Tag Archives: Roseanne

HBO’s ‘Getting On’ finds laughter in dark places

Laurie Metcalf, Alex Bornstein and Niecy Nash star in HBO's new dark but very funny sitcom 'Getting On.'

Laurie Metcalf, Alex Bornstein and Niecy Nash (from left) star as prickly staff members at a medical facility catering to patients who are ‘Getting On’ in years.

In tonight’s first episode of Getting On, HBO’s adaptation of a British comedy hit, nurse DiDi Ortley (Niecy Nash, Reno 911!) reports for her first day of work at the Billy Barnes Extended Care Unit of Mt. Palms Hospital in Long Beach, Calif. The facility is dedicated to improving the lives of its elderly charges, who are “getting on” in years, but DiDi soon begins to wonder whether she’s wandered into an asylum by mistake.
The first red flag pops up when DiDi notices that one of the senior patients has had an accident in one of the TV room chairs. Her immediate instinct is a very logical one: Grab a piece of tissue, remove the offending “souvenir” and flush it in the nearest restroom. Unfortunately, she hasn’t reckoned with the red tape and politics that clog the cogs at any contemporary American medical facility.
Her senior colleague, nurse Dawn Forchette (Alex Bornstein, MADtv’s resident madwoman), is reluctant to allow the matter in question to be collected and removed until someone fills out the required “incident report” paperwork and tested the collected sample to determine which patient was responsible.
Meanwhile, temporary medical director Dr. Jenna James (three-time Emmy winner Laurie Metcalf, Roseanne) has a completely different agenda. She wants the matter collected for a “prestigious fecal study” she is currently working on for the New England Journal of Medicine.
That may sound nuts – and it is – but Jenna is a walking raw nerve who refuses to admit that her once-promising career is now in a death spiral. She may be telling anyone who is listening that she is merely filling in temporarily until a permanent medical director can be found, but in truth, Jenna has been exiled to this unit from the main facility since she had a breakdown and started waving around a scalpel and “allegedly” menacing some of her colleagues.
In its first six-episode season, Getting On follows these three prickly women as they struggle to do their jobs under very challenging conditions, including a rapidly cratering rating for their level of care.
Still, nothing bonds adversaries like a common enemy. In this case, that would be newly arrived supervising (male) nurse Patrizio “Patsy” De La Serda (Mel Rodriguez, Community), who refers to patients as “customers” and favors motivational posters and New Age-speak like “Don’t go through life. GROW through life.” He also plans to improve the facility’s rating through a cruise ship-based strategy that includes having a fountain and pianist on the premises.
Complicating the staff chemistry even further, “Patsy” is more than a little confused about his sexuality. He’s secretly having no-strings sex with Dawn, a woman with no personal boundaries and a bottomless hunger for approval, yet he’s eager to file a grievance against DiDi when she makes a harmless sexual joke to defuse a tense situation with a patient. Moreover, he and Jenna are engaged in a constant deathmatch over which of them is actually running the unit.
Clearly, Getting On is drawing on a mother lode of character quirks to drive its storylines and all three of the stars turn in rich, quirky performances. If I single out Metcalf, it’s only because I had forgotten how much I miss seeing this extraordinary actress on a weekly basis, and she brilliantly takes a brittle character and fills her with pathos, complexity and, every now and then, a glimmer of real compassion.
Getting On is certainly not your run-of-the-mill sitcom, nor is it for viewers with delicate sensibilities. It takes a lot of worthwhile risks, however, and in doing so only makes us admire healthcare workers more than ever, even as we observe them comically at the end of their ropes.

A new TV ‘Mom’ to embrace

Allison Janney (top) and Anna Faris
Mom, a somewhat dark but mostly delightful new sitcom premiering tonight on CBS, comes from the prolific writer-producer Chuck Lorre, who has put his creative fingerprints on comedy hits as diverse as Roseanne, Grace Under Fire, Dharma & Greg, Two and a Half Men and The Big Bang Theory during the course of his long career.
On that continuum, Mom falls much closer to the blue-collar tone of Roseanne and Grace than the aging-frat-boys-‘n’-farts humor of the still-running Two and a Half Men. This new show stars movie sex kitten Anna Faris in her TV series debut as Christy, a single mom struggling to make ends meet as a waitress without sliding back into alcoholism (she stopped drinking 118 days ago).
It isn’t easy. She still regrets giving up her dream of becoming a psychologist when she was forced to drop out of high school after becoming pregnant with her now-teenage daughter, Violet (Sadie Calvano). Recently, the frazzled Christy has started to realize that she is turning into her own mother, Bonnie (four-time Emmy winner Allison Janney, The West Wing), who was a grossly negligent drunk and cocaine addict while Christy was growing up, and she is horrified to see Violet repeating her own past mistakes with dim-witted and perpetually shirtless boyfriend Luke (Spencer Daniels). Even worse, Christy knows she doesn’t hold the moral high ground in this situation.
“I can’t tell you not to drink and smoke pot because my senior yearbook quote was ‘Let’s drink and smoke pot!’ ‘’ she sighs to her daughter.
And, while Christy is now sober, she’s still making bad choices, sliding into a demeaning affair with her boss, Gabriel (Nate Corddry, Harry’s Law), who’s married to the daughter of the restaurant owner. It’s a good thing Christy’s pre-adolescent son Roscoe (Blake Garrett Rosenthal) still thinks Mom is the best.
Into this volatile dynamic, Bonnie unexpectedly reappears after a tense two-year estrangement with Christy. She’s been sober(-ish) for a couple of years now, and she wants to mend fences with her daughter and get to know her grandkids.
But while Bonnie tries to present herself as Soccer Grandma of the Year (“I have a steady job! I exercise! I’m in a BOOK CLUB!”), Christy can’t forget the days when Bonnie was in the basement cooking crystal meth while Christy was in the kitchen cooking dinner.
“I’ve watched you lick cocaine crumbs out of a shag carpet!” Christy reminds her.
“It’s no sin to be thrifty, dear,” Bonnie calmly replies.
Tonight’s pilot episode feels a little unfocused as the writers attempt to introduce multiple characters in Christy’s various worlds, including the restaurant kitchen, where a comically autocratic chef played by French Stewart (3rd Rock From the Sun) barks things like “More butter and salt! They only have to live long enough to pay the check!”
The likable Faris makes a credible series debut, although she hasn’t yet figured out how to play this end-of-her-rope character without occasionally sliding into whininess. Janney, however, is absolutely sublime. Bonnie is a soul sister to Holland Taylor’s Evelyn Harper on Two and a Half Men, a still-beautiful cougar whose affection for her loved ones is probably genuine, but not entirely reliable.
Out of all this season’s new network comedies, Mom is the one that feels most authentic, with its delicate balance of familial love and anger. Based on this first episode, I’m in.