If you haven’t been watching the fantastic Catastrophe, created by and starring Sharon Horgan (Pulling, Divorce, The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret) and Rob Delaney (well, Twitter, mostly), it’s easy to get caught up. All you have to do is go binge-stream it all on Amazon. With each season the standard British six episodes in length, it’ll only take you the better part of an afternoon to be up to speed and ready for season three, which I’m happy to report is just as great as the two preceding it.
One reason Catastrophe continues to be so fresh and surprising is that it shows no fear in hurrying its characters along dramatic paths. Six episodes to a season doesn’t seem like much, but a lot of major shit goes down in that short span. The show feels as though it’s constantly changing, and in a very organic way. Throughout, Catastrophe has stayed focused on the same core cast of characters—Sharon and Rob at center and the friends and relatives who orbit them—but the seasons feel significantly different from one to the next.
The first followed Sharon and Rob rethinking and reorganizing their lives around an accidental pregnancy, while the second took place after a sizable time jump. The couple were now living together with two kids and the series branched out a bit to explore the satellite catastrophes of the people around them, for example the dissolution of friends Fran and Chris’ marriage and Rob’s friend Dave’s struggle with drug addiction.
Season 3 takes place right where season 2 left off and tightens the focus back in on Sharon and Rob whose lives are seeing a lot more drama. Money woes, light infidelity, alcoholism, and death all rear their heads. Catastrophe has never been a show to shy away from the darker elements of life, but this season is easily the most dramatic with several devastating, tragic scenes played completely straight. Thankfully, the show somehow pulls them off as well as it does comedy.
Not to say it’s not as funny now—far from it. I’m not an easy laugher and this is one of a scant few current shows to get a full-fledged guffaw or four out of me every episode. As it’s been from the beginning, it’s Catastrophe’s filthy, dark, absurd honesty that makes it work. It’s this that makes it touching and hilarious all at once, like when Rob is comforting a distraught Sharon as they lie in bed, but the moment is killed by an involuntary boner.
It’s also so interesting to me how, even though Sharon and Rob have two young kids, this remains exclusively a show about adult relationships and problems. It’s clearly a deliberate approach; the kids effectively have no lines. They’re practically background, quietly the impetus of nearly all the couple’s troubles. It’s a unique handling of parenthood, one you don’t even initially recognize is happening, and it works brilliantly for the series, keeping it on track. Further, in one rare moment when Catastrophe highlights one of the kids’ personalities (through action, not dialogue), the surprise of it causes the emotions to hit all the harder.
Perhaps the only real “negative” I can think of is that the breezy, piss-takey nature of Sharon and Rob’s relationship in the first season has gradually morphed into something heavier and less charmingly snarky. But considering they’re now married with kids and problems, it’d be foolish to expect their dynamic not to evolve. In the end, I’m just impressed by how convincingly each season of Catastrophe feels like a realistic development in these characters’ lives. Plus, even if Sharon and Rob aren’t quite as jokey with each other, Catastrophe finds plenty of laughs elsewhere.
The current climate of our world makes safe, happy sitcoms come off more disingenuous than ever. Shows like Catastrophe—in which people struggle to find and create good in the face of life’s unrelenting shittiness—feel vital. Still darkly, dirtily funny, even as it gets more unapologetically dramatic, this continues to be an awesome, wonderfully written show, well worth keeping up with.
The third season of Catastrophe will be available to stream on Amazon on April 28th.