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Getting On: The Complete First Season (2013)

HBO Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 11/11/2014

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Review by Mike Long, Posted on 11/7/2014

When it comes to entertainment, reality is subjective. Unless we are watching something which is based on a true story (where the facts can still get twisted out of shape), what we are watching is false. No matter how realistic something is, those characters aren't real and we are seeing documentation of something which actually happened. Having said that, there are movies and television shows which attempt to be as realistic as possible. This raises an interesting point -- Can something be so realistic that it no longer feels like entertainment? I often say, "It's funny because it's true.". Can a similar notion backfire for dramas? We'll find out as we explore Getting On: The Complete First Season.

Getting On takes place on the geriatric rehab and stabilization ward of a hospital. The patients are females who have either had a recent surgery or are dealing with cognitive issues. Dawn Forchette (Alex Borstein) is a nurse on the floor who has worked there for some time. She is asked to indoctrinate new nurse Didi Ortley (Niecy Nash) to the ward. The area is overseen by Dr. Jenna James (Laurie Metcalf), who feels that her talents are being wasted on these elderly patients. Also, she likes to collect stool samples for a study she is doing. Patsy De La Serda (Mel Rodriguez) is a male nurse who is brought in to run the day-to-day activities on the unit. This quartet of staffers must find a way to treat patients who have often been dumped there. In addition, they must deal with the patient deaths and the complete lack of support from the hospital.

Getting On is based on a 2009 BBC show of the same name. I've never seen that show, but I could certainly feel a certain sense of the kind of dark comedy and cynicism the Brits are know for in this series. On the surface, Getting On is played straight and looks like a medical drama. Save for one or two shots, the entire show plays out on the ward, as we watch Dawn and Didi care for a variety of patients who are suffering from very serious issues (post-surgery recover, dementia, etc.), while dealing with the politics and bickering between Dr. James and Patsy. The show depicts how the staff deals with patient deaths and family interactions, while also showing the financial realities of healthcare.

It's the realism of Getting On which dooms the show. While there are some seemingly absurd things here (more on that in a moment), the show almost plays out as a documentary. Having visited facilities like this, I can tell you that much of Getting On may seem exaggerated, but it isn't. Places like the ward seen in the show are often understaffed and chaotic. The nurses and techs do all of the work, while the doctors pop in and out. Patient-care often takes a backseat to quibbles over money and personal issues. Kudos to those behind the scenes on the show for doing their research and holding a mirror up to modern medicine.

But, that raises the question of where Getting On falls on the entertainment spectrum. I imagine that those who don't understand just how real this show is may find it to be an absurd comedy. For example, the fountain may seem like a ludicrous joke, but, trust me, I've seen things like this. There were a few moments which I found to be mildly humorous, but, for the most part, the show was too depressing to be funny. Conversely, the dramatic pieces aren't very touching, again, do to the reality. We see how medical professionals can often distance themselves from the emotions of a situation, as they know that they must move on to the next patient. It's not that they don't care -- they can't allow themselves to care to much. That creates an almost callous air on the show, making the scenes which would be moving on other shows feel inconsequential.

Getting On is a tough call. Again, the show is very well-made and it's not simply taking a shot-in-the-dark as to what healthcare is actually like. The show is well-acted and we get to see Alex Borstein (Family Guy) and Niecy Nash (Reno 911!) tackle dramatic roles. Similarly, Laurie Metcalf, who usually plays likable characters, bites into the self-centered Dr. James. However, I felt that making it through the six episodes which comprise this inaugural season was a chore, as the show is incredibly joyless and draining. In the end, this may appeal to those who don't grasp the reality or for those who want to see their jobs portrayed on TV. For me, Getting On simply hit too close to home.

Getting On: The Complete First Season uses the word "stool" more than any show since Cheers on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of HBO Home Entertainment. The Disc contains all six episodes from the show's first season. The show has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the Disc contains an AVC transfer which runs at an average of 21 Mbps. The image is sharp and clear, showing no grain and no defects from the source materials. The colors look very good and the image is never overly dark or bright. The level of detail is good and the depth is notable. Essentially, this rivals HD broadcast quality. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 2.3 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The mix makes nice use of the enclosed ward environment, sprinkling in stereo and surround effects to highlight things occurring off-screen. Otherwise, the bulk of the audio comes from the center and I didn't note any significant subwoofer effects.

The Getting On: The Complete First Season Blu-ray Disc contains a scant amount of extras. We get DELETED SCENES from Episodes 1, 2, 4, and 6 which run about 6 minutes in total. The are eight scenes in all. The only other extra is a 6-minute GAG REEL.

Review Copyright 2014 by Mike Long