I was worried I’d set myself up for disappointment over the new series of Getting On by hyping myself into a tizzy… so it came as quite a relief to find that the show actually was worth all the build-up. As I’ve said before, I’m really quite neurotic, and tend to flinch whenever anyone mentions anything even vaguely medical, so it’s a real testament to the talent of the show’s stars/writers that I enjoy it as much as I do. Yes, there were moments in last night’s episode that made me wince and want to cover my ears, but they were handled with enough humour to keep me tuned in. There is a certain bleakness inherent in the premise, but there’s also a lot of humanity in the way that it’s presented, and the way the characters are played. The tone is compassionate and pragmatic, rather than sadistic or nihilistic…. which I greatly admire, and appreciate.
While doing a quick search for reviews this morning, I found a Guardian preview, published yesterday, which lauded the show as “a darkly funny comedy written with life experience with proper roles for grown-up women… none of whom are the right side of 40, which is a rarity for leading roles in most television programmes.” Naturally this set me a-thinking… as did the rather disturbing revelation that the new controller of BBC1, Danny Cohen, is only 36! Eep! As a writer, I tend to make my characters about ten years younger than me, because… well, I suppose I feel more comfortable looking backwards, and finding the comedy in the folly of my youth… and it’s easier to excuse the sort of silliness I write, if the characters are seemingly too young to know any better. I also have what could charitably be termed a “patchy” employment record, so it’s rather difficult for me to write about “grown ups” with proper jobs… and I could never write anything as nuanced and naturalistic as Getting On, even after a decade of research!
That said, I do admire fanboy auteurs like Rob Zombie and Tarantino, who have long-memories and enduring loyalty to the icons of their past, when it comes to creating and casting new characters. There are plenty of “older” performers I’d love to work with, and yet I never write any recurring roles for anyone over 40! So, shame on me. On a purely lascivious kick, I think a lot of women actually get more attractive as they get older… maybe that’s just an Oedipal thing, I don’t know. ‘Finch’ (played by Eddie Kaye Thomas) was the American Pie character I identified with most, because of his interest in other cultures and rather fey mannerisms, so his encounter with ‘Stifler’s Mom’ (Jennifer Coolidge) gave me much to ponder. I’m no longer young enough, or cute enough, to qualify as a “toy boy”, but there are plenty of actresses I’d happily ask to play my “Mrs Robinson”, either on-screen or off it. Obviously I’m not going to name them all here… but, while we’re on the subject of Getting On, there are moments when Pepperdine’s ‘Dr Moore’ looks so hurt and bewildered I just want to reach into the TV and give her a hug. For all her officiousness and arrogance, there’s something endearingly vulnerable about her when she’s thrown off her stride by upset relatives and snivelling junior doctors. She looks like a lost little girl, playing dress-up… which reminds me of something a friend of mine said (in relation to a sitcom he’s writing about school teachers), that we never really grow up, we just get older. Hmmm…
Anyway, the upshot of all this is that I’m going to age the female protagonist of my current script by a couple of decades, and see what happens. Don’t suppose anyone has the number of Siobhan Redmond’s agent handy, do they…?