It’s a tale as old as time: attractive grown-up boy meets gorgeous grown-up girl, a fair amount of alcohol is involved, over a week they fall out of cabs and into hotel room beds, and when all is said and done, a good time is had by all.
Oh, and now she’s pregnant.
Catastrophe, available now via Amazon Prime after a run on the UK’s Channel 4, is a new series written by and starring the aforementioned goodlooking twosome, Sharon Horgan and Rob Delaney. Unless you are familiar with the David Cross project The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret, you might not know of Horgan. Born in London, raised in Ireland, she has been repeatedly recognised by BAFTA for her snappy, snarky writing and acting. Horgan should be, and may very well be if this program does well world-wide, the UK’s version of Tina Fey. Rob Delaney you know from his stand-up career, massive Twitter following, and the dreamy photo of him I keep inside my school locker.
Delaney, playing an American-in-London named Rob, meets, likes and impregnates Horgan’s fortyish London gal, conveniently called Sharon, all within the first half of the first episode. So what are these two fertile knuckleheads going to do? Will hilarious consequences ensue? Are we cheering for them to make it work? Are they allowed to swear so much on British television?
Definitely. As much as this is a funny, and ballsy, show, it is also benefits in the quieter moments from great chemistry between the leads. Whether they are getting to know each other, awkwardly confronting their perilous future either fully together or side-by-side-by-child, or navigating the hazards of frenemies and family (the usually sweet Ashley Jensen does well as Fran, Sharon’s snobby, predatory pal, and it’s always good to see where Carrie Fisher is going to take things), we are rooting for it all to work out, preferably in front of recognizable and telegenic British landmarks.
So Sharon calls Rob, drops the bomb, he comes over to England, and things do change, but how aptly he rolls with it. I must confess that when I first saw the cast names, I temporarily mixed Delaney up with Only Sunny‘s Rob McElhenney. Big difference. Switch the two very funny but very different actors out and I think you’d find the show would collapse. Without being able to define it too precisely, there is a certain type of American that fits in in the UK, and Delaney, err, “Rob”, is one of them. (Delaney, for his part, does live in London in real life.) Part of the humo(u)r here is watching poor Rob, over his head and behind the eightball, with a frightened new girlfriend and an unexpected baby, finding his way. There might be cheap laughs to be mined if the character was a well-meaning buffoon of the Rogen variety, but what we’d gain in “you guys call cigarettes fags?” jokes would be lost in situational believability. Rob looks like a guy that knows the lay of the land, and realistically would step up. Clever Sharon seems an otherwise independent woman who, accidently or through the wisdom that only comes with too many margaritas, chose very wisely.
A catastrophe is, by definition, a disaster, but two episodes in, even with a small stakes-raising twist in the story, what befalls our couple hardly seems that. For all of their spontaneity and loosely structured personal lives, these two are adults. Adults with enough money to live comfortably in London – not a mean feat, but then neither of them is employed as, let’s say, a foreign correspondent for a cultural website. Horgan and Delaney strike the right balance of fear and fun. As the series progresses the road ahead will have to be rocky for the laughs to keep coming, but as we start off, this catastrophe couldn’t have happened to a nicer couple.
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A former ABC National, Dallas and Atlanta radio personality, Martina O'Boyle is now making movies and covering culture in London, Dublin, and as far in Europe as the cheapie flights will take her, for Pop Culture Beast.