Psychologically speaking, the chicken-and-egg dilemma surrounding art and life is a complex one. There are so many variables, including and most importantly the perspective of the audience. A scene or episode, for example, can either be eerily reminiscent, providing viewers with a déjà vu moment, or can be so completely foreign to the viewer that we instantly change the channel. The result can evoke empathy and a wide range of emotions … or nothing at all.
The former is the pool in which I find myself swimming after completing Season 1 of Catastrophe, the fantastic new UK Channel 4 series that premiered in January. Since June has aired in the U.S. on Amazon Prime, and it’s the latest reason why there’s so much more to streaming television than simply Netflix.
Created by and starring Sharon Horgan (The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret) and Rob Delaney, Catastrophe is anything but a disaster, and it reminds me so much of the love affair and friendship I share with my girlfriend and the mother of my amazing daughter. This fact, alone, squarely places Catastrophe in the “win” category of our television list, and judging by the 100% on Rotten Tomatoes’ “TomatoMeter” such a score is well deserved. See, babe, there are others who think like us! In fact, there are others out there who are actually like us!
Sharon Morris is a middle-aged Irish woman living in London when she meets Rob Norris, a visiting American ad exec from Boston, at the local pub. The two have oddly similar surnames, share the same acerbic wit and all the while can’t keep their hands off one another. At times, they also annoy the hell out of each other. The true hijinks – and character chemistry amid superb writing – are just the beginning.
The two strike up a conversation at the bar one night and a sexual spark that plays out later that evening – and the next several – before Rob’s business trip concludes and he heads back to the States. It was a good, orgasmic time but nothing more, as Sharon and Rob part ways. Or so they think. What starts as a notch on the bed post for both, especially as Rob lists Sharon on his phone under as “Sharon London Sex,” turns into a permanent love tattoo when Sharon discovers she’s pregnant.
What ensues is hilarity at its darkest, most sarcastic best, as the cheesy Rob decides to do the honorable thing and move to London to help Sharon raise their baby son. He’s 38 and swinging single one minute, with his whopping 2% ownership stake in the ad agency, and jobless with an expiring Visa the next. That doesn’t stop him from proposing marriage or Sharon accepting.
Still, neither are sold on each other as they decide to proceed with their relationship, which is so fulfilling and sweet yet awkward and real at very same time that we as viewers can’t help but root on the couple as they do a dance between grossing each other out and ripping each other’s clothes off. It’s a train-wreck in the making, and we all have a front-row seat. Yet there’s something so honest about Sharon’s and Rob’s relationship that we can’t help but root for them both.
Catastrophe is a smart series, comedic gem and as good as any half-hour series that has aired in some time. It conjures up the very best flavor from such classics as Seinfeld, Cheers, hell, even Mike and Molly or Will and Grace, but its remains so refreshingly unique and innovative that it blazes its own trail and can never be accused of being formulaic or imitating, even if something about it strangely strikes so close to home.