Sharon Horgan and Rob Delaney just wrapped up the final season of their Amazon Prime comedy series “Catastrophe,” in which they star and co-write. The duo was nominated for an Emmy back in 2016 for their writing, while guest star Carrie Fisher earned a guest actress nomination in 2017.
Horgan and Delaney recently chatted with Gold Derby contributing editor Rob Licuria about wrapping up “Catastrophe” after four seasons, how fans reacted to the finale and how they wanted to pay tribute to Fisher. Watch the exclusive webchat above and read the complete interview transcript below.
Gold Derby: I wanna talk about the ending because offline I was saying to Sharon how much I loved it but I’m still of two minds whether it was happy or tragic. Sharon, what do you think?
Sharon Horgan: We sort of deliberately left it ambiguous, although some people think it wasn’t ambiguous at all. Some people lean quite heavily towards something terrible happening. I like to lean towards, I know you don’t like me saying it, but a happy ending. It makes me happy. I like the thought of them having a life beyond. I think the idea was that the fans of the show could write their own ending and I suppose I’m greedy for the story to continue and that this whole life is going on for them both. But at the same time, we really, really love that it messed with people. We loved people throwing their tables upside down going, “What the hell?” We like letting people figure it out.
Rob Delaney: Yeah, I think of it as the camera just ran out of film and they’re still there and they’re enjoying themselves and they’re happy and they’re faced with a massive challenge and you don’t know how that’s gonna end. That’s like life. Greedily, since it ends with such a serious question mark, it makes the audience get involved more. They have to debate it and think about it and talk about it. Even though the show is over, people still have to grapple with it. So you’re still thinking about our show, which makes me happy.
GD: That makes sense. We are still thinking about it. We are grappling. When Rob turns around and looks at the sign and then says, “Stuff it, I’ll go in and join her in the lake,” I started getting really stressed out. The camera pans out and we see them maybe turning back to the shore and Arcade Fire is playing. It’s so perfect for the show. I should probably have a question. Sharon, I imagine there’s a lot of pressure ‘cause for example, Damon Lindelof is on the record about the abuse he copped for how he ended “Lost” and “Game of Thrones” has just ended and I’m sure those creators are probably copping it, too. Did that play in your mind about sticking the landing?
SH: First of all, it was the sea. It wasn’t a lake.
SH: Big metaphor going on there. We really, really cared. We thought of that ending, of them being in the sea before we started writing the season, really. It was massive for us. I don’t know. I don’t think we ever thought about it in terms of getting flak. I don’t think we ever thought, “We better not wind anyone up.” I remember the night before it went out texting Rob and going, “I just hope they enjoy it as an episode. I hope they just don’t focus on the ending.” It was all people were talking about. And then I was like, ‘Oh no, I like that, actually.” It really feels like we pulled something off. We were always ambitious for the series but we were particularly ambitious for that last episode. It all sort of worked out. We thought about it but I wasn’t thinking about people getting angry.
RD: Yeah, we didn’t really stress out about that. People have gotten angry at us before for things and that’s okay. I think in the aggregate, people who like the show like it but it’s fun to press people’s buttons and stuff. Also, you can’t really hamstring yourself. I think it’s actually quite unfortunate that people can get instant feedback and weigh in on stuff. There’s that petition that people don’t want Robert Pattinson to play Batman or something. That’s when people just need to go walk in the woods for a while and maybe get lost and starve to death because I don’t care what they think about Robert Pattinson and we were gonna do the ending that we were gonna do, and that was that whether people like it or not. Thankfully, most people liked it.
GD: Yeah, it’s thankful that most people liked it and as you say, Rob, it doesn’t matter what people really think. At the end of the day you end it the way you wanna end it but it really went quite well. It was fitting for me because throughout the four seasons, I always found “Catastrophe” to be quite unpredictable. I never really knew where you were taking us and I was really excited about going on the journey but I was wondering, does that ever become tiring? Sharon, was it particularly challenging to pull off this season, that unpredictable-ness that the show has?
SH: Yeah, it was, actually. In fact, it was the hardest to write for I think two reasons. One was we knew it was gonna be the last one so we were trying to write a season that felt satisfying as a last season but also not feeling like the end all the way through. We wanted it to just feel like the show so we were desperate for it to have the same kind of impact and just be funny and silly and serious when it needed to be serious and deep when it needed to be but we didn’t want it to wear its final season too heavily on its sleeve. I forgot what my second reason was (laughs). Oh yeah, because we didn’t wanna repeat ourselves. The whole thing was we enjoy writing it ‘cause we hopefully feel like we’re saying something new or coming at it from an angle that hasn’t been done for. We had this fear that it was gonna become tired and that people would notice the tricks and the tropes that we use, trying to avoid that, keeping it fresh the fourth season around, it was hard, for sure.
RD: We don’t think so much as being unpredictable. Life is unpredictable so we’re trying to be honest, not necessarily honest in the facts since some pretty wild things happen on the show but honest in the feelings. I think if you follow any real, genuine human interactions in a life, particularly in a family and an extended family, things can get crazy. You look at your own life and you’re like, “I can’t believe that thing happened two weeks ago” or whatever. We just tried to preserve that feel and certainly nothing in the show that happens is science fiction. It’s all pretty nitty-gritty stuff. Of course, yeah, you wanna stay ahead of folks and lead them on a journey that they’re enjoying.
GD: I think it’s important for people who aren’t familiar with the show that it is really realistic. I was gonna say this particular season I felt was slightly edgier, a bit darker than the other seasons, but I remember two years ago, Rob, you saying to me that you had a laugh-per-page ratio that you both are very conscious of. I was just wondering, Sharon, when you’re writing the show, especially this season with all the stuff that these two people are gonna be going through, did you find it particularly challenging to also keep the show as funny as it always has been?
SH: Yeah, it’s why Episode 1 was the hardest to figure out because this terrible, awful thing had happened at the end of Season 3 and we obviously wanted to address it. We didn’t want it to be sitcom land where everything is reset and everything’s fine. We had to deal with the fact that he put himself and his family in danger and that they really, really disappointed each other and made mistakes and all the other threads that are running along through it like Rob’s alcoholism and all of that. That’s when we came up with the neck brace, really, because we thought if he’s wearing a neck brace, he’s gonna look silly (laughs). We wanted some sort of physical reminder of what had happened and then we talked about it quite a lot and we both agreed that even when terrible things happen to you in a relationship, you’re still gonna laugh at stupid stuff and you’re still gonna forget for a second that you’re angry with each other. We let that play into it a lot and I think by the time we got to Episode 6, we knew that was gonna be a relatively heavy episode but we also had all these support systems for funny, like Sharon feeling like her holiday had been ruined or like the eulogy for Carrie [Fisher] and finding that email and like Rob’s dad being yellow and looking like a Minion. We knew there was enough silly, funny things that were crutches for us while we plowed through the harder storylines. Yes, it was harder to write for those reasons but I think we loved it the most. We really enjoyed writing it, especially Episode 6.
RD: Yeah, joke-per-page ratio is always most important for the show. I hope in the future that if you were gonna classify our show it would be in the same stack as “Seinfeld” rather than a stack of gritty comedy-dramas. I know there’s drama in our show but it’s not a comedy-drama. It’s a comedy. There’s some drama in it and if you’re not laughing quite a bit each minute, even if serious stuff is happening, I know I feel like a total failure.
GD: Yeah, you’ve gotta laugh constantly. It definitely is a comedy. As you guys were talking I was thinking about some of the one-liners. I reckon “Catastrophe” in years to come when I think back and others probably think back, will remember the one-liners. I can automatically think of when Sharon, you called the U.S. a white nationalist ethnostate. I don’t know who came up with that but that’s amazing. Or the fight where Rob says Sharon’s mean and selfish and no one likes you. I thought, “That’s a really horrible thing to say,” but I actually laughed out loud. I don’t know why. It’s just the way it was delivered. Or the second to last episode where the principal with the moisture pad, all that stuff. Who comes up with most of the one-liners? Who does it? I need to know.
SH: Rob’s the king of one-liners. It all merges a bit but the white nationalist ethnostate, I’m pretty sure that came straight out of his mouth with no editing. All the stuff where we’re fighting and battling each other, we work it out in the room but I would quite openly say that the really zingy one-liners, Delaney.
RD: I would challenge that and say no, Sharon’s gifted at that stuff. All I have to say to that one is “The Emancipation of Flyburton Crisp” came out of Sharon’s mouth like a machine gun. She’s gifted.
GD: Even the friend of Sharon at the school when she was saying something about how she was gonna squeeze the milk knowledge out of her tits, I was screaming. That’s gold. What a privilege to make people laugh to the point where they have stomach pains. Does that occur to you that you’re giving all these people joy and probably horror as well when we’re seeing these two people and what they have to put up with?
SH: I love it. It’s the greatest. It’s the best. It’s a proper drug. There’s loads of things that I’ll miss about the show, writing with Rob and hanging out with that team of people but people on the street reaction to the show when a new episode would come out, that’s such a pleasure.
GD: We should talk about Carrie Fisher. I know you guys are probably asked about her all the time. A lot of us are still shocked that she’s gone. She had such a big role to play on this show. She was Emmy nominated for her amazing, funny performance on Season 3. Let’s just focus maybe on the way that you guys eulogized her character in the series finale ‘cause it was so effective especially with Rob on the beach. It was really funny but also quite heartbreaking. Talk us through the process of how you got that right for eulogizing Carrie and, of course, her character.
SH: It was a later idea, finding the email. I’m so glad we had it because we needed to find a way to make the funeral of Mia quite different from my dad’s, which we’d only just done in Season 3 so finding a way to deal with not just Mia’s death but Carrie Fisher’s death because she was so loved and revered and known all over the world, it was a massive responsibility. We felt like over the seasons we only really saw her as an awful person right up until Season 3 when you got to find out a lot more about her, her abusive husband and how much she cared about Rob and even that she cared about Sharon, in a way. You saw the woman and the history behind that character. We tapped into her eBay thing. We just thought she spends an awful lot of time online and what if she was just the kind of person who was donating money to various different causes and then I don’t know how the Mike Pence insult came up but it felt like such a tribute to Carrie to allow her to be in the episode to the extent that she gets to criticize the current political climate. We were thinking what would make her happy and what would get her voice across.
RD: Yeah, if you’re writing your own eulogy you’re probably not gonna insult Mike Pence but if you don’t know you’re writing your own eulogy, you might wind up writing something even more honest. It really contained the gamut of her in that email. She’s doing a wonderful, kind thing that truly is helping people. It’s wrapped up in her obsessions with buying little trinkets on eBay and selling them and so it was a wonderful snapshot and we really tried to get something nuanced and shaded that would really show an accurate picture of the character that Carrie had built over the previous three seasons. I hope that we pulled it off.
GD: I think you did pull it off. As a final question, it’s a big moment for me as a fan, I get to say what my ultimate takeaway from the show is because what I wanna lead to is what is most commonly said to you by fans and people on the street and family and friends and critics. For me, the show, it made me feel introspective about my marriage, about relationships, and it made me laugh my tits off. I loved it to pieces. That’s my feedback. I’m wondering, what do you mostly hear from people now that the show is done and dusted and you’ve done your four seasons? What’s the most common thread you’re hearing from people now that the show is over?
SH: Now that it’s over, mostly it’s people asking us for it not to be over (laughs). And accusing us of being lazy or any number of things like that. In general, as it went along, and Rob will say the same thing, is people feeling like we were sitting in their homes, basically transcribing their lives. I think it was that. I think it was people feeling like they were being represented onscreen and not being necessarily represented in an idealistic way, just in a real way where they didn’t have to feel like the way they behave and their behavior as parents or partners or sons and daughters is normal. You can do terrible things. It doesn’t mean you’re a terrible person. I just think seeing that reflected back at them out of their TV screen makes you feel a bit better. That would be the main thing.
RD: Yeah, people just saying they could identify with it so much. If you think about it, it’s a very, very simple show. It’s a domestic comedy about a husband and wife. It’s the most basic structure since “Honeymooners” or “I Love Lucy” and that we were able to have that format but yet illicit from people, “Oh god,” or laughing, is really great. I love big, giant crazy things like “Avengers” and “Game of Thrones” and stuff. Those are wonderful. But that we were able to, in miniature, looking at a family, husband and wife, and really get people so wound up in good ways and bad ways but primarily strong ways, get wrapped up in it, is something that we’re very happy we were able to do.
GD: Thank you both so much for four really awesome seasons of TV and thanks again for your time today. We really appreciate it.