Schitt’s Creek stars Eugene Levy and Catherine O’Hara very intentionally avoided a major TV cliche for married couples as Johnny and Moira Rose.
The creators of Schitt’s Creek made an active decision to have Johnny and Moira Rose subvert the traditional TV marriage, thereby avoiding a major cliche in the process. Throughout the Schitt’s Creek’s 6 award-winning seasons, the entire Rose family grows and evolves into better human beings, allowing themselves to be genuinely changed by the wonderfully offbeat residents of Schitt’s Creek, a small middle-of-nowhere town in Ontario, Canada.
Johnny Rose and daytime television’s Moira Rose are not great people at the start of Schitt’s Creek. Over the course of the series, Johnny slowly learns how to be a better father to his children David (Dan Levy) and Alexis (Annie Murphy), a better friend to the admittedly infuriating Roland Schitt (Chris Elliot), as well as a more hands-on and caring businessman alongside Stevie Budd (Emily Hampshire). Moira never loses her unapologetic flashiness, but she does eventually become somewhat self-aware by opening herself up to the town, demonstrated beautifully by her time with the Jazzagals. The one thing that never changes, however, is their unfaltering dedication to each other.
In the new behind-the-scenes book Best Wishes, Warmest Regards: The Story of Schitt’s Creek, co-creator Dan Levy confirms that his real-life father Eugene Levy and on-screen mother Catherine O’Hara very intentionally portrayed Johnny and Moira Rose in a way that positively celebrated their lengthy and successful marriage. “It was very important to them that they not portray a bickering couple using a tragic circumstance to separate from each other,” Dan wrote, “because that’s the expected thing to do.” That idea carried through until the very end of the series, as their marriage was never once in question no matter how bad things got. In the book, Dan added that Johnny and Moira “…didn’t turn on each other at all, [instead using] the tragedy of their lives to express their love and support for each other in deeper and more meaningful ways.”
When Moira Rose usurps his bid for town council, Johnny selflessly steps aside to allow his wife to shine. When Moira wants to go live abroad to shoot a movie obviously destined for failure—that she pulls off magnificently by the way—her husband is nothing but supportive, despite an entire episode dedicated to Johnny almost falling apart without her. When Mr. Rose freaks out about his family not wanting to spend Christmas together, Moira puts aside her own apathy for the holidays and helps rally the town for a last minute surprise party. They are not perfect people by any means, but their obvious love for one another in the face of a cascade of awful situations is truly admirable.
During its time on the air Schitt’s Creek—currently streaming on Netflix—had a history of subverting cultural norms in order to create a safe space for its characters, and by extension its dedicated fanbase. It’s well known that the creators made an active decision not to portray homophobia of any kind on the show, with the writers instead empowering characters like David and Patrick (Noah Reid) to tell their stories and have experiences largely uncommon for queer individuals on television. Johnny and Moira Rose breaking the stereotype of the traditional TV couple by remaining steadfastly committed to one another is yet another reason why Schitt’s Creek has remained so enduringly wholesome long after its final season.