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This image released by Pop TV shows, from left, Annie Murphy, Eugene Levy, Catherine O’Hara and Dan Levy from the series “Schitt’s Creek.” Pop TV via AP

If you knew what “Schitt’s Creek” was in 2015, you were likely one of two things: a huge fan of co-creator Eugene Levy and his fellow “SCTV Network” alum Catherine O’Hara, or Canadian.

That’s because the sitcom, about a wealthy family forced to relocate to an unfortunately named town after being defrauded out of their fortune, first premiered on the Canadian Broadcasting Channel, where it earned largely positive reviews from critics who couldn’t help lamenting the show’s name. But the show faced an even bigger hurdle when it premiered a month later on Pop TV.

In 2015, Pop TV was a little-known network that had just been rebranded from TVGN (as in TV Guide Network). But “Schitt’s Creek” became a sleeper hit a few years later after landing on Netflix, where fans found joy in binge-watching the show’s early seasons. By 2019, the show was a bona fide smash, earning four Emmy nominations – including best comedy series and best actor/actress nominations for Levy and O’Hara. And while the show didn’t take home any awards at last year’s ceremony, “Schitt’s Creek” fans rejoiced at the show’s long-awaited recognition.

Last Sunday, on the heels of its sixth and final season, “Schitt’s Creek” pulled off another stunning feat: winning all seven comedy categories – including outstanding comedy series – at this year’s Emmy Awards. The show also took home two trophies (for casting and costumes) at the Creative Arts Emmys, bringing its total count to nine. It’s a historic sweep, unmatched by some of the most beloved comedies in TV history including “Frasier,” which earned a mere six Emmys for its final season, and “Modern Family,” which earned a whopping 22 Emmys over its 11-season run.

How did a relatively unknown Canadian sitcom become a Television Academy darling? Well, let’s take a look.

The cast

To start, it helps that the show features two underappreciated comedy legends: O’Hara and Levy. The pair, longtime collaborators who first met in the 1970s, shined as husband-wife duo Johnny and Moira. That was largely by design as Levy, who co-created the show with his son Daniel Levy, pushed for O’Hara to get the role of the Rose family matriarch. In fact, he told BuzzFeed O’Hara was the only actress he wanted to play Moira, a former soap opera star.

Daniel, a former MTV Canada host, earned acclaim for his turn as Moira and Johnny’s pansexual son, David. On Sunday, he also took home an acting Emmy – for outstanding supporting actor in a comedy – and earned trophies for writing and directing (the latter shared by Andrew Cividino).

Annie Murphy, who plays David’s socialite sister Alexis, took home the supporting actress trophy on Sunday. And as Eugene noted during his acceptance speech, the show truly is a family affair: his daughter, Sarah, also appears on the show – as friendly Schitt’s Creek waitress, Twyla Sands.

The message

As “Schitt’s Creek” grew more popular, fans and critics alike noted that the show was devoid of the homophobia-related story lines that typically revolve around LGBTQ characters like David.

“I have no patience for homophobia,” Daniel explained at a 2018 Vulture event. “As a result, it’s been amazing to take that into the show. We show love and tolerance. If you put something like that out of the equation, you’re saying that doesn’t exist and shouldn’t exist.”

It’s an empowering – and subtle – message. When David addresses his sexuality in the show’s first season, it’s with an elaborate (and hilarious) wine analogy.

“I do drink red wine but I also drink white wine. And I’ve been know to sample the occasional rosé. And a couple summers back I tried a merlot that used to be a chardonnay, which got a little bit complicated,” he tells Schitt’s Creek native, Stevie (Emily Hampshire) before summarizing: “I like the wine and not the label.”

Streaming

While “Schitt’s Creek” made its fair share of underrated TV show lists, the comedy’s strengths didn’t come into full, stateside view until its first two seasons landed on Netflix in 2017.

In a Vulture interview earlier this year, Eugene recalled “a noticeable improvement in awareness of the show” following its debut on the streaming platform. He said fans soon began referencing the series when they recognized him in public as opposed to the usual “American Pie” or “Best in Show” shout-outs.

Netflix continued adding more seasons of the show as it progressed. The final season, which concluded its run on broadcast television earlier this year, is expected to arrive on the platform in October.

It’s delightful

The Netflix exposure certainly didn’t hurt, but perhaps more than anything else, “Schitt’s Creek” triumphed because it was simply a joy to watch. At the end of the day, the Roses loved each other – and the rural town they had never imagined they would call home. As one cast member put it in a making-of documentary that followed Pop’s airing of the show’s season finale, “It created a better world than we live in.”

Also, not many sitcoms could unironically pull off a musical moment like this:

The Season 4 scene – in which David is serenaded by his boyfriend, Patrick – went viral. On YouTube, one comment beneath the video aptly describes the show’s appeal.

“This scene is what turned me from a casual fan into someone who understands why people have begged me to watch it for years. I’m glad I finally gave SC a shot during self-quarantine,” the fan wrote. “Even if I look back on this strange and scary era with horror, I know I’ll always remember the glimmers of happiness I had when watching ‘Schitt’s Creek’ the first time through the series. Definitely not the last.”

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