The medication’s wearing off

Hospitals are horrible places. Every hospital is infested with its own unmistakable just bleached sick stench, inhabited with hoardes of confused old people and infiltrated by every imaginable death bringing virus known to man. They are riddled with death. They are peppered with remnants of splattered placenta, brittle bones and mounds upon mounds of vomit. The hospital welcomes our babies into the world with a dystopia filled with men in white masks, blue plastic overalls and a mass of indeterminable screaming. The hospital is where most of us are going to die, eyes closing on the nonchalant nurse’s gaze morbidly concentrating on her watch because, of course, efficiency is paramount in these palaces of death. They are sure as heck not places of humour, romance and long, strung out drama, but that’s how Television has historically presented them.

The TV hospital is usually staffed by about ten people who each have time to devote hours upon hours of valuable life-saving time to joshing about, getting laid and resolving life issues for charmed and challenged patients. Somehow _Diagnosis Murder_’s Dr. Sloan has enough time to be a super awesome doctor and a meddling murder solver. I’m pretty certain that the time he spends chasing after glamour wrought murderesses would, in fact, constitute a form of medical malpractice. I can just imagine the piles of dead patients that are amassing in Sloan’s hospital all with identical toe-tags stating, ‘Cause of death: Dr. Sloan absent, neglected to administer medicine’.

Every character in _Grey’s Anatomy_ appears to possess the sexual drive of a pack of rape-hungry chimpanzees. If the person who writes the toe-tags in Grey’s hospital wasn’t so distracted by one of its many gyrating orderlies, the labels on their pile of neglected corpses would state, ‘Cause of death: doctors too busy shagging to resuscitate patient’. Why on earth it’s conceivable for two people to get turned on around open wounds and pools of puss is beyond me, but it’s perfectly acceptable in the mysterious world of television. It’s as if the TV screen is a viscous film protecting the innocent whores of _Grey’s Anatomy_ from the truth that blood and puss are not, in fact, puddles of rainbows and unicorn semen.

Well. That’s America for you. Whilst our turkey loving, shotgun toting, God devoting cousins from across the pond live on a diet of extreme, unbelievable and ridiculous television, our appetite for medical drama has always been more distinctly British. The two heavyweights in hospital related TV (in the US, _ER_, and in the UK, _Casualty_) are prime examples of this. _ER_ was always more concerned with showing ridiculous medical cases than Casualty has ever been. Sure, Casualty has its own moments of absurdity, what with every series containing at least one explosion, maniacal stalker and ambulance crash, but it’s far more tempered than _ER_’s fireworks which shocked the viewer with blazes of spontaneously combusting Sci-Fi geeks, doctors saving children from inexplicable flash floods and characters losing limbs in far too many incidents involving unruly helicopters.

Everyone and their dog watched _ER_. It was socially relevant (_ER_ covered issues in Darfur and the Democratic Republic of Congo before any other television drama) and culturally significant (George Clooney’s Dr. Ross was deified by legions of bored and horny housewives). This didn’t stop the characters from becoming one-dimensional nor the storylines from becoming overly sentimental. It became irrelevant in a media climate obsessed with reality. The same can be said of _Casualty_ in the present day. Far from a glorious past not dissimilar from _ER_’s, _Casualty_’s viewers have dwindled as it sits side-by-side with the _X Factor_ on Saturday nights. It is culturally irrelevant and its cast of characters are no longer exciting enough to tear the average viewer away from the medical marvel that is Louis Walsh on ITV1. They’ve all merged into the same person: a collective of sappy, startled and bumbling Harold Shipman wannabes. To all intents and purposs, it appears as though the medical genre has slipped into a coma of its own making.

That was until BBC4’s fantastic comedy _Getting On_ came along. Devised, written and performed by Jo Brand, Joanna Scanlan and the very brilliant Vicki Pepperdine, _Getting On_ is a medical comedy which founds its humour in the dirge of governmental bureaucracy imposed on the NHS. Admittedly, the concept doesn’t immediately scream ‘comedy gold’, but its dry delivery reflects a distinctly British ire. There’s nothing sensational about Pepperdine’s undying interest in fecal studies and the patients are largely dormant, but it is this lack of trauma that makes _Getting On_ so interesting. It is a stripped down medical program that prides itself on the ignorance and fallability of its practitioners and not on their ability to recite streams of unintelligable Latin. It’s a quiet, brooding and fantastic comedy, and one altogether different from its American counterparts: E4’s second favourite import, _Scrubs_ and the overtly stylistic _Nurse Jackie_. Hospitals may be horrible places in real life, but they’re starting to become very appealing in the magical world of TV.


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