Catastrophe: Part of the New Wave of Comedy


The Channel 4 sitcom Catastrophe is back for its fourth and final season, bringing a much needed dose of dry wit and lovable characters to our screens. For those unacquainted with the show, it follows Sharon, an Irish primary school teacher living in London who unexpectedly falls pregnant after a brief fling with Rob, an American advertising executive visiting on a business trip. The dysfunctional couple try to make things work, and in the fourth season they are (mostly) happily married with two children, although in a delightful nod to their origins Sharon is still named ‘Sharon London Sex’ in her husbands phone.

Catastrophe stands out because of it’s dry humour and willingness to tackle dark topics such as death, alcoholism and mental illness. The mix of easy, clever humour and at times gut wrenching sadness provides an emotional depth unlike any other sitcom I’ve seen. We see real character development across the seasons, and refreshingly for a sitcom, not all of it is positive. Many of the main characters are not always likeable, but are so well rounded and relatable it makes them impossible not to root for.

Sharon and Rob are surrounded by an excellent cast of supporting characters, many of whom have their own well rounded subplots to add even more depth to the main storyline. The third season of Catastrophe also marked Carrie Fisher’s last television appearance, who gave an amazing performance as Rob’s cantankerous yet compassionate mother. I’m looking forward to the return of dysfunctional couple Fran and Chris, both of whom will be recurring characters during the fourth season.  

Although many viewers, including myself will be sad to see the show go, stopping after four seasons seems to be the right decision. Dragging out the main character’s story arcs would either lead to an unrealistic amount of drama, or a disappointingly mundane happily ever after. The fourth season is off to an excellent start, with the first two episodes delving into Rob’s alcoholism and Sharon’s struggle with parenting her children alone, tackling these issues in the comical and accessible way Catastrophe is famous for, without taking away from the importance of these issues.

In many ways Catastrophe is part of the new wave of comedies like Brooklyn Nine Nine and the Good Place, which not only use their platform to promote social issues, but integrate these topics into the comedy itself. However, Catastrophe does so in a way that seems uniquely British, bringing a more sarcastic, dry tone and a splash of realism to the table. Over the series, Catastrophe has touched upon several important feminist issues, such as the right time for a mother to go back to work, breastfeeding in public and sexual harassment in the workplace.

I’m interested to find out how this final season will end, as fans will be aware of the huge cliffhangers the last three seasons have been left on, but whatever happens, I trust that the writers will do the show justice.

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