'Getting On' Season 1 Recap Will Make You Glad You Don't Work at Billy Barnes Extended Care Unit
If you were busy watching some of HBO's splashier shows, like the final season of True Blood or the best season yet of Game of Thrones, you may have missed the relatively quiet debut of what's perhaps the network's best comedy: Getting On. Based on a BBC series of the same name, Season 1 of this offbeat show ran a short six episodes. While chances are high you probably didn't watch Getting On, critics certainly loved it — and HBO thankfully decided to bring it back for more.
Set in a continuing care facility for the elderly, Getting On revolves around the ward's eccentric staff of doctors and nurses as they struggle to care for patients on death's door while dealing with their own bevy of personal problems.
With only a half dozen half-hour episodes, it's not too late to catch up before the Season 2 premiere this Sunday night, titled "No Such Thing As Idealized Genitalia." (It airs after the Season 3 premiere of The Newsroom and the Season 2 premiere of The Comeback.) But just in case you're too busy to pull a mini-marathon but still want to watch the new season, here's a quick rundown of Getting On's major players, and where they all left off after last year's finale, "The Concert."
Dr. Jenna James is just the worst
Oh, Dr. James. Played by Laurie Metcalf, the Billy Barnes Extended Care Unit's head doctor is neurotic, strict, egocentric, and extremely difficult to work with. She cares far more about her research into stool and perineums than any of the living (and dying) patients around her... which wouldn't necessarily be a problem if anyone on earth cared about her research. She treats her nurses like nameless assistants, has almost no awareness of other people's perceptions of her, and thinks she's way more important than she really is.
In the season finale, Jenna almost left the ward for a much more prestigious position in Cleveland until the doctor who was courting her was hit by a taco truck and put into a persistent vegetative state. So she's stuck at Billy Barnes for the foreseeable future, much to the chagrin of the vast majority of her co-workers.
Head Nurse Dawn Forchette is a train wreck
What Nurse Forchette (Alex Borstein) lacks in actual skill and medical knowledge, she makes up for in can-do attitude. Awed by Dr. James, Dawn constantly strives to be the best nurse she can be... even if her best is hardly ever good enough. Things aren't helped by the fact that she's got a huge crush on her supervising nurse, Patsy, who just so happens to be gay. (Just don't tell him that.)
In the Season 1 finale, Dawn was suffering from a night of "deepest intimacies" with Patsy (AKA anal sex), although he claimed to not remember a thing. She also got in a fight with Dr. James when the doctor's Glasgow Coma Scale iPhone app malfunctioned and resulted in a patient's daughter having to change her travel arrangements several times. Going into Season 2, this conflict, as well as Dr. James's constant demands, might finally push Nurse Forchette to the breaking point.
Nurse Denise "Didi" Ortley is trying her best
Niecy Nash plays Nurse Ortley with a sincerity that pretty much everyone else in Billy Barnes severely lacks. She's the only one who seems to be the least bit concerned with the welfare of her patients, and as such is often the warm, beating heart of the show. And if playing the "straight man" amidst a cast of zany caricatures sounds boring to you, Nash does a remarkable job of managing to make Didi hilarious while not losing sight of her character's humanity.
In last season's finale, Nurse Ortley was saddled with the unenviable task of having to beg Dr. James for the money she owed Didi's husband for repaving her driveway. Jenna kept dodging the issue until Didi finally worked up the courage to demand what she was owed. Despite her clash with her superior and her continued frustration over her head nurse's incompetence, Didi — as always — was able to rise above it all and participate with gusto in the Caregivers' Concert, singing a rousing rendition of "Row, Row, Row Your Boat" with her insufferable colleagues.
Supervising Nurse Patsy De La Serda is in denial
Words can barely even begin to describe the hot mess that is Nurse De La Serda (Mel Rodriguez). He's so clearly gay, but he takes severe offense to the slightest implication that he's anything other than 100% straight. In fact, he once brought harassment charges against Nurse Ortley for cracking a harmless gay joke. Between the stifling of his sexuality, his never-ending power struggles with Dr. James, and the constant belittlement he receives from patients for being a male nurse, it's no wonder that Patsy is such a neurotic basket case.
Nurse De La Serda spent much of Season 1 trying in vain to institute a pet project he called the CARES program, which the other nurses never took seriously and Dr. James only ever scoffed at with derision. So in the finale, he was quick to throw the doctor under the bus when an equipment failure ended with a patient needing 14 stitches. Patsy, Dawn, and Didi all decided it was Jenna's fault for refusing to fulfill Patsy's request for new equipment. (And this was right after Jenna had found out about the incident with the taco truck, so all in all not a great day for her.)
Whatever hijinks the doctors and nurses of the Billy Barnes Extended Care unit get up to this year, they're bound to be just as painfully awkward and gut-bustingly hilarious as ever. Tide yourself over until Sunday night's premiere with this Season 2 promo below.
(By the way: want to watch Season 1 of Getting On but don't have HBO? You're in luck! The Complete First Season was just made available this Tuesday, Nov. 11, on Blu-Ray, DVD, and Digital HD, featuring an exclusive gag reel and deleted scenes. Don't miss it!)
Images: Lacey Terrell/HBO (5)