Crackling wit and hurt feelings: Rob Delaney and Sharon Horgan’s Catastrophe gets off to a flier

The opening episode of the third series was rich in incident and laughs finds Ben Dowell


”What if I cut open my eye,” snapped a hurt and angry Rob. “Best best case scenario you would let me use your Oyster Card then you would text me a shopping list while I was in the emergency room.”


Rob and Sharon were in a taxi returning from the hospital where he had witnessed at first hand her marvellousness as a mother – their son had cut his eye – while also trying to square that with the fact that she had just admitted to a sexual encounter with a stranger at the end of the last series.

It is a credit to the writer-performing duo of Rob Delaney and Sharon Horgan that, while the show has becomes a huge hit in the US (earning a whole new audience since it began streaming on Amazon in the US), they make no concession to the down-at-heel language and wholly convincing rhythms of a London couple trading grievances and insults.

Most American audiences would have no idea what an Oyster Card was, but to have changed that line would have killed the gag.

“You are a genuinely good mother, you handled that lazy doctor really well,” continues Rob. “You are calm, you asked all the right questions. Considering what a s**t wife you are it’s a fascinating collision of skills.”

Harsh words, of course, but at no stage did the show lose the feeling that here were two people whose outward confidence and filth belies deep and highly plausible insecurities. The triumph of this show continues to be the way the two characters inhabit a cocoon of love and intimacy whatever life throws at them.

Firstly, he could smell her lie from a mile off . Her claim that she was going to a chamber concert with her bibulous and screwed up friend Kate (Eileen Walsh, below) didn’t quite ring true, of course. Though of course he didn’t guess that Sharon was also going to meet her one night stand to find out exactly what they did with each other (she had passed out and couldn’t remember, remember?).


“We have a wavelength,” says Sharon at one point and despite his lies and obfuscations, she’s not wrong. You could sense her pain about the deceit, her agonised betrayal of a relationship characterised squarely by (sometimes painful) openness with each other.

And it is these moments in Catastrophe that work best, when they are in a room together, admitting, as they did tonight to snooping on each other’s emails (Rob) or (Rob again) leavening a row about their sleeping arrangements with a stated wish not to sleep head-to-toe at risk of being “lacerated with your White Walker toenails”.

But it looks like there will be quite a lot to cope with this series.

Rob’s addiction to cheese and onion crisps (to mask his breath) and the glugging of Milk of Magnesia – plus the fact that he downed a gin-based cocktail at a work lunch – suggests that he is returning to the drinking that we had all assumed he had finally left behind.

It probably won’t help that Sharon’s teaching career is on the up – while her husband has signed up to a bout of joblessness after refusing an offer to return to his old workplace after the unfortunate (and unjust) sexual harassment allegation he faced in the last series.

At the start of the new series, Rob is certainly occupying the moral high ground. Even if his life looks like it is about to hit rock bottom…


Catastrophe series 3 continues on Channel 4 on Tuesdays at 10pm