The father and son created and star on Schitt's Creek, the first scripted series on Pop (formerly the TV Guide Network/TVGN), which premieres Wednesday at 10/9c. "It's always kind of in the back of your mind: Wouldn't it be great if you could have something do with your kid?" the elder Levy tells TVGuide.com. "I don't know whether kids grow up necessarily thinking, 'Oh, I just can't wait to work with my parents!'"
Daniel did — or at he did least when he thought of the idea for the comedy: A wealthy family loses their fortune in a Ponzi scheme and are forced to move into a motel in a town called Schitt's Creek, which they once bought for, well, sh--s and giggles. Eugene reunites with his SCTV and Christopher Guest collaborator Catherine O'Hara, playing the parents, Johnny and Moira Rose, the latter of whom is a delicate hot mess of a soap opera star. Daniel and Annie Murphy play their spoiled, entitled children, David and Alexis, and Chris Elliott rounds out the cast as Roland Schitt, the town's kooky mayor.
Get the scoop on the comedy, which has already been renewed for a second season in the Levys' native Canada, and how they came up with that potty humor title below.
Daniel, how did you come up the idea?
Daniel Levy: I just had an idea about a wealthy family that lost all its money. I think I was watching some reality TV at the time. [Laughs] I don't know what I was thinking. I was just envisioning some sort of theoretical situation where the people I was watching lost everything and had to fend for themselves. I had seen the riches-to-rags scenario played out on a more broad sitcom level on mainstream TV, but I hadn't seen it explored it a slightly more real way, especially comedically. That's when I turned to my dad. Everything he's done with Christopher Guest and his sensibility are grounded in reality. And so we started chatting.
Were you into it, Eugene?
Eugene Levy: I think I would've been into any idea that Dan had come to me with! It was pretty exciting for a dad when his son says, "Hey, do you wanna work on something together?" The idea was a good idea and we started working on it and didn't really know how far we could take it. But the idea of working on this project was exciting for me. As we kept going, I realized that he's really a fantastic writer. ... I started out working with my son on this and went to working with a really good partner. The next thing you know, we did our pilot. It was pitched and sold. And here we are with one season under our belt and we're starting our second season.
Have you always wanted to work together?
Daniel: I started out on MTV as a television host. For the first five years I was at MTV, I didn't mention my dad, I didn't mention anything about it, mainly because I think we're in this culture right now where we snap-judge so quickly and the idea of nepotism and all of that. I just wanted people to know that I A) got the job because of my own merit and B) that I was good at my job because of myself. Once I started to develop an audience up in Canada and at MTV, then I brought my dad on for a small piece of tape we did up there, and that was the first time people put two and two together. For me, it was important to make sure people saw me for me and didn't necessarily judge me for being on TV because my dad is also in the media. When I felt comfortable enough, I approached him with this idea because I felt confident in my own skills and competency and felt like we could really work on something together that could be great.
And the plan was always for both of you to star?
Eugene: Yes. That was also kind of exciting to think about. And to actually make it happen was great.
I don't know who else could play your son now. The eyebrows are a dead giveaway.
Eugene: [Laughs] It's great casting not only with Daniel but with young Annie Murphy. That was key casting: the eyebrows.
I'm assuming Catherine was your first choice for Moira.
Eugene: Catherine is always the first choice. The first movie Chris Guest and I did together, Waiting for Guffman, we thought about casting and we both had Catherine as our first choice. It's great. Catherine's one of the great character actors. She's so chameleon-like. She can really get inside a character. We both started out as character actors, coming out of Second City. Everything you do on stage is basically character. It's very rare that somebody is on the stage more or less being themselves going from one scene to another. We knew that the show was going to be a character-driven show and of course Catherine brings such a great innate sense of comedy to her work that the idea of having the comedy come through character, it only made sense to have her be part of it.
Chris Elliott is pretty inspired casting too.
Eugene: He's one of those people that just has a way of making me laugh. I'm not an easy laugher. You can't put your finger on exactly why he's making you laugh, but it's just everything about him is funny. I've been a fan of Chris' since the first Letterman show in '82 when he was a writer on there. He started making these odd, bizarre little appearances — the guy under the seats. Just crazy stuff, but boy, he got me right from the beginning. He, again, was our first choice for Roland.
Daniel: We definitely lucked out in casting.
A lot of the comedy comes from the family's cluelessness about everything. Was that what you were going for?
Daniel: I think that's sort of what's at the heart of what made us laugh at this scenario: how clueless this family is, not just about how to live without all the luxuries they're used to, but also how clueless they are about family and trying to define within themselves what a family is, who they are to each other, what they mean to each other, do they mean anything to each other? When we started to explore the family dynamic, that was the first thing that got us laughing. We felt like this family is so out of touch from the world and each other. There was so much to pull from.
Eugene:That's really what the core of the show is about. The fish-out-of-water element is always funny, but this family realizing that they now have to rely on each other and start understanding what it's like to be a family is what it's about. Now they have to function in two adjoining rooms in this little motel in Schitt's Creek. Before, when they had money, they weren't really family-oriented.
So who came up with the title?
Eugene: My wife Deb had an idea for a movie she was talking about. It had to do with [baby] boomers that were kind of in trouble and kids coming back to live with their parents and the idea of being up sh--'s creek came into play. From there, we talked about, "What if there was a town called Schitt's Creek?" So that was always kind of funny in the back of my mind as just the name of the town. At one point that Dan and I started talking about this show, he found an article about Kim Basinger, who had bought a town and lost a lot of money on this town many years ago. And then we had the idea of, what if this family that lost all their money had bought this town and then they have to live in the town? Then it was like, the town should be called Schitt's Creek because it's a perfect title. Finally, it aptly describes the family's situation having lost their money. So, everything fell into place.
And it works well with the dirty welcome sign.
Daniel: [Laughs] That welcome sign took a long time to create.
Eugene: The idea of the welcome sign was the first big laugh we had in the writers' room.
Johnny wants to it to come down, but will it?
Daniel: That welcome sign, I believe, will be welcoming visitors to Schitt's Creek for many, many years.
Are you back in writers' room for Season 2?
Daniel: We went back last week. Now we're all scripting. It's all very exciting. It's strange to be talking about how excited we are for Season 2 when the first season hasn't premiered here yet. [Laughs] But it's validating to know that it has life beyond one season. It's difficult to create a story that you can carry over many seasons. For us, it's nice to know that the story only gets richer, which is such a good sign and a relief.
What else can we expect this season?
Daniel: This season sees the family trying to figure out what it means to be a family. For the longest time, money had been bandaging a lot of the problems in their life. On top of that, it's how this family adjusts to their new life. Some characters are far more willing to adjust than others. My character and Moira will absolutely not acknowledge that this is our life; it's merely a stepping-stone to something much better. It's really just playing that out. What's great about this show, especially when you get to the second half of the season, is that there's a really strong emotional undercurrent to it. As we start to learn more about them, we're laughing, but I think the audience will find that they feel things they didn't expect to feel. I think that's a really great element to the show as well.
Schitt's Creek premieres Wednesday at 10/9c on Pop. Watch an exclusive sneak peek below.