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Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Still Getting On - One of the most underrated BBC comedies makes a welcome return

There are some programmes that just don’t get the respect they deserve and returning comedy Getting On is one of them. Despite Jo Brand winning a BAFTA for her performance in the series it is still languishing away on BBC4 at 10pm and I do feel that the programme deserves a much better timeslot. Written by its main cast - Brand, Joanna Scanlan and Vicki Pepperdine, Getting On looks at the staff of a geriatric wing in a hospital though in this latest series there are quite a few changes.

In the last series we heard that the King Edward’s Hospital, where the action takes place, was going to be renovated however those plans have now fallen through with Edward’s now being merged with the neighbouring St. Jude’s. Our characters’ new home is Ward K2 which, in the very first scene, we see Kim (Brand) struggling to find eventually arriving to be greeted by a harassed Den (Scanlan) who chastises her for not following the yellow line into the ward. In the past the programme has picked up on how administrative protocol has got in the way of actually treating patients however it appears that that theme will be particularly prevalent in series three as the nurses get used to their new ward. As we see throughout the episode the cleaning of the ward and the preparation of meals are both handled by private companies which results in more paperwork for the staff and confusion for the nurses.  There are also some recurring gags to do with Den and Kim’s new surroundings namely the pair trying to work out how to use a remote controlled bed and the fact that there’s a room with a keypad that they just can’t get into. Finally former matron Hilary Loftus (Ricky Grover) is hanging around as a private administrator who is carrying out checks on all the wards to essentially identify which staff members are surplus to requirements.

As well as all the observational comedy from the hospital there also seems to be a conscious effort to include more about the central character’s personal lives. It seems that Kim is getting tired of being the only one who works hard yet is constantly looked down on and, following a dressing down from Dr Pippa Moore (Pepperdine), she decides to enrol in medical school. Den is now back with her husband, following her disastrous relationship with Hilary, who she plans to move to Leicester with however she gets some unexpected news at her health MOT which may change these plans. Finally Pippa has separated from her husband and is throwing herself into her work namely getting her vaginal research project of the ground though she may also be looking for love with the on-call psychiatrist.

I think the one thing you can say about Getting On is that it is incredibly bleak because it manages to make the very new ward K2 seem haunting and unwelcoming. It’s  a testament to the actresses that they are able to create three incredibly believable characters although to be fair they have written them themselves. Brand is great as Kim who always ignores guidelines and training to do what she feels at right however she also ready for a sardonic put down when needs be. I also think Kim’s story about her medical training will be good for a character who we’ve been willing to succeed for a while now. Joanna Scanlan is also superb as the better-trained Den who worries about training courses and electronic patient files however again her personal story will be one worth following. Finally Pippa Moore is a doctor who doesn’t actually like dealing with patients and you get the idea that she’d rather be working on her vaginal research than doing rounds. The dialogue is also great and there are some wonderful set pieces involving a faulty bed and Pippa’s sheets which both provide the best laughs of the episode.

There are only a few negative one being the jaunty camera-work which on the one hand allow us to view reactions from different characters but at the same time sometimes makes us feel detached from what’s going on. Overall though Getting On proves itself to be one of Britain’s best sitcoms in recent memory as it combines great acting, believable characters and observational dialogue while at the same time also providing a fair few laughs. It’s just a shame then that most people won’t get to see it unless there’s a miraculous demand for it to be shown on one of the major BBC channels however I won’t hold my breath. 

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