Don't sleep on 'Schitts Creek': a spoiler-free plea

As first impressions go, the Canadian comedy series 'Schitts Creek' does about as well as the similarly critically-acclaimed and much beloved 'Scrotal Recall' (now mercifully known as 'Lovesick'). If you've heard of it at all, it may well be from scrolling past it with an eyeroll on Netflix, where all four available seasons can be found. If that's the case, I'd urge you to reconsider because this tight little show is far more than the sum of its parts (and name).

The premise sounds run-of-the-mill enough: the wealthy Rose family lose their fortune and are forced to move to the town they bought as a joke years before, which is populated by a collection of vaguely lovable oddballs. The family is made up of slightly long-suffering dad Johnny, eccentric former soap actress mum Moira, and their spoiled grown-up children David and Alexis. It all starts out much as you might expect, albeit with consistently razor-sharp wit and frankly dazzling sartorial sensibilities.

However, this is a show that - much like the wonderful 'Parks and Recreation' before it - simply keeps getting better. The success of the show hinges on the strength of its characters. They start out almost cartoonish and could have become more so as time went on, but instead the opposite is true. Over the four seasons (and counting) the episodes are more like hugely enjoyable character studies; we get to know and love these people, see them take risks, get hurt, and ultimately grow.

The series was co-created by father and son Eugene and Dan Levy, who also play Johnny and David, and Dan has said "we wanted to show these people as shells of themselves, to show them on a completely superficial level and work inward." If that's their aim, they have resoundingly succeeded. The show has acheived a very realistic family dynamic, no doubt assisted by the real-life family members in the cast and creative team - Dan's sister Sarah plays the local waitress, Twyla, and Eugene's brother Fred is a producer.

By the end of the third season, the show reaches an entirely-earned level of emotional honesty you would never have imagined from the opening few episodes, and the finale of season 4 is fulfilling romantic comedy (emphasis on the romantic) at its purest and best. It's a fish-out-of-water sitcom, yes, but it's also left me weeping like it's 'Queer Eye' and they've just revealed their newly blue-and-grey living space (I love you Bobby!).

Most of the time, though, this show is basically good-natured, slightly sarcastic fun. I'm really glad I took the leap and visited Schitt's Creek and now that I've got to know the people behind the first impressions, I hope I never have to leave.