sun 23/06/2024

Getting On, BBC Four | reviews, news & interviews

Getting On, BBC Four

Getting On, BBC Four

Welcome return of the lo-fi and dark medical comedy starring Jo Brand

Bedside manners: Grover, Brand, Scanlan and Pepperdine of 'Getting On'

When Getting On, a wonderfully lo-fi and dark sitcom, debuted last year, it had a run of just three episodes, which possibly reflected the BBC’s lack of faith in audiences being able to appreciate a programme rich in subtlety in its writing, acting and direction. But thankfully the Corporation has seen the light and the medical comedy now returns with a six-part run, and is as brilliantly observed and laugh-out-loud funny as ever.

We are in general medical ward B4, in the kind of hospital that you hope doesn’t exist in real life but, given that Jo Brand, one of Getting On’s co-writers with Joanna Scanlan and Vicki Pepperdine, was once a nurse, we have to fear does. Nurse Kim Wilde (Brand) and officious ward sister Den Flixter (Scanlan) are attending to their chores with their usual dilatoriness - “We’re glad you told us,” says Kim when a patient’s daughter complains about her mother’s flimsily inadequate hospital gown. “Are you?” says the woman. “Well, ish,” is the reply. Matron Hilary Loftus (Ricky Grover) is sporting a Bluetooth earpiece, so we know he is still a self-important twat, while uptight and hopelessly unsympathetic Dr Pippa Moore (Pepperdine), all brisk put-downs and unfunny jokes, continues to display a bedside manner learnt from Crippen.

Dr Moore's faecal research project, which featured heavily in the first series, is no longer centre stage, but fear not as scatalogical humour is still at the heart of Getting On. In the opener, B4 is landed with an elderly homeless woman who stinks to high heaven and whose skin has practically fused to her several layers of clothing, and Den, as ever keen to get back to the contents of her fridge, stocked to the brim with unwanted patients’ meals, delegates the messy task of removing the woman’s fetid undergarments to Kim. When a group of cowed medical students arrive to be patronised and breezily humiliated by Dr Moore, they are invited to examine the woman and diagnose from a list of conditions - including thrombosed haemorrhoids, anal abscess, rectal prolapse, anal cancer - that could be responsible for the woman’s “very sore back bottom”. The poor old duck, it turns out, has a perianal fistula that has burst. Let’s be grateful that Smell-O-Vision has not yet arrived on the BBC…

Den tries to rid B4 of the old lady’s stench - “an every-orifice cocktail” - by palming her off to a number of other wards in the hospital, and what ensues is a grisly but very funny bout of trolley ping-pong (sorry) as she is wheeled, oblivious to all around her, between them before she ends up again in B4.

Interweaved with this is the ongoing melodrama of Den’s on-off romance with sexually confused Hilary and the rather less obviously humorous story of Mrs Fyvie (Nancy Kerr), a confused elderly patient about to meet her maker, whose soon-to-be-freed-up bed sets off something approaching a turf war between various doctors in the hospital, all of them desperate to make another admission. But even here the writers can draw some funny moments from the pain, helped by a terrific performance from Lindy Whiteford as Mrs Fyvie’s concerned and grieving daughter.

Getting On, beautifully directed by The Thick of It’s Malcolm Tucker, Peter Capaldi, is part of a rich seam of slow-moving, understated and exquisitely written dark comedy on the BBC - Julia Davis’s Nighty Night and Roger and Val Have Just Got In by Emma and Beth Kilcoyne spring to mind - where broad humour and nuanced moments of quiet heartbreak are allowed to be bedfellows. Long may it continue.

Watch the lost stool sample clip from the first series of Getting On:

Let’s be grateful that Smell-O-Vision has not yet arrived on the BBC…

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