While HBO has been focusing their energy almost exclusively on their one-hour drama shows like Game of Thrones and True Detective, their half-hour comedy shows have been flying under the radar while producing some of the most original, delightfully subversive and hilarious work in the network's career.
Veep is a criminally underrated show and is hands down the best-scripted political satire on American television. The sly Bay Area tech culture satire Silicon Valley more than makes up for creator Mike Judge's previous misstep Extract. It's ironic that the most popular comedy show on HBO and also their biggest moneymaker as far as comedy content is concerned is Girls, which happens to be the worst show currently in existence, on any network.
Getting On is a refreshingly dark comedy about the drab day-to-day lives of a group of staggeringly incompetent and insecure nurses and doctors working at a geriatric extended care department in a rundown hospital. In a way, it works as the more cynical and realistic distant cousin to Ricky Gervais' appropriately saccharine Derek, which depicts a simple man whose mission in life is to help make a bunch of very old people's lives as comfortable as possible in a retirement home.
Even though characters like Derek, who selflessly take care of the elderly, really do exist in real life, Getting On inadvertently shows us that those Good Samaritans are in a small minority, since a lot of the employees who look after our senior family members consider their occupations as nothing but paychecks and therefore can be careless, awkward, disrespectful, self-centered, and downright destructive.
Apart from brilliantly deconstructing its corrupt and staggeringly troubled characters, Getting On also does a very good job skewering the many economic, bureaucratic and political dysfunctions of the American healthcare system.
The A-story of the pilot revolves around a piece of human feces left on a chair (The long discussions on what the plural and singular of "feces" provide the show with some of its best dialogue) as the doctors and nurses battle over who the "piece" belongs to, and whether or not it should be disposed of or studied. Until the ridiculously convoluted red tape can be sorted out, no one's allowed to touch the piece of poop as it remains on the chair for all to see for an entire day.
Even the most abrasive satirical comedy would have turned this Poopgate plot into the B-story. The fact that it not only provides the main conflict of an entire episode, but does so for the pilot, goes to show how much of an original and daring property HBO has on their hands.
Well, maybe not that original. It's based on a BBC show with the same name, unseen by me, which apparently also carries the same brand of crude yet brutally honest humor. Being able to broadcast mature content after a late hour, British network television puts enough trust into adults to use their own discretion when it comes to language, sexuality, or crude content.
It's depressing that the only networks that can faithfully adapt some of the best BBC shows for American consumption are our premium cable channels, which can show truly "adult" content. On the other hand, Britain really cracks down on showing violence on their screens while our primetime network shows are flooded with graphic violence that even the goriest horror films couldn't get away with twenty years ago. It feels like we have our priorities completely screwed up.
The cast of the American version of Getting On is pitch-perfect. As the neurotic and egomaniacal Doctor Jenna James, Laurie Metcalf constructs a character who looks like she can snap at any minute. A scene where she dives into an impromptu Donald Duck impression gives you everything you need to know about how crazy this character really is.
Alex Borstein brings her usual charm as the woefully insecure nurse Dawn. Mel Rodriguez portrays an annoyingly fragile male nurse so devoid of any humor that after a homophobic patient throws a bunch of slurs at him, he puts in a formal complaint to HR about a nurse who uses those slurs to fight back against said patient.
Niecy Nash is mostly known from Reno 911, as the willfully ignorant and sassy deputy. Considering the extroverted and wacky characters she performed in the past, she surprisingly turns out to be the perfect choice as the "straight man" character. She plays Didi, a nurse who only tries to keep her head up and get her job done, only to get caught up in the passive aggressive politics between the nurses and Dr. James. The best episode of the season is also the simplest one, plot-wise, as Didi struggles to get through a night shift where every other employee is drunk to the brink of alcohol poisoning.
Despite its designation as a comedy show, Getting On has a very gray and bleak look, as if the show runners told the photography crew that they were shooting a Lars Von Trier existential misery porn. The lack of vibrant colors really sells the show as a dark comedy and the 1080p transfer captures this feeling perfectly without any discernible video noise and with an incredibly clean presentation.
Getting On is a very low-key show as far as sound is concerned. It's very dialogue heavy and the rare use of non-diagetic music is usually muted. The DTS-HD 5.1 track that's provided with this release gets the job done as the dialogue is heard very clearly but do not expect any distinct surround presence. This is a show that can be easily watched with TV speakers.
Deleted Scenes: A six-minute series of short snippets, mostly full of information that's referred to in the final show anyway.
Gag Reel: A combination of bloopers and unused improvised jokes.
Getting On is an oppressively dark comedy that's definitely not for everyone, one that could slide into an existential drama with a couple of minor tweaks. Hell, the visual style probably wouldn't have to be tampered with one bit. However, it's a brilliantly written and acted show and if you have a particularly sick sense of humor, you should give it a chance.