The BBC announced yesterday that there will be no more episodes of The Wright Way, Heading Out and Getting On. Ah, me, couldya spot the odd one out?
Because Getting On was one of the greatest sitcoms of all time. (And the other two, uh, kinda weren’t.) Getting On – taken from us far too soon – only 15 episodes old. A tragic number for a show that surely should have been six seasons and a movie. This most perfect of single cam sitcoms: funnier than The Office, more human than The Thick Of It.
It’s hard to pick the best thing about a show like Getting On, that blends little, clever minutiae – like Jo Brand’s amazing hangdog face as her (OMG-exquisitely named) nurse Kim Wilde, pounds corridors, weighed down by low-level tiredness and constantly missing that shuttle bus – with clench-inducing plots of excruciating horror – like the one involving Dr Moore’s gynecological research photos.
Look, in, what has turned out to be, the ever last episode there was a cameo from Tilda FUCKING Swinton – a NON-SPEAKING cameo – and it wasn’t even in the top ten of the great, great things that were happening in that episode. Also John Hamm is a fan of the show, I’ll just leave that there.
Getting On looked beautiful. The confusing echoey bleakness of single camera, never worked better than in the confusingest, echoeiest bleakest place there could ever be. The geriatric ward, where most patients don’t leave because they got better. The fact the show was never promoted to BBC2 is like one of its own tragically bittersweet plot lines.
And it was a show written by and starring middle aged women; a rare gem in the crassly pigeon-holed young man’s game of comedy. Female led sitcoms are still too rare (how many should there be? 50% – is that number still confusing everyone?) Getting On is set in the female dominated world of care provision. But elsewhere that’s not guarantee of female characters. Witness Ricky Gervais’s Derek, a sitcom set in a care home that manages to only have one female character in the main cast.
Although the lazy, struggling, extraordinarily compassionate Kim stands out, every character got heart-stopping moments. Dr Pippa Moore snapped into 3D when she got divorced and formed a bond with immigrant cleaner, Hansley, who in one of the show’s masterful heart-hurting twists, turns out to be a soaring legal eagle – but there was no resolution, this genius remained unrewarded, mopping the hospital floors of bodily fluids.
And the show’s ending feels more tragic because those character were so real, that there is no doubt that they are still out there, still living on. We left Pippa on the brink of stumbling blindly into a lesbian tryst. Hilary and Den’s relationship was never resolved. (I don’t want Den to be with Hilary, but I don’t want her to be rejected either.) And what about Den’s baby? How can we bear it?
So what now? Scanlan and Pepperdine, the writers who play Den and Pippa, will be back with Puppy Love, a new sitcom about dog training. And it might well be great, it might be amazing. But I know for sure what it won’t be. It won’t be Getting On, will it?
And there’s the HBO remake in the works too. Six episodes are being filmed this year with Laurie “Roseanne’s sister in Roseanne” Metcalfe. They could be amazing too, but there’s going to be one crucial element missing. Because the real star of Getting On was always that awkward, frustrating, magnificent bitch the NHS, who is infuriating on almost every level and yet nearly always comes through for us in the end. Because while the NHS is sometimes the patronizing Dr Moore, it is also the powerfully compassionate Kim Wilde.
Which is why this is such a sad time for Getting On to leave us. The NHS has just turned 65. It’s currently bleak future just got a little bleaker without Kim, Pippa, Den and Hilary to nurse us through this dark, dark time. Goodnight, Getting On – we will not see your like again.