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Josh Reviews Catastrophe Season Three

July 19th, 2017
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I absolutely adored the first two seasons (or series, in the British parlance) of Catastrophe, which I tore through in short order last year.  (Click here for my review of season one, and click here for my review of season two.)  I have been waiting with great anticipation for more episodes, and the six-episode third season did not disappoint!

Catastrophe tells the story of Sharon (played by Sharon Horgan) and Rob (played by Rob Delaney), who hook up for a weekend of passionate sex when Rob is in England on business.  When they discover Sharon is pregnant, Rob decides to move to England and he and Sharon try to make a go of being a couple.  The first six-episode season chronicled the nine months of Sharon’s pregnancy, while the second season jumped ahead a few years to show Sharon and Rob as parents to two young kids.

This third season picks up right after the end of season two, in which Rob has discovered that Sharon secretly had a pregnancy test, afraid that a drunken hookup when she was pissed at Rob had resulted in her getting pregnant.  (It didn’t.)  The show makes quite a meal out of Rob and Sharon’s dancing around one another in the opening episode of this season, with each having knowledge the other doesn’t think they have.  It’s painful but very, very funny.

Which is a great description of the show as a whole!  All of the characters in Catastrophe are flawed, and the situations they encounter are painfully real and human.  At the same time, the genius of the show is the way it’s able to be howlingly funny at the same time!

If I have any quibble with season three, it’s that just as in season two, it is hard sometimes to watch these characters I have grown to love be so unhappy.  Back in season one, both Sharon and Rob were scared and sometimes lost, but they weren’t as put upon by life as we have seen them be in seasons two and three.  That gave season one a fun and a lightness that the subsequent seasons have somewhat lost.  But on the other hand, the show has gotten to a deeper place, which is impressive considering the short run-time of these seasons.  The subtlety with which season three explored the impact of Rob’s falling off the wagon was impressive.  There’s no simplistic, comedic drunkenness here.  Rob is, for the most part (things get worse as the season progresses), a functional alcoholic, and I don’t recall ever seeing that explored in as honest a way on TV as it is here.  I like that, early in the season, we … [continued]

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The Top Twenty Episodes of TV in 2016 — Part Three!

My list of my Twenty Favorite Episodes of TV in 2016 continues!  Click here for the beginning of my list, numbers twenty through sixteen, and click here for part two, numbers fifteen through ten.

Let’s continue as we enter my Top Ten!

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10. The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story: “Marcia, Marcia, Marcia” (season one, episode six, aired on 3/8/16) – I vividly remember the events of the O.J. trial, and at first the idea of a TV dramatization of those events didn’t hold much appeal for me, but like everyone else I was blown away by the riveting ten-episode The People v. O.J. Simpson.  I was incredibly impressed with the way the show humanized so many of the men and women involved in the trial, even those who at the time I saw as villains or cartoons.  The show’s greatest triumph was its complete redemption of losing prosecutor Marcia Clarke, who was brutalized by the media and much of the public at the time.  This incredible episode of the show shines a spotlight on this particular issue, showing the many ways in which Ms. Clarke was run through the public ringer as she attempted to prosecute the case.  The show, and this episode, hold out Ms. Clarke as a hero, someone attempting to navigate the impossible collision of prosecuting a hugely public case while also attempting to maintain a private life and be a mom to her kids, all the while going through a nasty divorce (and the way that divorce was thrust into the public eye), as well as incredible sexism and judgments about her appearance (her outfits, her hairstyle) made by the general public and colleagues alike.  We see Ms. Clarke forced to grin and bear snide comments not only from Judge Lance Ito but even a nameless check-out clerk when she’s buying tampons.  It’s heartbreaking.  This performance was a triumph by Sarah Paulson, who was able to bring Ms. Clarke to life with enormous dignity and grace, and who with just a tiny movement or look could bring the audience right into Ms. Clarke’s heart and mind.

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9. Black Mirror: “San Junipero” (season three, episode four, released on 10/21/16) – I rejoiced that Black Mirror, Charlie Brooker’s marvelous British anthology series exploring the dangers of technology, was resurrected by Netflix for a third season.  This new season didn’t wind up matching the greatness of the first two seasons, but one standout was this episode, “San Junipero.”  In the 1980′s, we follow the gentle story of the flowering relationship between Yorkie (The Martians Mackenzie Davis), a tentative young woman first taking ownership of the idea that she is a lesbian, … [continued]

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Josh Reviews Catastrophe Season Two!

May 24th, 2016
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I absolutely adored the first season of Sharon Horgan and Rob Delaney’s Catastrophe, so of course I quickly moved on to season two.  Thank goodness, it’s just as brilliant, hilarious and absolutely filthy as season one.

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For those of you not in the know, Catastrophe tells the story of Sharon and Rob (fictional characters although they are played by the creators who have the same first names), who hook up for a weekend of passionate sex when Rob is in England on business.  When they discover Sharon is pregnant, Rob decides to move to England and he and Sharon try to make a go of being a couple.  The first six-episode series chronicled the nine months of Sharon’s pregnancy.  It was an extraordinary delight, fall-on-the-floor funny and with a level of blunt raunchiness — pulling no punches in its depictions of the realities of sex and pregnancy and everything that comes with both of those things — that made me quickly fall in love with it.

The very first scene of the first episode in season two is playful in terms of misleading the audience as to when this second series takes place.  But since all the promotional images for the show depict Sharon and Rob with two kids, I don’t think I’m really spoiling anything by saying that this second season, in a somewhat surprising move, takes place several years after season one.  Their first child is a few years old already and, in the first episode, Sharon gives birth to their second.  I praised the first season of Catastrophe for many reasons, one of which was that I loved how quickly they moved through the nine months of Sharon’s pregnancy, rather than doing what many American sitcoms would do and milking the show’s set-up for years.  Here again I applaud Ms. Horgan and Mr. Delaney for having the courage to move the show, and its characters, forward by several years so that we can see how they have developed and so the show can tell different stories here in series two.

Season two expands the focus beyond Sharon and Rob.  Many of the show’s supporting characters, most particularly Chris (Mark Bonnar) and Dave (Daniel Lapaine), get some interesting development here in season two.  The show is suddenly unafraid to spend time with these characters when they are away from Sharon and Rob.  It’s an interesting development, and one that I enjoyed, even though it led to a few more somber moments (as both men struggle mightily with their loneliness) that interrupted the show’s fun.  But I enjoyed this broadening of the show’s horizons.  These story-lines also seemed to indicate that Mr. Delaney and Ms. Horgan are envisioning … [continued]

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Josh Reviews Catastrophe Season One!

Amazon’s six episode series Catastrophe, which originally aired in the U.K. on Channel 4, is a concentrated burst of comedic genius, fall-on-the-floor funny and staggeringly profane. I loved every minute of it.

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The series was written by Sharon Horgan and Rob Delaney, who also star as Sharon and Rob.  The two meet when Rob is in England for a week for business, and they have a torrid few days of enthusiastic sex.  Then Rob goes home and neither truly expects to see the other again.  Until Sharon discovers she’s pregnant.  So Rob moves to London and he and Sharon decide to make a go if being a couple.  The series follows the following months of Sharon’s pregnancy.

Catastrophe is a magnificent creation.  It doesn’t go easy on either of its characters or the problems they face trying to get through a pregnancy and build a life together.  It’s a show that is very frank and honest about how hard this situation would be for Sharon and Rob, rather than giving us the gauzy-eyed rom-com version of this story.  But it does so without ever being anything less than blisteringly funny.  The jokes come fast and furious.  That the show is able to so deftly balance feeling so real, with being so consistently funny, is astounding.

I adore both Sharon Horgan and Rob Delaney in these roles.  They are so funny, and also so human.  These are magnificent performances in instantly iconic roles.  I was not familiar with either Ms. Horgan or Mr. Delaney before watching Catastrophe, but believe me I will now be paying close attention to anything they do in the future.  Catastrophe works because of the delicious chemistry between these two leads.  (And remember, they also wrote the show together!)  I love the way they can each say truly horrible (yet very funny) things to the other, and then give a small grin to show how much they like the other, and that the way they bait each other is a part of the special and unique way that these two characters connect.

There’s a sweetness to Catastrophe underneath all the filthy jokes that surprised me, but that is part of why I loved the show so much.  Thankfully, though, the show is careful to never over-step into treacly over-sweetness.  In the finale, Mr. Delaney and Ms. Horgan give us one of the show’s most tender moments, in which Rob is willing to cut Sharon’s toenails on their wedding night, and immediately follows it up with their harshest, meanest argument.  That argument was deeply unsettling to watch, but I can understand why they included it.  As I commented above, this is a very human show.

For a tremendously … [continued]