Photo courtesy of HBO
When husband-and-husband television writing team Mark V. Olsen and Will Scheffer first began working on their adaptation of British comedy series Getting On for HBO, they began to look at California cities that could potentially host the show’s ragtag group of nurses and doctors working in a hospital’s geriatric ward.
The Big Love creators, who live in Pasadena, scrapped the idea of using Hollywood-inflected Los Angeles as a setting, but quickly set their sights on Long Beach, a city both men frequently visit and have always appreciated for its small-town charm and unique cultural character.
“Long Beach is a city we’ve long loved for many reasons but especially for its diversity and we felt that the show needed to have a diverse population to reflect the ‘melting pot’ of the American experience,” says Scheffer. “Long Beach reflected the kind of working-class values that we grew up with.”
“We felt Long Beach fit the bill, and was a city all our characters could be living in– and it felt just a little bit fresh,” adds Olsen.
Getting On, which premieres this Sunday at 10PM on HBO, takes place in the Billy Barnes Extended Care Unit of fictional Mt. Palms Hospital in Long Beach. The show brings together veteran comediennes Laurie Metcalf, Niecy Nash and Alex Borstein as doctors and nurses in the ward, following them as they tend to their elderly patients and deal with the day-to-day drama of working within the bureaucratic confines of American healthcare.
Though Mt. Palms Hospital is an entirely made-up facility, Scheffer and Olsen did tour multiple Long Beach hospitals in the hopes of grounding the show in an actual, real location.
“No one location fit the bill, so we built a hybrid,” explains Olsen. “Our fictional Billy Barnes Extended Care Facility is modeled on something that would not be out of place on the Harbor UCLA medical campus in Torrance, and it is connected by a breezeway to a fancier, more modern facility that we imagined to be very much like Long Beach Memorial.”
With six episodes slated to run before the end of the year, Getting On is one of the few television shows to actually use Long Beach not just as a setting, but also its people as inspiration for the plotlines, which tend to involve dysfunational staffers and darkly comic patients.
“For us, Long Beach represents a small city that still retains a character familiar to us from our childhoods. Mixed ethnicity, blue-collar, aspirational and full of the everyday realties, joys and problems experienced by most Americans throughout the country,” says Scheffer. “I think our affection for Long Beach and our familiarity with the city helped us feel we were writing about people we knew intimately and therefore we could imbue the show with stories we cared about and characters we knew and loved.”
Getting On premieres Sunday, November 24 at 10PM on HBO.
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