I really don’t remember when and how I stumbled over Catastrophe, the British comedy about an Irish-American couple having a one-week affair in London ultimately leading to an (unwanted) pregnancy. But I had to keep watching and season 1 is six episodes of true and hilariously rude comedy. And love.
The pilot establishes the plot in such a fast pace, it reminded me of the (German?) saying: Becoming a father isn’t that hard to do, but being one is. The first five minutes we follow Irish woman Sharon Morris (Horgan in real life) and American ad guy Rob Norris (Delaney) from their initial first meeting in a bar to having a week long affair in his hotel room. The setup is clear and both know that their affair is short-lived, because Rob will have to leave for the US.
Sharon finds out that she’s pregnant and calls Rob in Boston (who’s on a date) to figure out what to do. Both decide to give it a go. Rob cites his absent father and his wish to not repeat his mistakes as the reason to try it out whereas Sharon regards her age and the risk of never having a biological child as the main draw. Rob returns to London and, although the two barely know each other, moves in with Sharon.
The chemistry between both actors is palpable and the supporting cast, from Rob’s disapproving mother Mia (Carrie Fisher) to Sharon’s awful friend Fran (Ashley Jensen) and husband Chris (Mark Bonnar) and Sharon’s parents and brother, rounds out their dynamic perfectly as a young(ish) couple expecting a baby together against the odds. (Which odds? Society. Age. Love in times of Tinder.)
A romance against the odds
Despite its title, Catastrophe is upbeat and deadly romantic. It serves the notion of finding love somewhere along the way and making it work (against said odds). Topics like vaginal dysplasia, a pre-form of cancer Sharon has and which might turn into “proper” cancer in the long run, prostate stimulation, the risk of geriatric pregnancies and the question of whether to test for Down Syndrome in the growing foetus or not might be hard to swallow, but although these fears are real and can be terrifying for anyone watching, the series handles them with a realistic approach and in a very grown-up way, honest and so so funny. The sense of humour employed throughout the six episodes is rude and filthy – the good way. And although we only get six episodes with these characters, they’re being established to become multi-layered, such as the friend’s husband Chris, who in the first episode comes off as mischievous and annoyed, but turns out to be so much more.
The writing is on point and swearing doesn’t shy away from (in the UK more commonly used than the US) a heartfelt “cunt”. There’s sex and vomiting, toe nail clippings and cigarette smoke, where it shouldn’t be, but Catastrophe never veers into obscenity or vulgarity.
And it always feels relevant. If something happens to these people, something happens to a baby and this commitment and relevancy plays out during the whole time.
Sharon and Rob are an island of goodness, despite their swearing and opinions on others. But they are good and want to make it happen. They seldom fight, but when they do, it comes out in chunky bits. I’m not going to go into details here, but I can’t wait for another season.
Catastrophe ran on Channel 4 in the UK and can be streamed on Amazon Prime.