Laurie Metcalf, Niecy Nash, Alex Borstein
HBO's Getting On is the best show on TV you're not watching.
Adapted from the British series of the same name by Big Love co-creators Mark V. Olsen and Will Scheffer, the comedy stars Laurie Metcalf(Roseanne), Alex Borstein (MadTV, Family Guy) and Niecy Nash (Reno 911) as members of the medical staff at a geriatric extended care ward of fictitious Southern California hospital — a place where senior citizens go to die and the people who work there aren't sure what they're living for.
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Sure, that doesn't
like a recipe for gut-busting laughter, which may be why HBO debuted the six-episode first season at the end of 2013 with little to no fanfare. "They didn't tell anyone that it was on!" Borstein tells TVGuide.com. "That's so frustrating. So, yeah, I'm excited that that this year there are billboards up, and I'm praying that we get a little more love and eyeballs."So, why should you give it a look? Keep reading to find out.
1. The cast is superb.
The three actresses at the center of the show are at the top of their brilliantly deadpan game. Metcalfe plays Dr. Jenna James, a physician whose bedside manner leaves much to be desired and who is constantly using her patients as unwitting participants in the research she hopes will bring her fame. Nash is delightfully understated as LPN Didi Ortley, the newest member of the team and, therefore, the most compassionate nurse on the ward. Her boss is Dawn (Borstein), a dedicated but easily distracted mess of a person who spends much of her time seeking the appreciation of Dr. James and the affection of supervising nurse Patsy De La Serda (Mel Rodriguez
), the possibly gay man she's been sleeping with.Like the work they do, there is nothing glamorous about these women. ("I literally ran downstairs, kicked the baby out of the baby's room, set up a video camera, and put myself on tape for the audition," Borstein jokes of going out for the role last year after having a baby. "I was a basket case, no sleep, leaking boobs, my hair a mess, no makeup — that's probably what helped me get the role.") And although they often end up in conflict with one another, they each have an earnestness that brings them back together. All they've got is each other, for better or worse.
HBO renews Getting On for Season 2 2. It's funny and sad all at the same time.
Yes, you'll laugh when one of the elderly patients smacks one of the nurses in the face with an aerosol can. (And there's plenty of off-color jokes about fecal matter and anal fissures.) But you'll also cry when another patient is finally wheeled off the ward for good. That the show can maintain the tonal balance is a remarkable achievement — one that takes a lot of effort. "It's the hardest thing I've ever done," Borstein says. "Every second on the set is a challenge, It's like someone handing you a piece of sheet music or a book and you read it all the way through and are like, 'Wow that was so dramatic and sad.' And someone turns to you and says, 'No, no, no, the whole thing was a joke. Every single time I would guess wrong."3. But more importantly, it's honest.
While it seems counterintuitive to set a comedy around one of the most tragic aspects of life, that's also what makes it relatable. Everyone has experienced loss and dealt with the sometimes unexpected emotions it evokes. "Mark and Will went through losing both of their moms, so it's written from such a real place of pain and comedy all rolled into one," Borstein says. Even when its being darkly comical, this show reveals its heart in the beautiful way it reflects humanity."Some people have said, 'OMG I can't watch that, it looks too depressing," Borstein says. "People are in denial that we are all going to die. It's going to happen to all of us and it's beautiful and it's terrifying and it's funny as sh--. If you want to avert your eyes from the difficult parts, you're also going to miss the incredible parts. Every day on the set, holding one of these older women's hands in the scenes, it reminds me of my grandmother's hand and the skin is so soft and it's so delicate and so transparent. That's really the show. You're just looking through the other side and it's really funny — hard to watch, but worth it."
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4. It's making excellent use of Hollywood's women of a certain age. In an industry obsessed with youth and beauty, it's refreshing to see a show full of older actors who clearly still have the goods. (June Squibb had a memorable turn in the first season and Season 2 features excellent use of Betty Buckley as a tragic alcoholic.) "They are actually donkeys. They're donkeys in costume," Borstein jokes of the many wonderful older actors on the show, many of them adding so much without ever speaking. "They're real older women. We have a giant untapped pool. A woman in Hollywood turns 45 and they're invisible. So, there is a huge pool of talent of these women who are incredible, and they're just waiting for parts that are delicious and these guys are writing them for them."
5. The plot is thickening. While the show established the characters and the world in its brief first season, Season 2 begins to tell more of these characters' stories. Dr. James navigates a shady deal with hospice care that she hopes will help fund her latest research project while Dawn and Patsy's relationship gets more and more complicated as they encounter new milestones. "I feel like things are quicker this season," Borstein says. "I think there might be more opportunities to laugh, but I do think that they really did an excellent job of not losing what was special about it and the charm of what makes Getting On, Getting On, but still letting it grow and letting the characters grow. "
Getting On premieres Sunday at 10:30/9:30c on HBO. Season 1 is available on DVD, Blu-ray and Digital HD beginning Nov. 11. Will you watch?