Why Catastrophe Is One of the Decade’s Best TV Series

TV Features Catastrophe
Why Catastrophe Is One of the Decade’s Best TV Series

“When does it all stop being such a slog?”

That’s Sharon (Sharon Horgan), to her husband, Rob (Rob Delaney), as he sits doing work on a Sunday so he can be home in time for dinner Monday night.

Catastrophe, which premieres its final six episodes today on Amazon Prime, is one of the decade’s best series. Its farewell means we’re losing one of the medium’s funniest comedies—and its comedy cuts to the core of life’s daily hassles. “I don’t want to join the gym because of the mirrors and the people,” Sharon says in the season’s third episode. I want to get that printed on a T-shirt.

The series’ greatest gift is its dark, dark humor. In the series finale, when Rob worries that when they go to visit people, they die—that they as a couple have a “dark power”—Sharon muses, “I was just wondering if there was anyone we should visit.” As it ends its four-season run, Catastrophe is as sharp, as biting, as witty as ever. Few shows have the luxury of going out on such a creative high.

But in addition to losing one of TV’s best series, we’re also losing the most achingly honest show about marriage, parenting and the daily slog of raising a family, particularly when your children are young. When your days are sleep-deprived. Your nights a constant interruption of children. Your clothes are covered in spit-up and you have no time to do anything for yourself. I recently went out with a friend and she commented that my hair looked nice. I replied, “Oh, this is how it’s supposed to look, and how it looked every day before I had kids.”

I love to rail against how often shows forget their characters have children. The prime example of this, of course, is Grey’s Anatomy, in which Meredith (Ellen Pompeo) recently had a marathon 24-hour-plus surgery with nary a call to the babysitter. Even on shows like This Is Us, a family drama that usually remembers the children, Randall (Sterling K. Brown) and Beth (Susan Kelechi Watson) both flew across the country in this week’s episode to sit in a hospital waiting room. There was no talk of who was watching their three children, no calls back home to make sure everything was OK. I mean, it takes more coordination for my husband and I to go out to dinner. On TV, children are far too often treated as an accessory or a character trait, not as beloved, tiny humans who have an enormous impact on your life.

That never happens on Catastrophe. The couple’s children, Frankie and Muireann, are never afterthoughts. Rob and Sharon have a full-time (and very cranky) sitter. There’s constant discussion of who is picking up which child. They talk about what their children eat (or don’t eat). How they sleep. What they poop. My favorite moment ever occurred when Rob said to Sharon, “Frankie wants to show you the poop that he just did. Before you say ‘no,’ it’s pretty amazing.” The amount of time you will spend discussing your children’s bowel movements is one of parenting’s best-kept secrets. Because if you knew, you might rethink the whole thing.

There’s a scene in the series finale where Rob and Sharon have just arrived in Boston on a flight from London. Rob is pushing their baby daughter in the car seat/stroller contraption familiar to all parents. An exhausted Sharon is pushing Frankie in a stroller. She’s so tired she’s close to tears. That, my friends, is flying with young children, and don’t let anyone ever tell you otherwise. I’m convinced anyone who claims their children slept through the entire flight has drugged said children. Just the sheer volume of stuff you have to bring with you on a trip with a baby would move anyone to tears.

The series has been honest about child rearing and pregnancy since it began. In its first season, Sharon was never the stereotypical pregnant woman. She wasn’t throwing up every five minutes or demanding Rob run out for a midnight snack of pickles and ice cream. She longed for a cigarette (even taking a puff at one point) and dismayed over her swelling feet. But she went on with her life.

The series’ look at marriage, particularly a marriage in the thick of raising small children, is equally realistic. Rob and Sharon are in love with each other, and still attracted to each other, but more often than not too tired to do anything about it. When Sharon wonders if it’s OK that they’re not having sex that often, Rob replies, “On paper, it’s amazing, but if you were to initiate it tonight I’d just be angry.”

More than anything Catastrophe, recognizes that the daily slog—of laundry, carpool and grocery shopping, of sleepless nights and too-early mornings, of never having a moment to yourself—is worth it anyway. That all of it is pretty great.

So was Catastrophe. It will be missed.

The final season of Catastrophe is now streaming on Amazon Prime Video.

Amy Amatangelo, the TV Gal®, is a Boston-based freelance writer, a member of the Television Critics Association and the Assistant TV Editor for Paste. She wasn’t allowed to watch much TV as a child and now her parents have to live with this as her career. You can follow her on Twitter (@AmyTVGal) or her blog .

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