Sailing off into the twilight years of your life is not as suave as all those boner commercials and scenes depicting wizened old grandparents might have you believe. HBO's series Getting On reminded us it can be a humiliating, awkward, uncomfortable, and strange experience for everyone involved. But given the ratings the series — which saw its season finale bow Sunday night — you may have missed it. And while getting acquainted with Getting On was one of the more trying television experiences I've had to date, it was also terribly rewarding and you'd be remiss to start of 2014 without at least putting it on your to-watch agenda.
It's an easy viewing, there being only six, 30-minute episodes to catch up on. But it might take you awhile to get into it if you're not a fan of deadpanned and dark humor. The story is this: adapted from a popular BBC series of the same name, Getting On tells the story of an elder care facility in Long Beach, California and its painfully misguided staff. Starring Laurie Metcalf (of Roseanne fame) as Dr. Jenna James, the facility's director, Alex Borstein (Family Guy) as head nurse Dawn Forchette, and Niecy Nash as Denise "DiDi" Ortley, reminds the viewer on a near-constant basis the horridity of growing old. Especially in the care of other people, so frequently hindered in their own work due to personal problems, misguided managers, and the bureaucracy that comes with doing it all in a hospital setting. Would you expect anything less from an institution that has to work hand-in-hand with medicare?
Obviously, the typical line to tow for depicting the decrepit and dying is to lay on the saccharinely sweet nostalgia. But — as is so often the case — that's hardly how these things go. And until they can reverse the process of gearing up to die, Getting On makes a point of making you laugh and groan in equal measure — often simultaneously — at the way we die today. Because getting old is a nasty business: bodies are fallible, fickle beasts that disintegrate in a myriad of unique (and uniquely disgusting) ways. There is poop, blood, death, and a heck of a lot of people who've given up the notion of going out gracefully.
And then there's Niecy Nash. Nash is arguably the series' straightman, and she's utterly magnificent in the role of DiDi, playing equal parts refreshing, real, and empathetic, she's also not afraid to be abrasive. In a universe packed in with self-serving nincompoops with all the pedigree but none of the panache, DiDi remains the series' scene-stealing humanity tentpole. She takes so much shit (literally and figuratively) and manages to stay cool underneath it all (which is an entirely impressive matter).
But it never once mocks the old, merely presents an all-too-honest truth of modern-day aging — as taboo as that might be. It just so happens that theirs is a reality that's grim as fuck. It's not glamorous but is entirely messy — in every sense of the word. The first two episodes of Getting On may prove a challenge to some (especially anyone with any experience in the world of geriatric care, though that's a weird bias that might just be my own), but it is one worth mining in the name of quality, quirky, and all together exciting new outlets of comedy television. So go hop on your best friend and/or parent's HBOGo account and get into it so we can secure the series a second season. It's your TV doctor's orders.