The NBC family dramedy “This Is Us” is popular with fans and critics alike for good reason. The parallel story telling between past and present is clever. The characters are relatable and likable. The storylines are at once familiar and original, and viewers are guaranteed a cathartic release by the end of every episode. It’s sappy in the best way, and I watch it regularly, getting swept up in the plot twists like everyone else.
Then, there are nights when I want to escape into a show without committing to doing the “ugly cry.” That’s when I press play on the Amazon comedy “Catastrophe.” It’s also about relationships and family, but it’s a bit raunchy, a little risqué, and very much hilarious – in a dry British humor kind of way. When you’re in the mood to watch a show that’s full of characters making sentimental declarations to each other that are screaming to be cross-stitched on a pillow, tune in to “This Is Us.” When you want to hear characters say what you would only dare to think, “Catastrophe” hits the spot.
Here’s my favorite example (and this won’t give away any major plot points): In a quick exchange at the beginning of one of the later seasons, the lead characters Rob and Sharon talk about their son, after they’ve put him to bed. They comment with parental pride about how adorable he is – so adorable that even his little penis is cute. Yes, they’re admiring their son’s penis.
If you weren’t listening closely, you might miss the exchange because it’s not integral to the show’s story line, but it represents why this show is so great. The scene is a casual, private conversation between parents, and they’ve hit on a completely relatable sentiment from an entirely fresh angle. Who doesn’t think every inch of their baby is adorable, even their genitals? It’s a weird line to say in a show, and it’s an even weirder sentence to write here, but it’s true, if you’re really being honest with yourself.
Couples and parents will identify with all sorts of conflicts and dilemmas in “Catastrophe,” just like “This Is Us.” The difference is, where the characters on “This Is Us” find a way to say just the right thing or engineer the perfect sweeping gesture to express their emotions, the characters of “Catastrophe” tackle real life issues in an un-romanticized way, with plenty of curse words and off color comments to boot. And sometimes, the conversations don’t wrap up air tight, which feels both uncomfortable and authentic.
“This Is Us” is an honest, heart warming story of a family coming to terms with its own baggage, and it touches and uplifts its audience along the way, but “Catastrophe” is equally as honest and just as much a reflection of “us,” its viewers. It’s just not the part we’d want cross-stitched on a pillow.