HBO ran the first season of its dark comedy series Getting On in November. It’s about nurses working in the women’s extended-care facility of a Long Beach hospital and stars Laurie Metcalf, Alex Borstein and Niecy Nash. You may have missed it; the premium network only aired six episodes, with no big promotional push – not even a Q&A session at a TCA Press Tour. The cast and creators finally got that Q&A time today – and immediately got asked if they were miffed at the way HBO has handled, or not handled, their series.
Exec producer Mark V. Olsen responded diplomatically that they felt they’d delivered a great product and ended the first season “with a sense of satisfaction.” He and EP Will Scheffer — they created HBO’s polygamy drama Big Love together — acknowledged that the scheduling and lack of promotional push “created a narrative we were being dumped there.” But they insisted the show never was planned to get a big promotional push. “We’re a … tiny show, unlike any other show on HBO,” Olsen said. “We’re a guerrilla show. We were always going to come in under the radar.”
Dubious critics noted HBO did not pick up a second season of the U.S. version of the award-winning BBC Four medical comedy until after the first season wrapped, which usually is not considered a vote of great confidence in the franchise.
“I don’t think we’ve ever heard a showrunner say, ‘We didn’t want our show to get promotion,’” a TV critic noted before asking dubiously, “Was there an actual conversation, where [HBO] said, ‘Do you want a lead-in?’ and you said ‘No,’ and they said, ‘Do you want ads?’ and you said ‘No’?”
The two EPs confirmed that there was such a conversation, with HBO and with producing partner BBC, in which they were asked, “What is this kind of show and what is the best say of launching this show?” At that meeting, the decision was made to cast this series as “the little engine that could” rather than as a big project “inflated on a false balloon.”