Schitt's Creek: A Different Form of Comedy Writing

Schitt’s Creek: A Unique Form of Comedy Writing

This past week I have been enamored by the television show Schitt’s Creek, which is written and produced by the dynamic duo Eugene and Dan Levy. For the first three episodes, I found the characters to be hilarious and engaging, but was bothered by the way the episodes would unfold. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but it definitely didn’t seem like the normal structure of a situational comedy, which bothered me to the point where I stopped watching. It wasn’t until I read a number of amazing reviews that I decided to pick it back up and oh boy am I happy that I did. It turned out to be an amazing show that I binge-watched over the course of a few days. Still, I kept feeling like something about it was different, so I decided to explore that.

When writing a comedy episode, you want to write as if the audience is glimpsing into the characters’ lives and give the appearance that their lives continue after we leave the scene. This is usually done by leaving out obvious actions. For example, when characters talk about going somewhere and then you cut to a different storyline with other characters, and then cut back to the original characters and they’re in the car driving, you figure that they got in the car and left their driveway while the audience focused on the other storyline. It’s subtle because your mind naturally fills in the blanks. In Schitt’s Creek, they take this to the next level. It feels like there are large gaps, not necessarily in the storyline, but in the conversations and mindsets of the characters. Though the story is still easy to piece together, these larger gaps make things feel a bit off, especially since situational comedies all tend to follow the same models, so the slightest difference is easily felt by the audience. There will be times when the audience enters a room in the middle of an important conversation, or, if the audience does see the beginning of a conversation, it takes time to piece together the reasoning behind having the conversation. There are minimal, “we need to talk to the kids about this issue because it’s something we are worried about,” scenes. Instead, it goes straight to the conversation with the kids. It doesn’t necessarily take away from the show, but it does cause the audience to play catch-up.

Another piece that is a little different is how trivial most of the storylines are. Though it is natural for the characteristics of each person to drive the storylines, and this show has amazing characters, the storylines remain mundane. It could be the juxtaposition of the storylines containing amazing characters versus the average setting, but the conflicts in each episode feel like things that happen on a day-to-day basis for real people. For example, there is a storyline about the mother running for town council. There are so many crazy things that could go wrong, especially with these characters, but the actions that occur remain well within the realms of possibility. It’s just not a show that works outside the box in that way. One may make the argument that Seinfeld was a show about nothing, but in Seinfeld, the characters dissected the nothingness and made it something bigger. Thus, the nothings turned into somethings. Current shows like Modern Family on the other hand have crazy circumstances that cause arguments and scheming. This is normal for today’s television shows, so not having those crazy schemes makes Schitt’s Creek feel a bit mundane in comparison, but overtime that becomes part of its charm.

This show definitely took some getting used to, but with the elaborate characters juxtaposed with the average town and townspeople, hilariousness ensues, and viewers are left wanting more of the charm that comes with this show.


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