Getting On is a dark HBO comedy show that takes place in a geriatric recovery unit of a large hospital, where elderly patients are sent after their operation either to recover or to die. Needless to say, the humour is often rather dark, awkward, and “uncomfortable” – and occasionally graphically adult. It is difficult to describe the humour accurately, but it has this slight off-centre touch that many modern comedy shows have, like Curb your Enthusiasm or the US version of The Office. I normally do not like this kind of humour all that much, but it worked for me in Getting On – possibly because it has only six episodes per season, so there was no chance for me to get tired of it.
As with other satires of this kind, the stories and problems are grounded in reality. So, while the characters may be larger than life and while the episodes’ plots may spiral into the absurd, the issues at hand are the very ones that people working in such an environment would easily recognise. These do not only include specific medical and social problems connected with geriatric care, but also general bureaucracy, egomania, “ass-covering”, and back-stabbing.
HBO’s Getting On is a remake of a BBC show of the same name, which had been created by Jo Brand, Vicki Pepperdine, and Joanna Scanlan. I had never heard of either of these shows before. Apparently, the BBC show ran for 15 episodes between 2009 and 2012, before the US remake was done under BBC supervision, running for three seasons from 2013 to 2015.
As Brand also played one of the leading roles in the British original, I would assume that the BBC version had a different kind of humour, but I might be wrong. But I am sure that the original was targeting the NHS, so the re-writes must have been significant
Each season of the HBO series contains 6 episodes, and I’ve only seen the first season so far. But so far it is a great show, provided the very dark humour and the general awkward and absurdist tone appeal to you. As I said, I usually prefer traditional sitcoms to these newer types of comedy, but something about Getting On appeals to me. Maybe it is because is gets the tonal balance (almost) right. Or it has something to do with the good writing or the amazing performances.
The three leading roles in the HBO show are played by Alex Borstein, Niecy Nash, and Laurie Metcalf, who recently received Golden Globe and Oscar nominations for her performance in Lady Bird. They all bring uniquely different personalities to life in their characters, with Nash’s character being almost the only sane person on staff. It is through her silently suffering incredulity that we as an audience feel reflected.
Recurring supporting characters in season one are played by Lindsey Kraft, Mel Rodriguez, Brandon Fobb, Mark Harelik (The Big Bang Theory), and the late Ann Morgan Guilbert (The Nanny). Notable guest appearances include those by June Squibb and Molly Shannon, and there is also a small role played by the late Harry Dean Stanton.
I really enjoyed this show and recommend you check it out. But since it is so very difficult for me to describe the show’s humour accurately, I suggest you try to find some trailers and clips online and check if the show might be something for you. It might also be worth checking out the British original by comparison, but as I said I have not seen it.