TITLE: Catastrophe (season 3)


STARRING: Sharon Horgan


YEAR: 2015 – 2017

RATING: 3 out of 5 overpriced baby prams/strollers

WHERE CAN I SEE IT? E4 (now) and Amazon on Demand (4/28)

I’m a huge Sharon Horgan fan. Her best work —both acting and writing — is in the BBC Three sitcom Pulling. You can, and should, watch Pulling if you like the type of debauched, dark humor that the British do so well. Horgan carries that humor over to Catastrophe.

Series one starts with Sharon (Horgan) and Rob (Rob Delaney — they didn’t reach too far for names) who meet and, after a one night stand, find out Sharon’s pregnant. Rob’s an American and Sharon’s Irish so there’s not only that pregnancy issue to figure out but also their cultural differences. Luckily, they’re both crass as hell, which is both entertaining and endearing in season one.

Series two is mostly dedicated to the grind that is new parenthood — a topic I find wholly uninteresting since people have been parenting for thousands of years without a) calling it “parenting” and b) without a lot of the accessories and lifestyle expectations that comes with.

By series three, there are shades of the “difficult” or unlikeable people in Rob and Sharon’s personalities taking over the foreground. This jibes with the idea that these two people really don’t know one another at all and neither do we. This season is also less about parenting and, to some degree, about being parented or patronized, whether by one’s own parents or at work.

I tend to gravitate toward side characters and in the case of Catastrophe season three, characters that were supposed to be odious in the beginning are actually quite funny. One example is Sharon and Rob’s friend Chris (Mark Bonnar) who starts off being the unhinged, vulgar Scottsman, but evolves into one of the people with the most consistent worldview.

Why, given this lukewarm review, have I binge watched all three series? I miss London. I’ve also wondered about American expats I met there who fell in love, had kids and made their home abroad. Do they ever get used to the particularities of British culture? Watching Rob faff about the capitol offers some insight to this, while embedding the story in both relationship and workplace situations specific to the British context.

Of note:

This was quite possibly one of Carrie Fisher’s final roles! She plays Rob’s very American mom and lucky for us, she drops a bomb in season three that’s probably going to be integral to explaining a lot of Rob’s personality and the ensuing upset.

I don’t understand the interstitial banjo, bluegrass music. Is it, like, a West-meets-West joke? Rob’s discordant American presence in sophisticated former Europe allusion?

In the unlikeable people vein, the show relies too heavily on talking about “pussies” and masturbating for it to even be delightfully shocking. I mean, most Americans can’t even talk about sex in a randy way without uproar, so the blue language is probably more present to shock Americans than tell us anything about the characters’ approach to life.

There’s also some really antiquated humor that lies in off-hand racism via jokes about Chinese people and ablism. The Disability Rights movement has a long way to go in the UK. The jokes at the expense of disabled people who are never shown serves the function, for me at least, of still not liking Rob and Sharon, but not moving any closer to caring what happens to them.

Completely peripheral, but still captivating: Sharon’s wardrobe and the trappings of a comfortable life in London. Clothes, nice houses and cool furniture entertain the eye when Rob and Sharon’s struggle to remember why they’re together. I am not alone.