Tuesday night's season finale of Catastrophe is going to make you cry. With laughter, as always, but also with emotion, as this is the episode that pays tribute to the sparkling, hilarious, late Carrie Fisher. As Rob’s mother Mia, Fisher played an extremely unlikeable Bostonian who spent her time bidding for useless trinkets on eBay, refusing to learn her granddaughter’s traditional Irish name and trying to convince her son to abandon his "foreign baby". But for a comedy whose very name warns just how calamitous the storylines will be, Fisher’s character fit in perfectly and offered the light and dark for which we know and love Catastrophe – when she wasn’t kissing her dog on the mouth (Fisher’s real-life pet, Gary), she was offering her son sombre, sincere warnings about the effects of domestic violence. She is – and will be – missed by everyone, cast and viewers alike. As will the show itself.
Because Tuesday's episode also marks the end of Catastrophe itself. Airing for the first time on Channel 4 in 2015 after the BBC turned down the script, the show was an instant hit and a second series commissioned almost immediately – series one began in January of that year, with series two following nine months later. Since then, the show’s creators and writers, Sharon Horgan and Rob Delaney have been nominated for and won an impressive number of BAFTAs and Emmys. Going by the usual markers of success, Catastrophe was a phenomenal comedy triumph, opening the doors for the likes of Fleabag and Horgan’s other creation, Motherland.
It’s rare that a comedy – or television show of any genre, for that matter – about parenthood focuses more on the parents' lives than how they relate to their children, but we knew Sharon and Rob’s innermost thoughts. Their relationships to other characters, such as the incomparable Ashley Jensen as uptight stage mum Fran, and her sweary husband Chris, gave us access to another dimension of their lives, showing that a family is made of more than those who share DNA.
But it was Sharon and Rob and their honest, stitch-inducing humour that kept us tuning in, whether they were cutting each other down – "Is your email address still firstname.lastname@example.org?" "Is yours still email@example.com?" – or professing their love for one another in a way only they could: "I was really touched seeing you go apeshit at someone for me." Theirs is the sort of relationship we all hanker for (although perhaps without the alcoholism and the money troubles), best summed up by Rob himself: "Even if I wanted to kill you, I wouldn’t kill you. Or have you killed."
Of course, it wasn’t perfect — the representation of BAME characters was mostly dismal, and the only trans character we met throughout the whole series was stereotyped as a sex worker.
It’s hard to pinpoint why we all fell in love with two dysfunctional adults who accidentally started a family. Perhaps it’s because they made us feel better about our own mistakes – we might text our ex every Friday night after too many post-work drinks, but we’ve never been impregnated by an American man we don’t know and may not even like, beginning a relationship that Sharon described as "like a heart attack or seizure or something". We might accidentally call our new boss "mum" but we’ve never loaned our brother-in-law thousands of pounds only for him to invest it in dodgy overseas real estate. We might have been horrendously late for work and blamed it on public transport when in fact we were in bed scrolling through Instagram, but we’ve never accused a colleague of sexual harassment because he left a wet patch on our desk – only for it to transpire that the roof was leaking. Or have we? The brilliance of Catastrophe was that we could channel our embarrassment, blunders and our darkest opinions through a medium that wasn’t only validated, but loved. It made us realise that really, we’re all Sharon and Rob, just doing our best with the catastrophe that is life.
The final episode of Catastrophe aired at 10pm on Tuesday 12th February on Channel 4. Series 1-4 are available now on All 4.
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