The state of television today can be overwhelming. There are so many shows out there on so many different channels and services that keeping up with it is impossible. With no time to watch it all, we’re forced to prioritize our entertainment. “Pretty good” isn’t good enough anymore. I don’t have time for pretty good. Your show needs to be great if I’m going to invest this much of my time in it. Sometimes in this incessant drive to remain culturally relevant and watch all the big shows, I forgot that this is all supposed to be about entertainment.
This is why when a show like Amazon’s new Catastrophe comes along and absolutely surprises me, I feel the need to share it with as many people as possible. If you have an Amazon Prime membership (and you really should) you should be watching this show. Here’s why.
Amazon’s foray into the world of original content has been an interesting one. They’ve gone about things in a slightly different manner than the other services, greenlighting pilot episodes of a multitude of different shows and then letting viewers pick ones that should get more episodes. It’s an interesting strategy and they struck gold with last year’s Transparent (another incredible show that you really need to watch), but the general result is a bunch of mediocre content that fails to define the feel of the service. With Catastrophe, it feels like Amazon is trying to work out what type of service it will be. And if so, I’ll be a happy Prime member for years to come.
Originally a Channel 4 British Romantic Sitcom before it was nabbed by Amazon for distribution stateside, Catastrophe tells the story of Rob, a Bostonian advertising executive visiting London on a business trip when he meets Sharon, a middle aged school teacher at a bar. The two hit it off and spend the next 6 days in a sexually charged love affair before Rob has to head back to America.
A month later, Rob gets a call from “Sharon London Sex” as he has her saved in his phone, breaking the news that she’s pregnant…and it’s his. Turns out when you have sex 25 times over the course of 6 days and only use a condom twice, these things happen. Rob decides that he needs to go back over to London to help Sharon figure this thing out and our Situation Comedy is now set.
This is a slight twist on the standard sitcom set up, but it’s different enough to make Catastrophe feel refreshing. Unlike other relationship sitcoms where most of the jokes stem from the fact that these two people can’t stand to be together, Catastrophe’s jokes center around the fact that they actually both like each other very much.
The shows two stars are also its writers. Rob Delany, of Twitter fame, plays Rob Norris. Rob is the calm, collected American desperately trying to keep his cool in an impossible situation. He’s a nice guy, treating everyone around him with respect, but he’s not a pushover. Rob isn’t afraid to speak his mind and is easily pushed into a place of rage if forced. A lot of his motivation for sticking with Sharon is out of his genuine affection for the woman, but not all of it. Rob’s relationship with his father was strained and he doesn’t want the same thing to happen with his children. This is a small point, but it’s remarkable how easily and believably the character’s motivations are set up. Delany’s humor is is clever and usually self deprecating and it works great for the character of Rob.
Sharon Horgan plays the female lead Sharon Morris (“Morris and Norris. Well at least that’s fucking ridiculous”). Sharon is an older english woman who’s clearly had a tough go of it romance wise. She’s cynical and guarded, but not in the kind of way that’s annoying. Her cynicism is relatable and always funny. She hates most of her friends because most of her friends actually deserve being hated. Like Rob, Sharon’s motivation is cleverly and quickly defined. The show doesn’t dismiss abortion as an option for Sharon out of some kind of moral opposition, it actually takes no stance on the issue. Rather, Sharon wants to keep the child because she’s in her 40s and this might be her last chance at having one. Oh, it’s also because she’s very much in love with her giant American boyfriend.
Catastrophe tackles very traditional sitcom situations: dinner parties with friends you don’t like, jealousy, dealing with your significant other’s parents, but it does so in ways that are refreshing and surprisingly hilarious. The show is a joy to watch and at six 24 minute episodes it’s a bare minimum of a commitment. I haven’t even touched on the absolutely hilarious supporting characters that feel like they could belong in a show of their own. Catastrophe is an absolute delight that I’m happy to say has been renewed for a second season. If you have access to Amazon Prime, I cannot recommend it enough.
My favorite parts:
Rob: “You’re crying…I don’t wanna have sex with a crying woman”
Rob: “No, I mean…I’ll do it, but get it together”
Sharon: “I might have insulted your mother a little bit on the phone.”
Rob: “Like how? Tell me how, because I want to do a different, more hurtful insult when I call her.”
Rob: “I got us tickets for The Emancipation Of Fly Burton Crisp. It’s the new Wes Anderson.”