3. Getting On gets grimmer — and funnier (HBO)
HBO’s adaptation of the pitch-black British sitcom Getting On made the jump from good to excellent last year, becoming more satirical and screwball as it tackled insurance fraud and institutional entropy at a Long Beach hospital’s geriatric unit. The third and final season picks up the story about eight months later, with the ward’s high-strung director (played by the brilliantly brittle Laurie Metcalf) in danger of being ousted by the scandal. Meanwhile, her key nurses (Niecy Nash, Alex Borstein, and Mel Rodriguez) hide behind union rules to keep from cleaning up any literal or figurative messes. Much scrambling ensues, while the staff’s patients continue to weaken and die, as they inevitably do.
The episode’s title — “This Is About Vomit, People” — cuts right to what this show’s really about: the often futile grunt work of medical care, and how bureaucracy keeps those on the frontline from mopping up a pile of puke when they see one. But what really makes this one of HBO’s buried treasures are scenes like the one where Metcalf checks in on a patient via a remote robot helper, and ends up running over the poor old lady’s corpse. That’s some dark, dark humor there — and a hilarious-but-pointed illustration of how the tools we rely on to help others can become blunt and destructive.