household names. Schitt’s Creek, in particular, is enjoying a rare combination of commercial and popular success south of the border: from the glowing New York Times reviews to sold-out live shows by its cast members.

Schitt’s Creek has really broken through in a way that not a lot of even American-produced comedies have done lately,” says Alan Sepinwall, chief TV critic for Rolling Stone magazine.

Schitt’s Creek’s journey

Sitting in his office at Pop TV in Los Angeles, Brad Schwartz is beaming with pride and emotion as he recalls the day he decided his small cable channel should broadcast Schitt’s Creek to American audiences.

Dan and Eugene Levy, the show’s creators and stars, already had CBC secured as the Canadian broadcaster. But Schwartz, a Canadian well established in the U.S. TV system, thought the little show with the funny title just might work there as well.

“It’s a show that started with a wealthy family, a riches-to-rags story that in itself doesn’t seem like anything we haven’t seen before,” says Schwartz. “But the writing and the acting is so phenomenal, that the little things happen in the episode and the characters learn from those little things that happen, that change them in the next episode, and change them in the next episode.”

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