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Peter Capaldi on directing Getting On

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David Thair | 13:02 UK time, Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Getting OnPeter Capaldi (amongst other things, Malcolm Tucker in The Thick of It and In The Loop) is director of BBC Four's new series Getting On, whose naturalistic presentation has drawn favourable comparison to the political comedy in which Peter stars.

But what's it like to direct a comedy show that deals with such grim subject matter? And how do you direct a show after starring in one with such a distinct style? Peter explains...

"Armando [Iannucci] has developed a technique that is totally his own, and I've been lucky enough through The Thick Of It to see it in action.

Once you've been a part of it, it seems daft to go back to a more conventional way of working, particularly with this kind of realistic looking comedy. When the girls asked me to direct Getting On it just seemed the most obvious way to go. So we've a lot to thank him for, both in terms of the shooting style and our approach to the work.

The delightful thing for me was to work with such talented people as Jo, Jo and Vicky. The characters that they created and the situations they put them in were so funny and stimulating. I had a few script meetings with them to flag up where I thought things might work better structurally, but ultimately it's all their doing.

Working with Unison the nurses union who helped us out in our research was extremely useful. Obviously we always knew Lily was going to die, but what was great was being able to ask what the actual procedure was when a death occurs. I asked our contact to go through absolutely everything that had to be done when a death occurs, which is what Sister Flixter, Nurse Wilde and Dr Moore actually do. But the most surprising and moving thing to discover for me was that  it was enshrined in the rules that no one should die alone. Therefore if a death is likely, and there are no relatives or friends in attendance, a member of staff has to be given the role of being with them. In this case Sister Flixter. And that gave us our first scene.

We were so lucky to get Ricky Grover who plays the part of Hilary Loftus brilliantly. He's a remarkably sensitive and funny performer. I also liked the way there was something of the old "Doctor In the House" movies about his name. A quiet tribute to James Roberstson Justice perhaps.

Also, we were blessed with a wonderful collection of old lady extras to play our old ladies. OK it doesn't sound the most taxing of jobs, sitting around in bed all day, but remember they had to act and put up with my impatient directions.

I appeared briefly in last week's episode. I found it a bit difficult as my hands were pretty full directing the show and I didn't want to have to watch myself as well as everyone else. Basically we didn't really have anyone else around so I jumped in. I'm a psychiatrist. And a very nice one too. With an astonishing resemblance to Malcolm Tucker.

There is a woman in the episode who possibly could be Malcolm's mother. But I think she abandoned him at birth and he was brought up by pixies who lost a much of their family when their den was crushed under a carelessly delivered skip, making them bitter and twisted, hateful and unusually interested in the political process."

Can't wait until the next episode on TV? Here's an exclusive video with Jo Brand's character, Nurse Wilde:

View the full blog post to access video content. In order to see this content you need to have both Javascript enabled and Flash installed. Visit BBC Webwise for full instructions

Read more about Getting On and watch exclusive character clips right here on the Comedy Blog.


  • Comment number 1.

    Ive not laughed so much - I work for the NHS in a very similar senario & its all so true.
    I hope Jo Brand & the crew bring more of this.
    It would definitely be a hit with the millions who work for & understand how nonsensical the bureaucracy within NHS has become.
    Nurses are no longer able to move from the office to do the normal every day nurse-to-patient roles, due to the futile amount of paper work.
    It will get worse too & only the patients will suffer.
    Maybe only Jo Brand will get us through

  • Comment number 2.

    Fantastic. I walked out of the NHS (complete with hernia) in the late 1980's because I was finding it increasingly idiotic, even back then. This series has brought back whole unhappy mess with glorious clarity. Even the hamper had an uneasy resonance as it reminded me of an occasion when my own ward had a prize draw. Despite her contribution, the lucky winner (a patient with a bit of a weight problem) never did see her hamper as was decided to award it to someone in better shape.

  • Comment number 3.

    I absolutely love this. I'm a teacher - currently not working - and have been doing a bit of voluntary work in Social Care. This is the comedy that comes out in real life and it is the adversity and truth that makes it painful and hilarious.

  • Comment number 4.

    Getting On, brilliant, fantastic, superb. What a breath of fresh air. I have not enjoyed a comedy as much since the first episode of the Royal Family. Jo Brand you are a comedy genius! All the cast including the wonderful extras made this a wonderful viewing experience.
    Me and my friends have all been repeating lines and laughing hysterically for the last two weeks and now have many catchprases from the show which we use often. Nurse Hilary - what an inspired choice of character, not only a character seen in the NHS but the DWP whom I worked for, for many years. Pippa Moore reminds me of a manger I had and the actress who plays her is a master of her craft.
    Please, please, please the powers that be, make a new series and more of this type of comedy, its a sure winner.
    CONGRATULATIONS to the director, cast and crew.
    Katie R, Glasgow.

  • Comment number 5.

    I want to commend the BBC and all the writers, actors, the director and producers of this excellent series. It gets the balance perfectly right between the comic, the ludicrous bureaucracies and the quiet tragedies of this age group within our nhs. To do so whilst demonstrating the genuine excellence of most nursing care is a major achievement.Jo Brand's extensive nursing experience and finely tuned humour as evidenced in the writing and her performance is essential to the success of this program. Reminded me a tad of the BBC's " the nations health" series from decades back. Somewhat alarming that some things have not improved and indeed can be confounded by wholly unhelpful and counter productive political correctness and overly defensive statisticians. Can only hope this team work again on another project. Whatever the subject it is certain to be great.

  • Comment number 6.

    Getting On is brilliant! This is subversive comedy at it's very best. It's so close to the truth it hurts, in fact, I suspect there are plenty of healthcare management types out there who would find it a little too painful to watch (hopefully)!
    The writing is so well observed and all the performances are absolutely spot on. The attention to each character's detail is outstanding.
    I enjoyed every minute and I really do hope there's more to come from everyone involved.
    Thank you (from this nurse of 25yrs).

  • Comment number 7.

    This has to be one of the funniest things on TV and deserves a comedy award! I have worked as a supplier to the NHS and have "met" all these people, this is top quality. Not laughed so much in years.

  • Comment number 8.

    I would like to congratulate BBC on this fabulous series. Unfortunately it was only 3 episodes long, but I haven't laugh so much for ages. It was a complete gem - and a shame it was hidden away on BBC4 where many viewers will not have found it. Let's hope it gets another, longer series!

  • Comment number 9.

    I seem to remember Jo Brand, in an interview, stressing that it is a Medical ward, not geriatric. I was a bed manager - nightmare of a job -and there were never enough Care of The Elderly beds, so inevitably emergency admissions were put in any ward where a bed was available, usually a Medical ward, and then moved to the appropriate ward when possible. The nurses gave their all, and without their goodwill and cooperation my job would have been impossible.
    I wholeheartedly agree with the bloggers' observations and comments. I think the balance between stark reality (underscored by cold, flat lighting) and the relief of drily-delivered humour is perfectly tuned.
    The BBC 'deciders' may see this as a slow burner with limited appeal, but I remember 'The Office' getting off to a very slow start. In any case, I would have thought 'Getting On' fulfilled the main criterion of the Accountants - cheap to make. So I think there is a case for at least six more episodes.

  • Comment number 10.

    This is by far the Funniest thing I Have watched on the Beeb for sometime . The programme is So near to the truth it almost hurts , It left me wondering how you got away with showing it . So Glad that you did!!
    Ive Worked for Nhs (nursing)for over 20yrs and at present I sit on the other side of the fence as a patient.
    Perfect casting Well done to you all. Do hope there is more to come. meanwhile I shall endeavour to post the link to all I know..A Huge Thank you.. This was worth three years bbc licence fees

  • Comment number 11.

    I found this blog while naively looking for episode 4 on iPlayer. Late last year I spent a good deal of time visiting a ward that was not a hundred miles away from this. My habit has been to watch this late at night on in bed on a notebook as a way of winding down, but it didn't work because one minute I was wincing with recognition and the next shaking with laughter. It's a good job my partner is a sound sleeper. This was one of the best things I have seen for years. Instant classic. The creators are to be congratulated.

  • Comment number 12.

    Absolutely hilarious and beautifully performed. PLEASE can we have some more of this..........

  • Comment number 13.

    Hi, I thought this was great too and so did my teenagers. It reminded them a bit of Green Wing. I thought the acting was brilliant and it was very funny. Great to do something about old people too, who are so overlooked. My son constantly calls me old and withered and I am only 51!

    I have only just worked out there were only 3 episodes, as I keep going on the iplayer and thinking they have loaded the wrong episode.

    Please make another series....

  • Comment number 14.

    I haven't enjoyed a comedy so much since 'The Thick of It' - both very dark, very poignant and so near to the truth the line between funny and tragic is often blurred. Please, please can we have some more?

  • Comment number 15.

    What a refreshing new comedy - Subtle, well observed and innovative. Love the way it pokes fun at the new managerial culture that has taken root in public services. Destined to be a cult classic? BBC - Please make a whole new series..

  • Comment number 16.

    I had given up on BBC Comedy recently. Once upon a time, things were regularly on that made me laugh so much that it hurt but those days of Dad's Army, Fawlty Towers and It Ain't Half Hot Mum are sadly long gone. Then we has a revival in the late 90s and early 2000s with some gems like I'm Alan Partridge, the Royle Family, The League of Gentlemen and most recently The Office. Since then, however, there has been a dearth of any consistently great home-grown BBC comedy. All that changed with he airing of Getting On. At last something that made my wife and I rejoice in the comedy, and laugh uncontrollably. What I can't understand though, is why: you made so few programmes, didn't market it, tucked it away on BBC4 without fanfare and shuffled it straight off our screens without any promises of more to come. Getting On should now be shown again peak-time on BBC 1 amid a blaze of publicity, and again regularly on BBC 3 (getting rid of that awful thing, repeated ad nauseum there, about "...a packet of crisps". You should also commission a follow-on Series, filmed in HD and then simulcast in the winter schedules on both BBC1 and BBC HD. With blu-ray discs to follow, which will undoubtedly become a must have Xmas present for every NHS worker!


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