The best way to describe Catastrophe would be as a ‘coming of middle age’ story. Two people forced together and compelled to make real adult life decisions. The show is also realistically rude, often walking the line between what we’re used to hearing on TV and what you colloquially say with your mates. It’s quite refreshing to see.
Watching Catastrophe‘s debut reminded me of this quote from Tina Fey’s book Bossypants, in which she talks about pilots.
“Pilot scripts are particularly difficult to write because you have to introduce all the characters without it feeling like a series of introductions. You have to tell a story that’s not only funny and compelling but also dramatizes your main characters’ points of views and what the series would be about thematically.”
Catastrophe made it look easy.
Human hashtag Rob Delaney (widely known as one of the funniest people on Twitter) plays Rob, an American businessman visiting London. While Sharon Horgan (co-creator of the BAFTA winning Pulling), plays Sharon, a teacher. Their one night stand turns into a week of crazy sex until he flies home, she finds out she’s pregnant, he flies back and they decide to give it a go… and that’s all within the first five or so minutes.
Catastrophe moves with pace, it’s a narrative neatly built around its characters with a constant flurry of gags that are subtle and well delivered. The first episode gives a lot more than some shows do in a season.
After an unnerving trip to the doctor, where the word ‘cancer’ provides a few laughs, we meet Sharon’s ‘friend’ Fran (who Sharon actually hates), played by Ashley Jensen. Fran invites Rob and Sharon to dinner with her husband. This uncomfortable dinner helps us uncover even more about the true nature of these characters and their intersecting lives.
The first episode has done a solid job of setting the tone for the whole series, makes me wonder why the BBC turned the script down (they had initially commissioned a script from Rob, who invited Sharon to write it with him). It’s not only well written, but it also shows just how good an actor Sharon Horgan is, switching from comedy to drama with rare Thespian bipolarity. Sharon and Rob have great on-screen chemistry and that’s an important part of its charm. It’s not that much of a catastrophe at all really.
Catastrophe is available to watch on 4OD now