I honestly have no idea why on earth it took me until just recently to tune into Getting On.
I was well aware of it when it aired (2009- 2012) and it is co-written as well as starring Jo Brand- the second funniest person on the planet, in my opinion. Its other two main stars Joanna Scanlan and Vicki Pepperdine also co-write the show. The first two series are directed by Peter Capaldi and he also starred in a handful of episodes.
Due to the anecdotes told to me by the majority of my mum’s side of the family, who work in the health care profession in hospitals and with the elderly, Getting On is something which I can relate to.
The series opens with Sister Den Flixster (Joanna Scanlan) holding the hand of a dying patient, as she laughs at something amusing on her phone before Jo Brand’s character, Nurse Kim Wilde, bursts in announcing: “There’s a shit on a chair.”
Now to anyone who has been reading any of my previous blog entries, you will probably assume that this crude statement would cause me to groan with disgust and switch off. In fact you could not be anymore mistaken. Like with many of the ‘gags’ in this programme, I can think of them for only a second and I will be crying with laughter, no matter where I am.
In a world where political correctness in the workplace has gone mad, it seems only right that Nurse Wilde cannot “pick it up with a bit of tissue and flush it down the toilet” as she would have done 12 years ago before she returned to the practice. Instead she must fill out a ‘critical incident’ form and put caution tape around the deposit until the owner is identified before it can be taken up to the lab as part of Dr Moore’s ‘critical’ stool research.
What I thought was wonderful about this NHS ‘satire’ as the show is often described as, was the fact it was so close to reality when it comes to hospital care, uppity doctors, staff shortages and nurses being paid a pittance to be the dogsbody. My aunty who is an Occupational Therapist apparently could not watch it as it was too familiar, a vast contrast to how hospitals are usually portrayed on television.
This ‘dark’ reality of course comes first hand from Brand’s own experiences working as a psychiatric nurse before her comedy heyday. This is married very beautifully with the poignant portrayal of life.
The concept of Getting On is simple, this ‘mockumentry’ if you like, follows the staff and patients on ward B4 (and later K2 when the staff move to a shiny new hospital in series three) during several shifts.
The running of the hospital appears to be a bit of a shambles as demanding and patronising Dr Moore (Pepperdine) cannot see how her self-indulgent ways have prohibited her to have any kind of people skills. She often is the last to know what condition her patients are in and will get Sister Flixter to do the minor things she should be doing. Subsequently Sister Flixster passes these chores onto Nurse Wlide.
In the first episode the major challenge faced on ward B4 is dealing with getting to the bottom of who the newly admitted elderly woman is and why she was admitted- the only flaw is, she doesn’t speak any English and nobody knows what language she is speaking. They quickly diagnose her as confused as they can’t understand her. “It is very confusing to tell whether she is confused because we haven’t got the language” explains Sister Flixster. Luckily for them, a man from ‘Language Line’ will pop in and assist.
However, like with all good plans comes bad news, the man can’t come until tomorrow. Sister Den has a brainwave and will repeat what the lady is saying to Nurse Wilde, who is on the phone to Language Line. As you have probably guessed, this results in what is quite possibly the most hilarious round of Chinese Whispers you have ever seen: “Goligaligedima, adga mortichi,” which of course ‘doesn’t mean anything.”
As well as the three leading ladies Ricky Grover makes up the cast as Matron Hilary Loftus whom Sister Flixster immediately takes a shine to. The scene in Matron’s office is especially funny as Sister uses the excuse of having a bad year due to her husband running off (“I’d only known him a couple of weeks before getting married”) after getting her to sign an agreement for a £15,000 loan, taking the Berlingo and the dog with him, for not filling out her Form A.
She then suggests they go to ‘Fingers’ a wine bar, to fill it in, “There is a nice quiet bit at the back”. This results in television’s most disastrous ‘will they won’t they’ relationship, which plays out throughout the programme’s three series run.
One of the things that makes it such a catastrophic relationship comes to the surface after Matron Loftus issues a formal complaint against Nurse Wilde after her joke of calling him “a fat Nance” backfires. Despite it all being put into “ weird NHS Language to make it sound much worse than it really was,” a question mark is left hanging over Matron’s sexuality throughout the series.
For me it is Jo Brand who makes this show. Despite being at the very bottom of the pecking order, it is her character that is the only one to come across as genuinely caring about the people she is looking after.
Her quick wit and sarcasm, along with sloping off to the toilet to have a crafty cigarette has the audience crying with laughter- literally. I read somewhere that not being an actor didn’t faze her that much because she wanted to play it as real as she could and having been a nurse she was able to do that with ease.
There is nothing bad I can say about this observant comedy. It really does take talent to create something that will make you laugh whist you are in despair that this is probably what is happening in NHS hospitals up and down the country as you are watching, I feel the balance of comedy and disbelief is done splendidly and therefore, I cannot recommend this sitcom highly enough.