Way back in early 2020, when everyone was watching Tiger King (oh, who am I kidding… I was watching Tiger King, too), I met the characters of Schitt’s Creek for the very first time.
Not being a huge TV person (I’d rather be reading), I was hesitant to commit to another show. But I was sick of feeling left out as the entire internet raved about Schitt’s Creek, and as “Ew, David!” memes proliferated in my social media feeds.
And, well, once Tiger King ended, life was a vast wasteland of nothingness. I needed to fill the void.
Instantly, I was emotionally invested. In David and Stevie’s budding (sorrynotsorry) friendship. In the unlikely relationship between the Roses and the Schitts. In Johnny’s internal shift as his family became the center of his life.
In later seasons, I rooted for Alexis as she moved through her dramatic character arc. I crossed my fingers as Moira became more involved in the community. And, of course, I fell completely in love with (David and) Patrick.
These days, I spend my time sitting in bed and watching Schitt’s Creek clips on Instagram — repeatedly — as my husband rolls his eyes at me. But two years into a pandemic, and more years than that into a reckoning with the systemic hate at the heart of our society, is it any wonder that my heart was stolen by a show about love and family and acceptance and inclusivity?
My husband says it’s too soon to rewatch the show (but is it really??). So, in the meantime, I thought I’d distract myself by doing something else I enjoy: throwing around book recommendations. This time, however, my recommendations are for that family of fictional characters I just can’t quit.
Oh, Johnny Rose. If I didn’t already have a loving father, I’d ask the Rose family patriarch to step in. I mean, is he not everyone’s dream dad?
At the beginning of Schitt’s Creek, Johnny is forced to grapple with the fact that the business manager he hired embezzled money from him, causing him to lose his family’s fortune. It’s quite the fall, especially for someone whose worth as a husband and father lay in providing for his family. But stuck in the small town he once purchased as a joke, he begins to discover what it really means to be a father.
The Roses’ growth as a family is at the core of this show, and Johnny is the driving force behind their coming together. So I think he’d get a kick out of Michael Chabon’s Pops: Fatherhood in Pieces, a collection of essays that happens to include a popular, previously-published piece on the time Chabon supported his son’s interest in fashion by taking him to Paris Fashion Week. On that trip, Chabon discovered that, for his son, fashion is about more than aesthetics — it’s about finding himself and his tribe.
Of all the Roses, I think it’s Moira who kept her eye most firmly on an eventual escape from Schitt’s Creek. Despite the family’s fall from grace, and despite her more modest environs in that small town, she never stopped being fully herself, comporting herself as someone who was still living large.
Still, over the course of six seasons, Moira became more tightly woven into the fabric of Schitt’s Creek. Over time, she brought her big personality and her impressive skill set to everything from the town council to the Jazzagals to a local production of Cabaret.
Through it all, Moira dreamed of her comeback as an actor, always believing in herself despite the family’s financial ruin, and despite her own fall from the public eye.
For that reason, I think Moira would totally be the type to read books by fellow celebrities on fulfilling her creative potential… books like Twyla Tharp’s The Creative Habit and Creative Quest by Questlove. Shine bright, Moira Rose.
OK. David might be a little bit coddled at the beginning of the series and a whole lot judgy. But with his strong devotion to self-expression and his highly refined sense of sarcasm, he also feels like a kindred spirit. As the seasons go on, however, viewers come to see that David’s cynicism and snobbery mask a sense of vulnerability, a lack of self-confidence, and a fear that he doesn’t belong.
Which is why you can’t help but cry happy tears as he comes into his own, showing how much he has to offer and generally winning at life.
For that reason, my recommendation for David Rose is the forthcoming Chef’s Kiss by Jarrett Melendez, Danica Brine, Hank Jones, and Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou. This graphic novel is about an aspiring writer who struggles to find a job after college, applying — on a whim — to work in a restaurant. It doesn’t hurt that the chef who takes his job application is hot as hell. Over the course of the book, he struggles with the prospect of letting down his friends and family, and also with letting go of dreams that may no longer serve him. It’s a tough road to travel, but will he find his happy ending? It’s a charming tale that has echoes of David’s own battles with identity and vulnerability.
David’s story notwithstanding, I feel that Alexis has the most dramatic character arc. She arrives in Schitt’s Creek a bit bratty and self-absorbed, with a history of jumping from bad boy to bad boy, making questionable life decisions, trusting that everything will work out because it always has before. As the seasons pass, however, she becomes closer to her family, becomes an independent woman, and learns that she is someone who deserves love… though she doesn’t need to be coupled up to consider herself a success.
For all of these reasons, I’d slide Elaine Welteroth’s More Than Enough into her tote bag — a memoir from the former editor-in-chief of Teen Vogue — for inspiration. And then Rachel Harrison’s Cackle, because it’s a fun read about a woman who felt lost after a breakup with her long-term boyfriend only to find happiness in a new female friendship, a story that makes me think of the sweet friendship Alexis formed with Twyla Sands during her time in Schitt’s Creek. (And yes, this book is also about witchcraft, but that’s beside the point.)
Okay. While I don’t plan on doing pairings for every recurring Schitt’s Creek character (because that would make this post long as hell), I sort of feel as if Stevie is an unofficial member of the family. And she for sure looks to Johnny Rose as a father figure.
At the beginning of the series, Stevie is just the girl working behind the desk at the motel where the Rose family lands. With her bone-dry sense of humor, she and David forge an instant connection, and they become fast friends. But Stevie grows so much beyond her relationship to the Roses. Viewers learn that behind that hard exterior, Stevie is protecting a gooey center of vulnerability, including a sense of despair that she’ll never amount to anything more. As she embarks on a search for her life’s purpose, we see her come into her own.
I like to imagine that behind the motel’s front desk, she’s hiding Elizabeth Acevedo’s The Poet X because it makes her cry. In this YA novel-in-verse, protagonist Xiomara feels voiceless in the face of her mother’s control and disapproval. On top of that, she’s forced to put up a tough front to protect herself from the attention she receives because of her blossoming curves. Eventually, Xiomara finds her voice, speaking her truth thanks to a slam poetry club. And beside the Acevedo book? A couple of titles to help her find her path: Luvvie Ajayi Jones’s Professional Troublemaker and Brené Brown’s Daring Greatly.
Finally, I present to you my fantasy boyfriend, Patrick Brewer, the only person able to match wits with David Rose (aside from Stevie, of course) and eventually show David an alternative future… one that does not involve returning to New York City to ingratiate himself with the frenemies of his past.
At first, I had trouble coming up with reading recs for Patrick. From the beginning of his time on the show, he is one of the most self-assured characters in Schitt’s Creek, which is what makes him such a good foil for David. There is one huge shift for him, though. When he first arrives in Schitt’s Creek, he’s fresh off a broken engagement with his high school girlfriend. He eventually admits to David that, until meeting him, he didn’t know what “right” felt like. Which is why I eventually decided he deserved some humorous-but-sweet queer love stories, like James Tynion IV and Rian Sygh’s comic series The Backstagers and Ngozi Ukazu’s Check, Please!
And with that, I’ll go back to flipping through the pages of Best Wishes, Warmest Regards: The Story of Schitt’s Creek, and counting down the days until my daughter is old enough to watch the series with me. I’m not crying. You’re crying.