September 2016

Noted

‘Catastrophe’

By Harry Windsor
Still from Catastrophe
Season two; ABC2

The first season of Catastrophe premiered last year and was a riotous wonder: an antidote to the antiseptically primped relationships that stock every other sitcom. The six-part half-hour comedy was the brainchild of its leads, Sharon Horgan, the Irish writer and star of several UK shows, most notably BBC Three’s Pulling, and Rob Delaney, a square-jawed charmer who looks like a cartoonist’s version of an American abroad – a bear in loafers.

Season one began with ad man Rob and school-teacher Sharon meeting in a London bar before repairing to the bedroom for a week-long fling, ending only when Rob returned to Boston. Shortly after, Sharon was pregnant, and Rob moved to London to make a fist of it. The season ended with a screaming match on their wedding night, followed by Sharon’s water breaking prematurely. The second begins with a rug-pull: the couple’s morning screw is interrupted by their three-year-old.

That jump only amplifies the cosmic contraction of their old lives. Sharon is heavily pregnant with their second child, and beset on all sides: by her father’s dementia, her unsympathetic mother-in-law (an unbridled Carrie Fisher), and the mothers at playgroup who find her vulgarity nose-wrinkling. For his part, Rob is shilling drugs that don’t work while fending off the advances of the office vixen, his veterinary dreams abandoned. The pair’s attempt to re-energise their sex life on a trip to Paris goes awry when Sharon forgets to pack her breast pump.

Despite the growing family at its centre, season two of Catastrophe is still distinguished by how uninterested in children it is. “I’m more proud of us than I am of the kids,” says Rob. “What’s to be proud of there?” Sharon’s friend Fran (Ashley Jensen) brags endlessly about her son, a child actor who works with the likes of Patrick Stewart, but we never meet him.

This season we get more time with side players such as Fran and her husband, Chris (Mark Bonnar), a Scot whose fondness for the scatological reference is typical of the entire show. On their first meeting, he advised Rob to steer clear of the delivery room: “I saw my son coming out, and it was a fucking war zone.”

Shading in the ensemble is a canny move: a testament to the vivid work of the supporting cast as well as an acknowledgement that the domestic trials of our heroes are becoming a touch oppressive. Catastrophe is as funny as ever, but the bile is swelling, and the season ends on a cliffhanger that makes earlier ones look like very small beer indeed.

Harry Windsor

Harry Windsor is a Sydney-based writer.

In This Issue

Illustration

An island ark

A cat-detection team is doing important work on Dirk Hartog Island

Image of Michelle Guthrie

Is Michelle Guthrie tuned in to the ABC?

The new managing director’s vision isn’t clear

Illustration

The perfect host

There’s more to throwing a party than putting out some dips

Image of Sydney University graduate

Thinking caps on

Where has demand driven our universities?


Online exclusives

Image of Joseph Engel and Sara Montpetit in Falcon Lake, directed by Charlotte Le Bon. Photo by Fred Gervais, courtesy of MK2 and Metafilms

Cannes Film Festival 2022 highlights: part one

Mia Hansen-Løve’s ‘One Fine Morning’, Charlotte Le Bon’s ‘Falcon Lake’ and Dmytro Sukholytkyy-Sobchuk’s ‘Pamfir’ were bright spots in an otherwise underwhelming line-up

Image of a man updating a board showing a tally of votes during independent candidate Zoe Daniel’s reception for the 2022 federal election. Image © Joel Carrett / AAP Images

The art of the teal

Amid the long decline of the major parties, have independents finally solved the problem of lopsided campaign financing laws?

Image of Monique Ryan and family on election night

The end of Liberal reign in Kooyong

At the Auburn Hotel on election night, hope coalesces around Monique Ryan

Image of US President Joe Biden meeting virtually with Chinese President Xi Jinping from the Roosevelt Room of the White House, November 15, 2021. Image © Susan Walsh / AP Photo

The avoidable war

Kevin Rudd on China, the US and the forces of history