Most television hospitals look and feel like the Hollywood sound stages they're filmed on rather than the real deal. Their staffs are compiled of nothing but attractive, well-rested, made-up doctors and nurses and the most tragic patients get melodramatic musical accompaniment. Getting On is not one of those shows. It is a bleak, clinical take on the staff and patients of a cold, clinical place: the geriatric extended care wing of a hospital.
But here's the thing about why all those other hospital shows do so well: no one wants to actually feel like they're at the hospital. While Getting On will likely resonate with people who work in hospitals and all the office politics that go into it, anyone else will want to scrub it off of them as soon as it ends.
The series premiere follows Nurse DiDi (Reno 911's Niecy Nash) on her first day on the job, which just so happens to be the 4th of July. Denise is a kind, thoughtful, hardworking woman who is being trained by an annoying, talkative, emotional Nurse Dawn (MADtv's Alex Borstein) as they deal with issues on their floor like how to dispose of feces on a chair and the death of a patient on her 87th birthday. They are both bossed around by the frazzled and demanding Dr. Jenna James (the great Laurie Metcalf from Roseanne), a woman more concerned about her clinical studies than patient care.
One can certainly appreciate a show that aims more for bleak realism than warm fuzzies (this is the geriatric wing of a hospital, after all) but with the exception of Nash's likable, comforting DiDi, there's little reason to keep going with this bleak show. Metcalf's Jenna has a meltdown and is transferred to the wing of the hospital she has spent the better part of the episode trashing. ("It’s a dead end no one would ever want to work in this dump," she cries). So she'll either adapt to her surroundings, or make everyone's life -- including the viewers -- a living hell, and I'm not sure if that's incentive enough to watch.
Everything in the pilot of Getting On feels intentionally grating, like how Borstein's chewing is amplified to make her character more annoying and the staff members (each one more unhinged and sad than the next) all seem to scream over each other. The humor is as dark as the setting, so that doesn't provide much levity. Again, it's only Nash's DiDi's humanity for the patients that give any hope to such a hopeless-feeling place.
Getting On could very well be the antidote to the schmaltzy, overdone Grey's Anatomy or grow into a surprisingly good character piece with a heart at the core of its dark mind like Nurse Jackie, but it's awfully hard to get past that hard-to-stomach pilot to want to stick around.
Getting On airs at 10 PM ET on Sundays on HBO.
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