The cover version of BBC2’s Getting On is an entertaining (and even moving) thirty minutes of television filtered through American lenses. Comedic actresses Alex Borstein and Niecy Nash co-star as Head Ward Nurse Dawn Forchette and Nurse Denise Ortley respectively. Borstein (or rather her voice) is known to audiences, across both sides of the pond, for her long standing portrayal of Lois Griffin on Family Guy. Nash previously played Deputy Raineesha Williams on the mockumentary Reno 911!.
Laurie Metcalf also stars as an egomaniac, Dr. Jenna James. Viewers may recognize Metcalf as the mother of Sheldon Cooper on The Big Bang Theory, and the classic American sitcom Roseanne. Getting On (US) is set in the fictional Billy Barnes Extended Care Unit housed at the Mount Palms Hospital in Long Beach, California. The show was adapted by Mark V. Olsen and Will Scheffer, the creative duo behind HBO’s drama Big Love. Jo Brand, Joanna Scanlan, and Vicki Pepperdine (creators of the original version) offer their blessing by serving behind the scenes as Executive Producers.
Viewers familiar with the opening scene of Getting On (US) may assume this will be a straightforward adaptation, however this is not the case. There are enough acting choices and plot twists to justify the show’s existence. The three leading ladies’ personalities are established not only through dialogue but also through body language. Whenever Dr. James is not complaining about having to work a holiday (the 4th of July), she gives off a pungent smell of snobbishness. Whenever Metcalf’s character enters a scene, her tone of voice and manners puts you in a reactive mode. You feel empathy for the interns and nursing staff as they witness the pressure building inside Dr. James until she finally explodes. Following Dr. James’ rant the tension continues to mount after she drops a scalpel.
After spending one episode with Nurse Dawn Forchette it is clear she loved collecting gold stars as a child and requires emotional validation. In the first episode Dawn is torn between conflicting instructions from (soon to be ex) Head Nurse Beverly Raymes (actress Telma Hopkins) and the dung obsessed Dr. James. Borstein’s facial expressions and body language are fabulous. During these instances she resembled a human Gordian knot. I found Niecy Nash’s performance the most intriguing and genuine. Nurse Ortley is a total departure from her previous roles; Nash helps ground the show and kept me invested. By performing small acts of kindness towards patients such as speaking softly, caressing their backs, and taking an interest in their lives. Nurse Ortley makes you feel empathy for everyone on that ward.
If the first episode Getting On (US) was a children’s program, stool would be the word of the day. Poo was one of the first episode’s major plot points just like the BBC2 version. Viewers learned synonyms for stool such as fecal matter, feces, turd, and excrement. If poo was a vocabulary word on the synonym portion of a standardized test, everyone who watches this program should answer correctly. After watching the second episode, I believe HBO could use a drinking game to better promote the series, take a shot every time the word turd (or its variation) is uttered!
The introduction of Supervising Nurse Patsy De La Serda (Community’s Mel Rodriguez) in episode two completes Getting On (US)’s quartet. By waiting until the second episode more time is allotted to properly introduce Pasty De La Serda. Olsen and Scheffer use De La Serda’s entrance to deepen our understanding of approval seeking Nurse Dawn. The first episode established that Dawn is emotionally needy and seeks the attention of men; Dawn perked up when Antoine the orderly (Brandon Fobbs) appears. In episode two Dawn gets flirty with Antoine and Nurse De La Serda before revealing a bit of insight into her behavior. Audience members familiar with the original version know the new matron/supervisor (Hilary Loftus) and Dawn’s emotional outburst occurred in the first episode. Olsen and Scheffer’s unwillingness to strictly adhere to the original version allows the characters to develop their own path.
Often cover projects do not say anything original about the subject matter. That is untrue in the case of Getting On (US). Though storylines from the BBC2 version form the foundation, Olsen and Scheffer’s writing choices and the actors/actresses techniques produce a wonderful viewing experience. Getting On (US) is worth your investment of time regardless of which side of the Atlantic you reside.
Getting On is currently airing on HBO.
Contributed by Mo Walker