Through four years of caustic dissection of marriage and parenthood, the charisma, warmth and chemistry of Catastrophe’s brilliant leads ensured we went out on a high
After four scabrous series in as many years, covering sex, pregnancy, cervical dysplasia, a child whose name its father can’t pronounce, drunken encounters with stray young penises, bereavement and alcoholism in cruelly, hilariously honest fashion, Catastrophe (Channel 4) last night reached its end. Pulling, the first comedy by Catastrophe’s co-creator Sharon Horgan, is often cited (perhaps because it was so misunderstood, and cruelly cut off in its prime, by the commissioning powers-that-be) as her masterwork. Even its brilliance is but a candle to the blazing beacon that is the story of American ad man Rob Norris (played by Catastrophe’s co-creator Rob Delaney), Irish schoolteacher Sharon and their journey from one-week stand and accidental pregnancy to married parents of two living in domestic bli-… well, living happily together. Well, living together with enough moments of happiness to make it worthwhile. Probably.
I don’t know how singletons found it, but for the spoused-up it was like being battered for half an hour in a rough sea and emerging exhilarated at the end. “Smug marrieds” was always the least believable trope in Bridget Jones (most people wanting to couple up don’t take inspiration from their friends, but rather lessons in what not to settle for). Horgan and Delaney’s creation gave us the truth. That marriage means long stretches of bonding mostly over problems that your children have created, and hoping that the waters of life leave you enough stepping stones – as they slowly submerge the love you have for each other – to get you to the other side and the sweet release of death.
Comedically, Delaney and Horgan are made for each other. A show this caustic – and it burns through comforting delusions as efficiently as acid through meringue – about long-term love, parenthood and fortysomething bodies needed their individual and joint charisma, warmth and chemistry. Without that, Sharon would easily have transmuted from magnificent virago to simple bitch, and Rob the henpecked husband instead of awed, unflinching admirer, happy to let her whet her blade on him but never stupid or soft enough to let her plunge it in.