After a Channel 4 build-up that would make even The IT Crowd jealous, Green Wing returned this evening. My experience of watching it has been retropsectively tainted by what happened to one of our cats almost immediately afterwards (more news on that when we know what’s happening), but I’ll try to be objective about the programme.
I loved the first series, pretty much from note one. The speeded-up-slowed-down camerawork never irritated or distracted me, as it did some people, indeed it struck me as emblematic of the show’s storming self-confidence and willingness to bend the rules. The hour long episodes much surely create as many headaches for the writers as opportunities, but I’ve never sat through one thinking, “They’re padding this one out a bit.” At the end of the day, an eight-episode run is the equivalent of 16 half-hour sitcoms, and we’re banging our heads on the wall trying to write six. So all credit to the invention of the writers, led by Victoria Pile, and the fluidity of the direction by Dominic Brigstocke, but let’s be honest, the genius is in the performances.
It’s a kind of forced naturalism that’s become the norm in British TV comedy, from The Office and People Like Us to Man Stroke Woman and The Thick Of It, but that said, Green Wing‘s lithe and unfettered cast take it to a bendy, stuttering new level. I am particularly fond of Michelle Gomez as Sue White, who seems to be operating within a spin-off programme all of her own, Stephen Mangan as Guy Secretan, who delights in every act of oily arrogance, and Mark Heap as Dr Statham, who has found the perfect outlet for his twitchy Englishness. This first episode, over-dominated by the coma of Dr McCartney and his hallucinations (although you had to love the Star Trek bit), gave everyone plenty to do, and its killer moment occured, as they so often casually do, in the HR office, where everyone was mimicking the pregnant actions of Harriett (Olivia Colman). Top quality clowning.
I have every confidence that Episode Two will be better. I’m in for the series.