Tuesday 25 October 2016

Sharon and Rob do battle in the parent trap

John Boland

Published 01/11/2015 | 02:30

Sharon Horgan in Catastrophe
Sharon Horgan in Catastrophe

Should a sitcom be required to bear the onus of expectation that's been the fate of Catastrophe (Channel 4), produced, written by and starring Sharon Horgan and Rob Delaney?

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When first aired last January, Catastrophe was rightly hailed as both raunchily funny and true to the messiness of real relationships in a way that most sitcoms aren't. But it ended on an aggressively sour note, and this was also to the forefront of the new season's opening instalment.

Clearly married life and parenthood haven't proved easy for this mismatched, abrasive couple, and the jokes in this first episode were correspondingly fewer than before, though it was a nice touch when the viewer suddenly learned that a few years had passed and that Sharon was about to give birth to the couple's second child.

In the meantime, her father seems to have developed early dementia, while Rob's invasive mother, played by Carrie Fisher, is clearly an unwelcome long-stay visitor.

Yes, there were some laughs, but the overall tone was so raw that they were mostly uncomfortable.

Also uncomfortable was the opening instalment of Scream Queens (E4), which comes from Glee creator Ryan Murphy and which essentially is Wes Craven meets Mean Girls. Emma Roberts plays sorority head bitch Chanel, who treats even her most devoted minions with contempt, rhetorically asking one of her sycophants: "Did I ask you to pull down my panties and blow a compliment up my butt?" Her nemesis is the man-eating school dean, formidably played by Jamie Lee Curtis, who tells Chanel "I hate sororities and I hate you".

There's also a serial killer on the loose and there are some spectacularly violent deaths, but the tone is uncertain and much of the attempts at comedy just come across as sniggeringly unpleasant.

But there's no denying the visual and narrative verve and this may attract an audience as loyal as Chanel's gang of Heathers.

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