Posts Tagged ‘Getting On’

Labor Day weekend is upon us in the States so this week’s Five for Friday list honors hard working British people on the telly. Makes perfect sense to me. I have opted to omit the expected establishments such as The Office’s Werham Hogg Paper Merchants and The IT Crowd’s Reynholm Industries in favor of some possibly lesser known workplaces.

HWD Components employees’ canteen is staffed by a small group of dedicated food service workers (aka dinnerladies). Well, Bren (Victoria Wood) is competent at least. As in any work environment,  there’s a fair amount of gossip and inattention to customers. And yes, that is Last Tango in Halifax‘s Anne Reid struggling with a tricky body shaper.


The trained professionals of The Job Lot‘s Brownall Job Centre are committed to finding their clients meaningful employment – in theory anyhow. The centre’s manager Trish (Sarah Hadland) tries to inspire her staff to greatness or at least more respectable performance numbers. However, with a few unenthusiastic workers in the group and a zealous fraud manager in the field, she certainly has her hands full.


The NHS hospital wards of King Edwards (and subsequently St. Judes) are the settings for the stressed medical personnel of Getting On. While curing and comforting the sick should obviously be everyone’s goal, the staff sometimes find themselves at cross purposes. Doctors teaching and conducting research and efficiency consultants looking for waste can often be at odds with nurses like Sister Den Flixter (Joanna Scanlan) who’s just trying to care for her patients.


Trollied’s Valco Supermarket is a microcosm of personalities and ambitions. Manager Gavin (Jason Watkins) does his best to keep his troops happy and his store running smoothly. From the butchers and naughty bakers to the bored cashiers and thieving stock boy (who happens to be a grown man), Gavin’s biggest challenge is his interim deputy manager Julie (Jane Horrocks) who is simultaneously rude and insecure.


Grace Brothers Department Store is the setting of the classic sitcom Are You Being Served?  It takes us back to a more civilized time when co-workers called each other by their surnames, supervisors kept a tight ship and lewd talk was cloaked in innuendo…


No matter which side of the pond you’re on, I hope your weekend is work-free and full of laughter.



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Peter Capaldi as the 12th Doctor  image credit BBC America

Peter Capaldi as the 12th Doctor
image credit BBC America

Peter Capaldi’s debut as the 12th Doctor is less than 24 hours away and I know there are still a few of you out there who are concerned about how a more mature actor will make the role his own. I have no advance knowledge of series 8 of course, but I’m here to say our beloved Time Lord is in good hands.

It has been highly publicized that Peter is a life-long Doctor Who fan so it’s reasonable to assume that this character is obviously very important to him. Capaldi comes to the Doctor Who franchise as an acclaimed actor and director of an Oscar-winning short film.

And while we’ve all probably heard about how Capaldi was cast as a W.H.O. doctor in the Brad Pitt zombie flick, World War Z,  you may not realize how often our newest Time Lord has played a doctor of one kind or another in the past.

For example, he played a medical doctor (albeit a quite unhinged one) in the dramedy Fortysomething. Dr. Ronnie Pilfrey was concerned with the business side of medicine and had something of an obsession with his colleague’s wife, but you’ve got to admire his energy and willingness to commit no matter how ridiculous the premise. Surely these are qualities required of  the newest Doctor.

Most of you are probably well acquainted with Malcolm Tucker, the spin doctor extraordinaire from the political satire series The Thick of It. Malcolm is an artist with words and though they are often quite naughty ones, his verbal dexterity is a skill that transfers well to being a time and space traveler. You never know when you might need to talk yourself out of a jam.

On the other hand, Dr. Pete from the mini-series The Field of Blood is an alcoholic old hack with the soul of a poet. I’m not certain how soulful this Doctor’s meant to be but he usually has a sensitive side for those who are oppressed or abandoned.

*Additionally after watching The Field of Blood in its entirety, I learned that Dr. Pete is so called because he has a doctorate in divinity. Spirituality and the Doctor? The dozen or so hits on the internet that discuss the theology of Doctor Who would indicate there’s at least a passing connection.

Last but not least Capaldi played the Therapist in Big Fat Gypsy Gangster. That skill set should come in handy when confronting angry aliens with Oedipal issues.

Peter also played a psychiatrist in Getting On but he was more an object of desire for Dr. Pippa Moore than a healing character. On second thought, female adoration is something the Doctor has had dealings with on more than one occasion.

So fear not my Whovian friends, all will be well. We have a professional Doctor stepping up to the plate this evening… or at least he’s played one on TV.

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Medical staff from Getting On                                 Image credit BBC

                     Medical staff from Getting On                    Image credit BBC

Lately I’ve discovered a few shows which examine the daily lives of those in the nursing profession, namely Casualty 1907/1909 and Getting On. Though the former is a drama set in the actual Royal London Hospital and the latter a sitcom based in two fictional establishments (King Edward VIII and St Jude’s), these programs have been quite enlightening in what I believe to be relatively realistic depictions of  those who nurse patients in British hospitals.

In the credits of Casualty 1900’s, there is a disclaimer that the stories portrayed are from “hospital records, private papers and newspaper reports.” As for Getting On, one of the show’s co-writers, Jo Brand, was a psychiatric nurse before becoming a comic so I trust she has a fair amount of insight into working in an NHS hospital.

Despite the amazing advances in science and medicine, nursing is still about the vital but often menial work of caring for the ill and dying. Therefore, as you might imagine, some things never really change that much.

For example, both series had a scenario where one of the wards was contaminated by a MERSA-like bacterial infection. Whether you live in the 20th or 21st century, such conditions require the stripping of beds and burning of its linen, the disinfection of all bed frames and other common surfaces, and re-sterilization of all medical equipment in the ward.

It’s also interesting to note that the steps taken to prepare an expired patient’s body are still basically the same – remove the pillow from beneath their head, straighten out their limbs and inventory any personal belongings.


Nurse Wilde (Jo Brand) and Sister Flixter (Joanna Scanlan) processing a recently deceased patient.  Image credit BBC

Nurse Wilde (Jo Brand) and Sister Flixter (Joanna Scanlan) processing a recently deceased patient.
Image credit BBC


Fortunately for modern day nurses, they aren’t required to sew shrouds for the deceased anymore.

Another reality of hospital operations is the constant quest for funding. In the old days, administrators apparently spent most of their time pleading with rich patrons for money to keep the hospital afloat. The London even staged a royal visit from Queen Alexandra to attract publicity and draw financial backing from wealthy benefactors.

Queen Alexandra is welcomed on her royal visit to the London Hospital  image credit Stone City Films /BBC

Queen Alexandra is welcomed on her official visit to the London Hospital
Image credit Stone City Films /BBC


At King Edward’s, much needed funding for the coffers is more likely to come from ground-breaking staff research…


Most fascinating to me and one of those cultural lessons I love to happen upon is the hierarchy of nursing staff in the UK.  From the foot soldier nurses to their superiors, the sisters and matrons, I assume this chain of command was established when the Church was more intricately involved with the profession.

The probationers (nurses in training) were the bottom of the ladder with the worst grunt jobs delegated to them. After graduating to a full-fledged nurse you still must report to the ward sister (who may or may not be a nun) and finally, at the top of the food chain, the strict and uncompromising matron who oversees all nursing staff. Make no mistake, the matron’s disapproval was all that was required for a nurse’s dismissal.


While I was surprised to find the same designations remain, the modern British hospital has many administrative hoops to jump through and a labyrinth of  organizational jargon to navigate. Your matron is not only a disciplinary figure but a source of job support as well.


One sacrifice required of nurses that has changed with the times is the restriction that nurses couldn’t marry. At the London, nurses at all levels were forbidden from fraternizing with or marrying doctors at the same facility. If this happened, one of the couple would be forced to leave their job and you can guess which of the two that was going to be.

Nurse Russell and Dr. Walton - a couple torn apart by their devotion to career Image credit Stone City Films/BBC

Nurse Russell and Dr. Walton – a couple torn apart by their devotion to their careers
Image credit Stone City Films/BBC


Now of course, there’s no taboo on married nurses. In fact, Nurse Kim Wilde is married and has a whole brood of children she can’t wait to get away from. Of course, a hospital romance between a supervisor and one of his subordinates is still likely to be frowned upon and like most other workplaces, gossip and recriminations aren’t surprising.


Not everyone can follow in the footsteps of Florence Nightingale, of course, but it does take a special person to be a nurse. Preferably one with stamina, a strong stomach, and an abundance of patience.  If you’re a nurse in the UK, I’d love to hear how your reality differs from the telly versions of your job.  If you’ve been a patient (which is statistically more likely) what is the public perception of nursing as a profession?  I like to think the telly mirrors the culture it portrays, but it’s always a good idea to corroborate your facts, I suppose.


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