Comedy is an odd beast. I remember writing an essay in my first year of an English degree comparing the uses of comedy in Chaucer’s ‘A Nun’s Priest’s Tale’ and Shakespeare’s A Winter’s Tale. I rambled on for 2000 words about humour being used to mock the evil, correct wrongs and bring about the happy ending the reader wants. I received a decent 2:1 mark for it, but got told off by my tutor for forgetting the most obvious, and important, function of comedy: to make people laugh.

Having said that, the bleakness of many contemporary sitcoms brings this into question. The bad are never humbled, the good rarely truly victorious, and happy endings seem to be lost in a pool of ambiguity. Of course, part of the problem is that no-one is ever really just good or evil – the slightest trace of humanity in a monster makes their fall a tragedy rather than a delight, and any tint of something impure in the good makes their triumph questionable. And besides, most everyday people don’t have massive triumphs or falls anyway. We are far too busy with the little details of life to start grand schemes. Hence why comedy is increasingly about bittersweet domesticity, the little things that make or break your day.

Getting On, which is a very apt title for the show. It concerns the idea of ‘getting on’ in both of its most obvious ways; it is both about the lacklustre care of the elderly (the first season was commissioned as part of a season of programmes on the growth of the ‘grey nation’) and about hospital staff trying to get on with their jobs despite increasing interference from an ever-growing list of external sources.

This third series has seen the cast move to a brighter ward, but facing yet more challenges. Hilary Loftus is no longer the overly pc matron, but a file of bureaucratic papers in human form, lecturing on energy waste and classifying rubbish as if such things could resolve tensions between warlords in Afghanistan. New matron Demaris meanwhile has absorbed every ‘blue sky’ phrase that has been cooked up over the 20 years, and utters them live gospel truths.

Then there are the things that really haven’t changed. Dr. Pippa Moore is as unaware of others around her as before. Her lack of empathy is startling to behold. But we also have a more balanced view of her – forced to fight a demeaning divorce to a man who has contributed nothing and wants to take half, with a solicitor who appears to know little divorce law. No wonder she buries herself in self-obsessions like her latest, slightly grotesque research project.

Sister Den Flixter has failed to change as well. Again self-obsession is the lead character trait, coupled with a tendency to laziness. However, her more astute observations of human life has led to some beautifully played show-downs between herself and Dr. Moore. Den’s pregnancy storyline has also led to some brilliant in-jokes about maternity rights, but the most touching moments have been her realisations she is about to be responsible for someone who isn’t herself.

At the centre of it all is Nurse Kim Wilde, who seems to be the only person who has realised she is being payed to care. Unfortunately, she is lost at sea in the paperwork, so her powers to change things are limited. Time and again she has been proven to know best, but cannot be heard for the rustling of forms. Her ambitions to become a doctor are doomed to fail – she has too much empathy for the patients and too little skill at brown-nosing those above her. She, nor any of the others, will be allowed to triumph. Instead, we much watch them fall a little bit more every week. Still, at least we are laughing, right?

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