Sunday 21 January 2018

6 reasons why Catastrophe is one of the best shows on TV

Some mothers do have 'em: Sharon Horgan, seen here starring in the hit TV series Catastrophe, has won plaudits for her all-too-real portrayal of messy motherhood
Some mothers do have 'em: Sharon Horgan, seen here starring in the hit TV series Catastrophe, has won plaudits for her all-too-real portrayal of messy motherhood
Aoife Kelly

Aoife Kelly

It's the final episode of the third series of Sharon Horgan and Rob Delaney's delicious sitcom on Channel 4 tonight, which sadly features the late Carrie Fisher's final TV appearance, recorded just before her death last year.

If you have yet to enjoy its brilliance, or even if you have already fallen in lust, here are six reasons why Catastrophe (written by and starring Horgan and Delaney as a couple whose 'six-night-stand' results in a pregnancy and relationship - in that order) one of the best shows on TV...


It's real

Irish Londoner Sharon and American Rob's banter as they negotiate their lives together is savage and warm and witty and more.  They wanted to present a 'recognisable marriage' and have worked hard to create a relationship that resonates as something that could exist in reality as opposed to the artificial terrain of sitcomland. A more honest and authentic TV portrayal of modern relationships you will not find.  Sharon and Rob are probably the most relatable couple on TV.  They are all of us.

Rob explains why he thinks viewers love the show, "Every episode is written by the same two people and one of them is a man and the other is a woman: that’s my theory as to why people who like it do.  Also, people see terrible things happening to people but they figure it out and it’s not the end of the world.”

Never a truer word said.

Pillow talk: Rob Delaney and Sharon Horgan as Rob and Sharon Norris in Catastrophe

While it's hilarious (see below for examples), the tone successfully flits from hilarity to sadness and back again.  There are some genuinely heartbreaking moments that really ring true involving a parent with dementia, a wedding night row, and almost-cancer news to name but three. 


The writing

It's deliciously filthy and crammed with too many laugh out loud one-liners to mention.  Here's just one scene replete with quips like, "I guess I'll go suck some tits on the bus then. Russian ones."  For context:

Other gems:

“If a normal courtship is a dance, then ours is like a heart attack or a seizure or something.” - Sharon on their one-night-stand turned relationship.

“Why does everything have to go right for her? I wish sometimes she’d get arrested for tax fraud or her dad would get caught with child porn, just to knock the smug out of her.” - on a self-satisfied friend.


"My fanny looks like it stepped on a landmine.” - a lapdancer who has just borne a child confides in Rob on his stag.

"Sorry I sent you out of the room.  I would've let you stay if you weren't audibly crying, you know, if there hadn't been a noise component." - Sharon to Rob.

"Even if I wanted to kill you, I wouldn't kill you.  Or have you killed." - Rob.


Carrie Fisher...

The late Star Wars actress played Rob's mum, appearing briefly in the first and second series but featuring much more heavily in the third.  She completed her final scenes for tonight's final episode just a few days before she suffered a heart attack on a flight from London to LA.

Actress/director Sharon Horgan and talent Carrie Fisher speak on stage at Tribeca Tune In: Catastrophe at SVA Theatre 2 on April 19, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Robin Marchant/Getty Images for Tribeca Film Festival)

“She loved saying arseholey things but was also just a lovely, kind supportive person," Sharon told The Independent.

"We had a screening at Tribeca of series two and Rob couldn’t come because of a family matter. We called her up and said, ‘would you mind coming to New York and filling in and doing a Q&A?’. And she did. She drove herself in from Harvard.”

The show has been commissioned for a fourth series but the writers have yet to figure out how to work around her sudden absence.

"I'm hoping time will pass and we'll think of a fitting finish to that story," said Horgan.

Here she is being brilliant:


The rest of the cast

There is no weakest link.  The writers have fleshed out the supporting characters with as many layers as their own and the cast, including the wonderful Ashley Jensen, Mark Bonnar, Eileen Walsh, and Jonathan Forbes as Sharon's sarcastic brother Fergal, revel in their roles.


Each series is only six episodes long

'That's not a good thing!' you might roar and you'd be right, of course.  However, the short series length may well result in tighter, snappier writing, devoid of filler or redundant characters or aimless subplots or gags that just don't land.  Quality takes time - it takes Horgan and Delaney four or five months to write six episodes.

That's not to suggest they couldn't sustain the high quality over a longer series but Horgan herself is not a fan of the US model of flogging series to death.  Speaking to the Hollywood Reporter last year, she said, "I don't think anyone needs 26 episodes of anything. I think it's stupid and greedy. But if you can do that and you make it good," that's great. "But it's hard."


Even the reviewers love it

They're a fickle bunch, those TV reviewers, but they're unanimously enamoured by Catastrophe. On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes the show's first and second seasons both bag the highly coveted 100% fresh rating (with a rather impressive 91% and 90% respectively from the audience). 

Catastrophe, Channel 4, 10pm


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