wed 21/10/2020

Getting On, Series 3, BBC Four | reviews, news & interviews

Getting On, Series 3, BBC Four

Getting On, Series 3, BBC Four

The NHS comedy is in rude health as it moves into a smart new hospital

Carry on getting on: Joanna Scanlan, Jo Brand and Vicki Pepperdine in 'Getting On'

Getting On exists somewhere on the spectrum between Carry On and Samuel Beckett. Set in a hospital ward where mostly geriatric patients are tended by middle-aged staff all with problems of their own, it looks unflinchingly at the great maladjusted edifice that is the Health Service and all who ail in her. And in Vicki Pepperdine’s tightly coiled consultant Dr Pippa Moore it has perhaps the most delightful sitcom grotesque since Malcolm Tucker first started turning the air blue.

Getting On exists somewhere on the spectrum between Carry On and Samuel Beckett. Set in a hospital ward where mostly geriatric patients are tended by middle-aged staff all with problems of their own, it looks unflinchingly at the great maladjusted edifice that is the Health Service and all who ail in her. And in Vicki Pepperdine’s tightly coiled consultant Dr Pippa Moore it has perhaps the most delightful sitcom grotesque since Malcolm Tucker first started turning the air blue.

For this third series it’s all change. The action has moved from a grotty small-town hospital to ward K2 of St Jude’s, whose smart new premises have shiny computerised equipment which no one knows how to work. This is, after all, the dearly beloved NHS, so a level of chaos and dysfunction has been randomly programmed into the system. You can’t discharge a patient without sending an email to Luton, or raise a bed without doing a diploma in computer studies. In the hilarious first scene we found Sister Den Flixster (Joanna Scanlan) and Nurse Kim Wilde (Jo Brand) grappling with a mechaised bed containing an elderly patient, while Dr Moore wiped down a computer screen with a damp cloth, causing it to short. And no one has an office.

Getting On manages the rare trick of remaining essentially plotless

There have been other changes. Dr Moore is now divorced (“I had a mini-break to celebrate my decree nisi,” she announced on breezing into the new ward). Den has renewed her marital vows and is alarmingly fixated on keeping her cuddly contours, which won't be a problem now that she's discovered she's up the duff. And Kim’s husband has lost his job, making her even more of a long-faced drudge. “How do I become a doctor when I’m over fifty?” she punched into a search engine after being dressed down yet again by Dr Moore. Meanwhile, Ricky Grover’s sexually conflicted manager Hilary Loftus is now a jargon-spouting iPad-wielding consultant carrying out a so-called skills mix review. “You won’t even know I’m here,” he whispered. “I’ll just blend into the wallpaper,” he added, before gently advising his former squeeze Den to get an HIV test.

The one invisible change is behind the camera. The grab-what-you-can shooting style which Peter Capaldi presumably picked up on the set of The Thick of It is still in situ, but the new show is directed by Sue Tully, once upon a time of Albert Square.

Getting On manages the rare trick of remaining essentially plotless – last night’s story featured an elderly hypochondriac rejoicing in the name of Mrs Dethwick - and stylistically observational while at the same time delivering a stack of great one-liners. The miracle is that few of the gags feel remotely strained after. Much of this is down to the alchemical reaction that seems to take place between the three writers/actresses and their characters. Brand and Scanlan are of course glorious, but it is Pepperdine’s brittle gargoyle who stands out, a filigree portrait of comic insensitivity with just a hint of vulnerability to keep it from tipping over the edge. In this opening episode she was fanfaring a new research programme which would “bring the genito-urinary team bang up against the bowel boys”, and was keen to enrol the taciturn student Josh (Josh Mbaka). “I just think that vulvas could be a very exciting area for you to get in to.” He just stared at her and as usual said nothing.

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Brand and Scanlan are of course glorious, but it is Pepperdine’s brittle gargoyle who stands out, a filigree portrait of comic insensitivity

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