“Getting On.” HBO’s twisted and brave new comedy may take place in a long-term care facility, but it refuses to get the vapors or turn to sentimental mush when dealing with the grim but often hilarious realities of old age and death. Against the sardonic humor of the modern workplace comedy, “Getting On” delves into issues that tend to make Americans uncomfortable — the ailments of age, the warehousing of the elderly.
Embodying the many professionals who feel overworked and underappreciated in modern America, everyone who works on the wing both battles against and suffers from the widely held opinion that the work they do is less important that other parts of the hospital. Dawn (Alex Borstein), anxious and self-aggrandizing, is the single-gal center of the action, a through-the-mirror-darkly version of heroines like Mary Richards. Her supervisor, Patsy De La Serda (Mel Rodriguez), has sexual identity issues and an abiding belief in corporate structure. His boss, Dr. Jenna James (Laurie Metcalf), is plagued by those inevitable bedfellows fear and arrogance. The only character who seems to understand the importance and limitations of her job is DiDi (Niecy Nash), the nurse-in-training; she does not define her self through her work, she just does it.
With a script that provokes as many winces as belly laughs and a cast willing and able to explore the outer dimensions of both humor and pathos, “Getting On” is the definition of cutting-edge comedy. The discomfort you feel, with the setting, with the characters, is very much your own and well worth exploring. HBO, Sundays, 10 p.m.
“Bonnie and Clyde" It may have the History imprint, but this two-night, three-network “television event” is a hugely romanticized, factually sketchy retelling of the short and violent lives of the infamous couple. Which is not to say it isn’t entertaining; it’s just more opera than history, with lush and detailed sets, period-perfect costumes and a fever dream ethos that keeps the increasing amounts of violence somehow separate from its main characters.
In this version, Clyde Barrow (Emile Hirsch) is not so much a criminal as a courtier. It’s Bonnie (Holliday Grainger) who is both muse and mastermind of their two-year crime spree, which is rendered here with an even higher body count than the nine law officials and several civilians the actual Barrow gang reportedly killed. A thwarted actress (what else?), she sees in Clyde a way out of her “prospects none” small-town life. Hirsch’s Clyde, who narrates the film, is not just essentially good-hearted, he has something of the second sight; from the beginning of their relationship, he is haunted by images of their violent demise.
The script plays fast and loose with many facts in its insistence on making Bonnie a cold-blooded killer (when most accounts insist she rarely handled a weapon) who builds her own publicity campaign, with the aid of a feisty female reporter (played by Elizabeth Reaser). As a docudrama, it’s completely ridiculous. But as a loosely-based fiction, with a star-studded cast, including William Hurt and Holly Hunter, it has a fast-paced Tommy gun charm. History, A&E, Lifetime, Sunday-Monday, 9 p.m.
“Sherlock" After a lag time long even by state-sponsored “we’ll get to it when we get to it” BBC standards, Season 3 of Stephen Moffat and Mark Gatiss’ exquisite modern remaining of the world’s most famous detective (sorry, M. Poirot!) will debut in the States on Jan. 19 (a mere 18 days after its New Year’s premiere in the U.K.). This gives us just enough time to unearth our blue Paul Smith scarves, figure out how Sherlock (Benedict Cumberbatch) will finally reveal his distinctly not-dead self to Watson (Martin Freeman) and lovingly revisit the previous two seasons.
Then, if we’re feeling quite obsessive and perhaps a bit bitter, we can review the projects that stretched the hiatus between seasons to a record-breaking 19 month, including all that 50th-anniversary “Dr. Who” hoopla (Moffat and Gatiss); “The Hobbit” and “The World’s End" (Freeman), and “Parade’s End,” “Star Trek into Darkness,” “The Fifth Estate,” “12 Years a Slave” and “August, Osage County” (Cumberbatch).
Actually, maybe we’d better just stick with the first two seasons of “Sherlock.” Available on Netflix.