Getting On: Sundays at 10 Eastern On HBO

2013 has been a pretty strong year for HBO. Game of Thrones, The Newsroom, Boardwalk Empire, and True Blood each keep churning along, holding the drama side of the ledger together. However, if there’s an area that HBO seems to have made a leap it’s in its comedies. Veep broke out in it’s sophomore year, receiving even some surprise Emmy love. Eastbound and Down made a triumphant return for it’s fourth (and second farewell) season. Even low-rated newcomers Family Tree and Hello, Ladies had managed to score some critical acclaim. HBO is looking to keep that streak going over the course of the winter with it’s newest show: Getting On.

Getting On follows the staff of the fictional Mount Palms hospital in California, where they must take care of those who are aging less than gracefully while fighting through red tape. Amongst the staff members who must deal with these circumstances are the ambitious Dr. Jenna James (Laurie Metcalf) as well as nurses Dawn and Didi (Alex Borstein and Niecy Nash).

The writing on the show is fairly nimble due often juxtaposing the grim nature of death (and end of life care) with a neurotic obsession towards fecal research and the guys who work in the hospital. However, where Getting On truly succeeds is not where these topics merge together, but rather in it’s ability to quickly change tone over the course of three quick scenes, as shown in the last five minutes as it flips from funny, to heartwarming, to tragic all over the course of about two or so minutes while hitting all of the correct notes.

What really stands out, however, is the sheer amount of talent on the principal cast. Laura Metcalf shines as the wild-eyed Dr. James who clearly puts her research ahead of her patients, leading to a glorious breakdown that closes out the show’s second act. Niecy Nash and Alex Borstein both do an excellent job as nurses who are essentially polar opposites of not only each other, but previous roles they’ve played (after 14 years of playing Lois Griffin, hearing Borstein not deliver in a the nasal, shrill Lois Griffin tone felt like a clear departure).

Visually, the show operates in a very cinema verite feel, often mixing in unorthodox camera angles, that one can only assume mimics the look of the geriatric patients from their beds. Similarly, the lighting tends to give off the same sterile, unnatural tinge as one would expect from the geriatric ward of the hospital, though it often comes off dullish, closer to a horror movie in visual tone.

The Final Verdict: Getting On is incredibly dark, but can also be incredibly funny and incredibly sweet as the staff of our fictional hospital seem as brittle as the patients they watch over. The writing is inventive and the cast takes quickly to angles that run counter to their prior television roles. The end result is the sort of show worth watching if you’re into more morbid dramedies and an excellently crafted show, but I can also see this not being for everyone.