Two long-running comedies say farewell this week.
One is much-loved, one much-liked. Both will be greatly missed. And together, they show how life (especially TV life) has changed in a decade or so.
Planning “Modern Family” in 2009, producers decided to start with a gay couple adopting a baby. “I remember saying to Chris (Lloyd), ‘Well, there goes Middle America,’” Steve Levitan recalled.
Now jump ahead 11 years: When “Schitt’s Creek” closes its season Tuesday, the entire focus will be on the wedding of David (Dan Levy) and Patrick (Noah Reid), shown here.
Their sexuality isn’t an issue; it never has been, throughout the six years of the show. “I don’t want to think about it,” said Levy, who co-created the series and wrote and co-directed the finale. “I want to treat these characters completely equally.”
They were talking (in separate sessions) to the Television Critics Association in January. And their comments show how a perceived issue had dissolved.
“Modern Family” didn’t lose the Midwest. Eric Stonestreet – who plays Cameron, then living with and now married to Mitchell (Jesse Tyler Ferguson) – learned that before the show debuted.
“I showed the pilot to a group of friends in Kansas, where I’m from …. I sat there and watched all of these middle-aged people my parents age laugh at all of the right places,” he said. “I was blown away.”
Levitan said a crew member found the same thing, early in the first season, when doing a quick gig on another show. “A Teamster guy, who looked really scary, came up to him and said, ‘You work on that “Modern Family”?’ What was expected next was some invective; instead, “the guy just looked at him and said, ‘I like that Mitch and Cam.’”
That might have been boosted by the sheer likability of the scripts and the actors. Whatever the reason, TV was turning a corner.
“Putting a gay couple in the forefront and not (just) a sidekick … was revolutionary back then,” Ferguson said. “And I don’t think it’s revolutionary now.”
Or six years ago, when “Schitt’s Creek” was being created. Levy is gay (as is Ferguson, but not Reid or Stonestreet) and wanted his character to reflect that. “My life is not a lesson to be learned,” he said in January. “My life is my life, and we’re going to depict it as casually and as effortlessly as we can.”
When the fictional Rose family moved to Schitt’s Creek, there were many things that startled the villagers. David was fragile and needy … his sister Moira was helpless without the family’s departed wealth … their mom was an ex-star who craved the spotlight. But David’s sexuality was a non-issue.
In some ways, these shows – both departing voluntarily – are at different levels. “Modern” has had 11 seasons and 250 episodes; “Creek” settled for six and 80. “Modern” won five straight Emmys as best comedy series; “Creek” was nominated for that once.
But that nomination was impressive – only the second time (after “Atlanta”) that a basic-cable comedy had been nominated.
“Schitt’s Creek” arrived as a small, Canadian show on a tiny American network. It was the only new, scripted show on Pop (the former TV Guide Network). It could have been overlooked, but it brought a quiet charm and likability. We’ve rooted for these people; we hope it’s an uncomplicated wedding.
It won’t be, of course. The finale – no surprise here – is a mixture of quiet laughs and warmth, in a town (and a time) of non-judgmental souls.
– “Schitt’s Creek” finale, 8 p.m. Tuesday, Pop and Comedy Central. Pop has a series overview at 8:32, then repeats both at 10 and 10:32. Also 2:30 and 3 p.m. Saturday, plus two latenight shows – late Thursday at midnight, late Friday (technically, Saturday morning) at 2:30 and 3 a.m.
– “Modern Family” finale, 9 and 9:30 p.m. Wednesday, ABC, with an overview at 8.