The biggest issue with season two of Catastrophe is that, like the first season, it’s only six episodes long. Six episodes is not enough episodes. More episodes would be better. Not an insane amount or anything. Like, 50 episodes would be too many. I do not think I would enjoy a 50-episode season of any show. I’d watch for hours and hours and be all, “Wait, I still have 32 episodes left?” It would be like climbing Everest, but without the cold or risk of death or Sherpas. So not all that much like climbing Everest. Although I guess you could invite a Sherpa over to watch with you, if you want. The company might be nice for the long slog. And I imagine the Sherpa would enjoy the break.
But anyway, as I was saying: Six episodes of Catastrophe is not enough episodes of Catastrophe. Everything else about season two, though? Pretty great, to the degree that it’s probably time to start talking about Catastrophe as one of the best comedies out there, on TV or streaming.
The setup of Catastrophe, if you’re not familiar, goes something like this: In season one, an American ad executive named Rob (Rob Delaney) travels to London and engages in a week-long sexual fling with a teacher named Sharon (Sharon Horgan), and a few weeks later, after Rob has returned home to Boston, surpriiiiise, Sharon calls him to inform him she is pregnant. Rob hops a plane to London and the two of them decide to give the whole thing a go, despite only really knowing each other biblically at that point. Bingo bango, we’re off.
It’s not the premise that makes the it all work, though. What makes it work is the two main characters, and the smart, funny, occasionally mean dialogue they spout off during numerous conversations about, well, everything. Pregnancy mostly, obviously. And sex. (There is a lot of sex on Catastrophe.) But also everything. And it doesn’t hurt that the show — created by Delaney and Horgan, who are married in real life, but to other people — surrounds its central couple with a collection of weird, unbalanced supporting players, which has the effect of making Rob and Sharon seem normal even as they rather openly behave like lunatics. Most notable among these performances: Mark Bonner, who plays Rob’s intense, vaping, shark-eyed married friend, Chris; and Carrie Fisher, who plays Rob’s passive aggressive, borderline evil mom, and whose presence on the show — along with Amazon’s thing where they put little “Did You Know?” tidbits on the screen when you pause — resulted in me learning this…
Without giving too much away, season two changes the game a bit for Rob and Sharon. So much of the first season was the two of them flailing around in the tornado of their own creation that they really never had time to stop and think. A surprise intercontinental pregnancy followed by a semi-shotgun wedding will do that to a couple. But now things are getting real. Very, very real. The result is a (slightly) more grown-up show that has moved past its (admittedly funny) gimmick and started pulling more laughs from recognizable, real world scenarios. Rob and Sharon are still mostly the same, but now the temporary, gung-ho bond they formed in the chaos is fading, and they have to try to create a real one that lasts. Put it this way: If the first season was the two of them getting thrown into a canoe and pushed out into the whitewater rapids, the second is them getting back to shore and making camp.
And it works. It was a little difficult to make a strong statement about the show after one season, if only because the six-episode run meant there was a grand total of 144 minutes to judge it on, but now I feel confident putting it in the upper echelon of comedies with shows like Silicon Valley, Veep, and You’re the Worst, among others. In fact, the show has a lot in common with You’re the Worst. They’re both shows about the world thrusting two slightly crazy people together, surrounding them with crazier people, and watching things periodically go boom. The difference is that where You’re the Worst uses drugs and alcohol and narcissism to mix things up, Catastrophe uses, uh, a fetus. To the extent there’s a formula for making a sitcom, you could apparently do much worse.
So, yes. Catastrophe is worth a shot, if you haven’t given it one already. And despite my complaints about six episodes not being enough, the nice thing is that you can pound through the show’s entire two-season, 12-episode run in a single weekend. A single day, even, if you really want. You can have that Sherpa bring a pizza over and make a night of it.
The second season of Catastrophe is now available to stream at Amazon.