“We wanted it to be messy, but we also wanted the love to be palpable,” explains Rob Delaney as we chat via webcam (watch above) about “Catastrophe,” the hit comedy series he co-created and co-writes with Sharon Horgan. Delaney plays an American adman visiting London who hooks up with an Irish school teacher (Horgan). Their whirlwind week-long fling leads to an unexpected pregnancy, he relocates to London and the two eventually fall in love. That was the basis of the first season of six episodes of this UK/US co-production that was seen stateside on Amazon Prime. The second six-episode outing debuted on the streaming service in April after unspooling in the UK last fall, as the action moved ahead a few years. Rob and Sharon are now married, coping with the highs and lows of new parenthood, and expecting a second bundle of joy.
It was important to Delaney when developing the series that they be honest about the highs and lows of being in a relationship. “We want to capture what it really feels like. And the fact is, it feels exciting, depressing, teetering of the edge of unfixable violence,” he laughs.
“I remember seeing on TV when I was a kid people saying ‘you can never un-say that!’ My wife and I said all of that in the first two years we knew each other! I am so fascinated by relationships and marriages and parenting, so we just wanted to look at it in a way that was real. If you’re going to operate in that rainbow palette, your palette must include the darkest black there is, and the bloodiest red, because that’s real!”
In May, the duo won the BAFTA TV Award for comedy writing, defeating some giants of British comedy. “It was genuinely shocking,” readily admits Delaney. “I was just blown away. To win a BAFTA when you’re British is amazing, but to win it not being British is just like a dream.”
On the process of writing all 12 episodes of the show to date, Delaney reveals that they are “pretty fanatical outliners” with a wry grin. “I would say we’re good at outlining and we’re good at rewriting, and we’re probably below average at first drafts,” he explains. “We know that if we build the scaffolding, the guts, with a very strong outline for the whole season, then you prod yourself and trudge through the early drafts, then it’s OK if they’re not funny or good or even readable, but then we’ll go forever rewriting, which we really enjoy.”
As for priorities when fleshing out the two main characters, Delaney says that the core of the show is about love and laughter. “We definitely think about the laugh per minute ratio; we’re terrified of going to long without a real laugh. And at the end of the first few drafts of writing season two, we went back and did what we call a ‘love pass’ because we know that these characters have sharp edges, but we are very cognisant that we aren’t just making the show for just ourselves. We specifically engineer how we think people are going to feel about these characters. We don’t just throw it out there like ‘take it or leave it, jerks! Here’s our art!’
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