I think this might be the funniest episode of Getting On yet. I watched this episode with my headphones on in a largely silent environment, and that made me notice how many times I laughed out loud—outright cackling, at times, especially in the moment when Dawn not-so-gracefully falls into the fountain. It would be a little too slapstick for other comedies, but Getting On is typically so restrained that when it does topple over into broad humor, it’s a graceful fall.
Last week I somehow managed to confuse actor Niecy Nash’s name with her character DiDi’s, which is an embarrassing mistake: Watching this episode, though, I noticed that at least one reason is because it’s rare that anyone really addresses DiDi, or even calls her name; she’s more part of the setting than she is a character. That’s especially true in “Nightshift,” because for a long portion of the evening, she’s the only nurse on duty. Jenna and Dawn and Patsy all come in and out, but DiDi stays put and does her job. She says at the end to Dawn: “Don’t worry, I’m not going anywhere.”
Up until now, Alex Borstein’s Dawn has been the passive center of the show, a sort of blank canvas for the rest of the show to be built on. But DiDi does way better in that role. And now that Dawn doesn’t have to be blank, Alex Borstein can throw around her comedic weight. She’s so good as drunk Dawn—her voicemail to Patsy in which she curtly informs him that she’d like to have babies with him is perfect, in both execution and editing. Even just her physicality is wielded so well in this episode. She barrels into the ward wearing strappy wedges, a terribly out-of-fasion slit-sleeved top, and a hairpiece over her own hair. Coupled with the big earrings and bad makeup, she looks like a schoolgirl trying to look like a grown-up. From 1991. In Atlantic City. It’s 4 a.m. in the ward, but she’s drunk, crying, sloppy, and knocking things over, but never in a way that makes you feel too sorry for her. There’s a skill to striking that note of mingled tragedy and comedy, and it’s amazing to see it in action.
Jenna is off in a peripheral storyline in this story. Naturally, because it’s an episode set at night, everyone makes it to the ward in the middle of the other stuff they’re doing, but Jenna’s there to address her husband’s ingrown toenail, which is probably the worst possible way to spend a night out. The insight into the James marriage is pretty revealing, and generally well done. If I’m going to quibble, it might have been a bit better tied closer to the main storyline, but the common thread of “totally fucked-up sexual relationships” is close enough for me. The only thing that felt like it didn’t really work was the story about the Swedish patient who had secret gymnastic capabilities. There’s always some kind of patient story every week, and this one felt like it was grafted into a stronger plotline to make the show slightly more relevant to American audiences. It’s not bad, but it retreads territory we already covered with Jenna’s avarious aquisition of research subjects and America’s awful healthcare system. The show will have to work a little more in that direction to make Getting On more relevant for domestic viewers.
But it’s hard to get too annoyed when otherwise, the show is consistently so great. I’m honestly surprised at how wonderful the performances are in this show. Mel Rodriguez’s Patsy is a little underwritten, but Laurie Metcalf, Alex Borstein, and Niecy Nash are so comfortable in their characters messed-up lives that they barely seem to be acting. I know that they have each had various careers as voice actors and in supporting roles, but it’s kind of criminal that we haven’t seen more of them.
DiDi had the best lines this week. “You wanna wake up for your sleeping pill?” and later, to Dawn, in an attempt to cheer her up: “You got your ponytail, and your whatnot… and somebody’s going to be into all of that.”
Any guesses on what is really happening with Patsy and Dawn? At this point it’s gone through so many iterations that I don’t really trust anyone I’m listening to.
So DiDi’s husband really did do Jenna’s driveway! Good for him. Glad things are maybe a little bit okay in DiDi-land.
If Jenna’s husband will go along with her plans and move to Ohio, she will finally shave. So, see you guys next week!