Farewell, Catastrophe – thanks for the big laughs, biting humour and perfect swansong
From the awkward sex and the laughter to the urine-soaked engagement ring and the tears – C4’s relationship sitcom has been a fling to remember
Catastrophe has come to an end after four bold, incisive, filthily funny series on Channel 4 – and I can already tell it’s going to be harder to get over the loss of this relationship comedy than it has been to move on from most of my own (often catastrophic) romances.
Sharon Horgan and Rob Delaney created the sitcom – about a pair of thirty-somethings whose week-long fling results in pregnancy and marriage – after meeting on Twitter in 2010. When the first series was released in 2015, I saw every episode no less than four times, insisting on watching it with each friend I recommended it to and, no doubt to their supreme irritation, laughing even harder each time.
- The best TV shows airing in 2019
- Rob Delaney on how comedy helped him cope through grief
- Watch FULL series of Patrick Melrose, Save Me and In the Long Run for free – only on RadioTimes.com
The first series of Catastrophe, as is usually the case, was the best, and served up the most outrageous jokes. A highlight was undoubtedly when Mark Bonnar’s Chris described childbirth as such: “You see a little troll tobogganing out of your wife’s snatch on a wave of turds, and part of you will hold her responsible.”
Another classic moment (don't worry, I won't list them all) saw Ashley Jensen's Fran suggest Sharon treat her pre-cancerous cervical dysplasia with homeopathy, prompting Rob to scream: “If I thought for a second that I could just rub a blueberry on her vagina and fix her, I would, but I can’t because it’s BULLS***.”
But Catastrophe, while full of belly laughs, could also pack a forceful emotional punch when it came to issues such as cancer, grief and – in series one – a test for Down’s Syndrome during pregnancy.
It's introduced us to Sharon and Rob’s friends – Fran and Chris – who hold their own unique and twisted place in our affections. When I interviewed Bonnar about playing the acerbic Scotsman back in 2017, he described the role as “a gift from god” – a gift from the devil is probably more accurate.
There have also been brilliant guest stars along the way, including the inestimable Carrie Fisher, Julie Hesmondhalgh, Tobias Menzies and Chris Noth. The fact the series can call upon US megastars speaks to its popularity either side of the Atlantic, with two Emmy nominations and a Sarah Jessica Parker-starring HBO series – Divorce – for Horgan.
Cut to now, and series four has still delivered on the big laughs, notably Rob’s strange attraction to Princess Beatrice and Fran’s scandalous Apple Tree Yard moment on a London street. And again, the latest episodes have also delved into trickier territory, dealing with storylines about loss and alcohol addiction with daring humour and sensitivity.
The final episode was a thing of beauty. In one way, it was a study of grief, as Rob dealt with the death of his mother Mia, a plot development made all the more poignant by the fact that Delaney lost his own two-year-old son to cancer last year.
But the finale was also about new life, as Sharon discovered she was pregnant again and the pair swam off into the New England sunset together, contemplating their future.
Sharon and Rob, I want to thank you for bringing me Catastrophe, one of the great loves of my life.
You once said you would remember each other as “an extraordinarily good-smelling woman with a magical ass” and a “sturdy love-maker with a massive chin”, and I’ll always think of you like that, too.
But not in a creepy way.