To many people, nursing homes are no laughing matter, but a new Americanization of a British show is aiming to mine humor from that environment.
Premiering Sunday, Nov. 24, HBO’s “Getting On” casts three-time “Roseanne” Emmy winner Laurie Metcalf as the supervisor of an extended-care facility in Long Beach, Calif. She thinks the assignment is only temporary, but she finds out differently … meaning she’ll have to find ways to deal with the often challenging bureaucracy, encompassing a by-the-book nurse (Alex Borstein, the voice of Lois Griffin on FOX’s “Family Guy”).
“We’re all going to deal with this at some point,” Metcalf reasons to Zap2it of the subject matter “Getting On” tackles. “It’s a dramedy, I guess you’d call it, so there is humor … but this is a tough subject. I was so impressed with the BBC version, within the first five minutes, I knew this was something I wanted to do. And everyone involved wants to give the subject the respect it deserves.”
Niecy Nash (“Reno 911!”) also plays a nurse in “Getting On,” and guest stars include Molly Shannon, Daniel Stern, Harry Dean Stanton and Irma P. Hall. “Some of the ‘patients’ have their own arcs,” Metcalf explains. “Some are discharged, and others don’t leave, death being the reason in some cases.”
Giving “Getting On” realism and immediacy is its cinema-verite style. “It’s something I haven’t been used to in my TV and film work,” says Metcalf, who’s also starring off-Broadway with Jeff Goldblum in Bruce Norris’ play “Domesticated.”
“It’s so freeing,” she says of the series’ reliance on hand-held cameras. “You never know what they’re going to use — someone’s hand, someone in the background while someone else is talking — so you have to be present at every moment, and not as self-conscious.”
For the “Getting On” actors, the authenticity of the set also has been a help. “It’s part of a wing of an actual hospital that has been refitted for the filming,” Metcalf reports. “And we don’t leave; that’s the only setting for the show, and I love that. It’s a pretty joyous atmosphere to be in.”