The return last night of Channel 4’s hit sitcom Catastrophe for a fourth series felt like meeting an old friend and discovering, with delight, that nothing has changed between you. The friend still makes you laugh like a drain and you find yourself wondering why the deuce you have left it so long.
In truth, in the case of Sharon Horgan and Rob Delaney’s sharply observed and exquisitely funny take on marriage and parenting, we were left with no choice but to await its reprisal for 21 long months. But, boy, was it worth the wait. If its comic genius lies in its exaggerated yet utterly recognisable rendering of modern married life with young children, the opening episode of the new series did not fail to deliver. So what if few of us have crashed a car while drink-driving, wound up in court, been sentenced to 215 weekends of community service and found ourselves confined to a neck brace for a spell, as (spoiler alert) has the hapless Rob Norris. Despite this very specific set of regrettable circumstances, the show’s relatability endures.
Here are five things last night’s episode got superbly spot on:
1. Traipsing far and wide behind a double-decker buggy
Literally left holding the babies while Rob pays his debt to society in a charity shop, Sharon resorts to the only workable alternative to (figurative) house arrest: pushing her two infants around the streets in one of those unwieldy double-decker double buggies. It’s a course of action familiar to anyone who’s had two children within not very many years of each other. Faced with a day spent climbing the walls at home, we frequently take the more physically punishing option of the streets, the playgrounds, the museums, and repeat. Sharon’s exhausted, determined mien behind the buggy tells you all you need to know about childcare for multiple under-fives.
2. Steering your child towards the gift shop's cheaper toys
Your darling expresses a desire for something expensive he is guaranteed to play with for 10 minutes, then discard. ‘But wait, have you seen these toys over here?’ you ask him brightly, directing him towards a section of much smaller, and even more colourful, plastic items. These will also be discarded after 10 minutes, but at least they'll only set you back a few quid. Generally (though not in Sharon’s case) only one of you can emerge from the gift shop happy and victorious. The other will be angry and resentful for the rest of the day.
3. Scoffing the kids’ food
You’re hungry, and there it sits in the fridge, simply daring you to take it. Yes, you know it was destined for your child’s lunch. But would the contents of those teeny tiny yoghurt pots have been designed to fit neatly in an adult’s mouth in one gulp if they weren’t intended for adult consumption? No-one’s blaming you, Rob Norris. No-one except your wife.
4. The great pleasure of going braless at home
This one courtesy of Sharon’s friend Fran who, since her husband and then her son moved out, has extracted great happiness from never wearing a bra before 4pm. Oh the comfort. Oh the joy.
5. If you can still make each other laugh, you’re probably still ok
The episode ends with shared laughter, and sex that is complicated only a little (ok, a lot) by the aforementioned neck brace. If any two things suggest a marriage is still working, they are surely laughter and sex. (Less so a neck brace.) We look forward to seeing how long both are sustained for the remainder of the series.