In just a year, the Eugene Levy-Catherine O’Hara comedy Schitt’s Creek has gone from a rookie series on a newly relaunched network, to a platform from which Pop can launch subsequent shows. The new season of Schitt’s Creek debuts on the former TV Guide Network March 16, and comedy Nightcap, starring Ali Wentworth as a booker on a late-night show, makes its series premiere leading out of it.
Pop, a joint venture between CBS and Lionsgate, is putting an unprecedented marketing campaign behind the Schitt’s launch, says network president Brad Schwartz. Phase 1 urged viewers to catch the first season on cable VOD or on Amazon; phase 2 reminds them of the season 2 debut.
“The success of Schitt’s Creek has allowed us to think more about scripted,” say Schwartz, including Nightcap and a comedy project from Donnie Wahlberg and Jenny McCarthy.
Fathers and Sons
Levy is a film and TV legend, his career highlights including the American Pie franchise, A Mighty Wind and SCTV (see sidebar). Schitt’s Creek, which also airs on CBC in Canada, sees the narcissistic family lose its enormous wealth, then relocate to the backwater burg of Schitt’s Creek, which Levy’s character had bought for its name years earlier. Levy’s son in the series is played by his actual son, Daniel; both Levys are cocreators and executive producers.
Eugene says he was curious how Daniel, a former host on MTV Canada, would hold up on a series. “Early on, I felt I had to mentor him,” says Eugene. “But it became quite evident he was way ahead of where I thought he was.”
They have their share of creative differences, but those have been short lived. “Whatever disagreements we have,” says Daniel, “we’re both still trying to make the best show possible.”
As befits a newbie net, ratings are modest; Schitt’s topped out at about 383,000 total viewers in live-plus-seven-day data last season.
While season 1 dealt with the Rose family loathing their scuzzy new environs, season 2 is about them settling in and becoming part of the community. “They have come to the realization that their lives have to go on, and their lives are now in Schitt’s Creek,” says Eugene.
Emboldened by the success of smaller series, such as Amazon’s Mozart in the Jungle, on the awards circuit, Schwartz says part of Pop’s marketing campaign will involve vying for trophies. “We’ll try to get their amazing performances rewarded,” he says.
Pop announced season 3 for Schitt’s last week. The start-up net, which launched in January 2015, has to be crafty in its development. Projects are “microwaved,” Schwartz says, to speed along the process. “If a good project walks in the door and you want to do it,” he says, “you do it.”
A scripted comedy from Wahlberg and McCarthy, starring former New Kid on the Block Joey McIntyre, has been shot. A couple of other projects are in the works.
For his part, Eugene Levy is pleased to see his show help launch other series. “It feels great, as a fresh, young show on top of a fresh, young network,” he says. “It’s kind of fl attering.”
‘SECONDCITY’ IS FIRST IN SOME HEARTS
Eugene Levyand Catherine O’Hara got their big breaks on SCTV almost 40 years ago. Many in the comedy world hold the sketch show up against, or even above, Saturday Night Live, which attained its own 40th anniversary a year ago. (One crucial difference: SNL continues to crank out episodes, while SCTV ceased in 1984.)
The original cast also included John Candy, Harold Ramis and Dave Thomas, while Rick Moranis and Martin Short joined in subsequent seasons. Fans are limited to Shout! Factory DVDs and clips on YouTube, but Brad Schwartz, Pop president, suggests that the network may make a play. “The tail-end of the year is the 40th anniversary, and we want to be part of that,” he says. “We are in the celebrating-Eugene-and-Catherine business.”
Levy describes SCTV as character-driven humor—not unlike his current comedy. “Luckily my son gravitates to good character-driven work,” he says. “That’s what we’re really trying to put behind Schitt’s Creek.”
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Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.