UPDATE (September 20, 2020, 10:30 p.m. ET): This piece has been updated throughout to reflect the winners of the 2020 Emmys. "Schitt's Creek" swept the major comedy awards categories on Sunday, winning outstanding comedy series, outstanding supporting comedy actor and actress, outstanding comedy lead actor and actress, outstanding comedy directing and writing.
When the 2020 Emmy nominations were announced July 28, they were filled with unsurprising noms for past Emmy darlings like “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” and “Succession.” But it was surprising to see “Schitt’s Creek,” with 15 nominations, including outstanding comedy series, join these rarified ranks.
Although the Canadian sitcom, which wrapped its sixth and final season in April, is adored by both critics and fans, it’s largely been overlooked by awards shows.
Although the Canadian sitcom, which wrapped its sixth and final season in April, is adored by both critics and fans, it’s largely been overlooked by awards shows. Until last year, for instance, it hadn’t earned a single nomination from the Emmys, let alone the more than a dozen it picked up this summer. While it was fantastic to see the series get the recognition it deserves, especially for its excellent final year, a sweep for “Schitt’s Creek” was far from assured.
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All too often, fans tuning into the Emmys have watched in anticipation as shows similar to “Schitt’s Creek” — silly, original and wholly underrated — enter the night with several hard-earned nominations only to be outshone yet again by more mainstream heavyweights like “Veep” or “Modern Family.” Take “The Good Place,” which has never won a single Emmy in its four-year run (although that could change this year, as it’s up for six), or “Glow,” which garnered only two wins (for stunts and production design) in 2018 from 10 nods, or “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt,” which earned and lost a whopping 18 Emmy nominations during its run.
Even without the wins, of course, these series’ honors are impressive; they acknowledge the great work put in by those in front of and behind the camera. And considering how many high-quality comedies hardly get any love from the Emmys (looking at you, “Jane the Virgin” and “BoJack Horseman”), they’re especially meaningful. But when a clearly worthy series is nominated again and again without ever winning, it starts to feel like the nods were all for show — like the nominating body only wanted to prove it’s hip to the current cultural conversations without having to actually approve of them.
After all, “Schitt’s Creek,” and some of its peers, aren’t “typical” comedies — they’re weird and over-the-top and full of niche pop culture references and inside jokes. They are not always meant to appeal to a more general audience, so while snubbing them in favor of more traditional fare may be frustrating for fans, it does make some sense.
But with “Schitt’s Creek,” we dreamed big. Because after a cringeworthy first season back in 2015, the show — about a formerly wealthy family’s new life in a quirky small town — quickly grew into one of the smartest, funniest and most likable comedies on TV, not to mention one of the most progressive. Its depiction of David (Daniel Levy, who also co-created the series and has written and directed many of its episodes), a pansexual 30-something, has been lauded by the LGBTQ communities for its wonderful casualness, a rarity for onscreen representation.
Although ratings were never huge, at least according to the information available (Netflix, which started streaming “Schitt’s” in 2017, doesn’t usually reveal its numbers), its highly quotable one-liners (“Ew, David!”), deliciously realized performances (most notably Catherine O’Hara’s eccentric soap star Moira), and countless meme-able moments (Patrick serenading David, Moira dressing as the pope, Alexis doing her instantly iconic “A Little Bit Alexis” song and dance), have cemented the series’ place in the cultural legacy.
This year was a competitive one, though. The 2020 Emmys’ lineup is stacked with heavy hitters like “Maisel”and last year’s Golden Globe-winning “The Kominsky Method” in the best comedy category, not to mention awards show favorites like Tracee Ellis Ross, Tony Shalhoub and Kate McKinnon in the top acting races. If “Schitt’s” had lost out on most or all of its nominations, it would have been shame, but not a surprise.
But that didn't happen. Instead, the Emmys decided to give the show its due. And this felt like more than just a win for the nominated individuals. It felt like proof that sometimes, the underdog does come out on top — and in this case, that underdog just happens to be a kind-hearted, hilariously funny and beautifully representative show deserving of far more attention than it got during its run.
“What’s your favorite season?” Alexis (Annie Murphy) memorably asked Moira in a season three episode. “Awards,” Moira answered.
Here’s hoping all “Schitt’s Creek” fans feel the same way after the Emmys this weekend.