Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Green Wing

Hooray, Green Wing will soon be back! Green Wing is probably the most interesting comedy series around at the moment excepting, perhaps, The Mighty Boosh. They've been repeating episodes from the first series late night on Channel 4 this week, in the run up to the new series showing. I'd forgotten how good they are. It's quite easy to be put off, unless you stick with it for a bit. I remember not liking the first episode when it was first aired - it seemed rather gimmicky (with its speed-up/slow-motion editing between scenes for example) and to be rather too self-consciously absurd. It was like it was trying too hard. However, give it a chance, and I guarantee you'll be hooked. What's so good about it, in my opinion, is that it successfully blends a number of different comedy styles - there's some wonderfully subtle character-acting and an The Office-like comedy of social embarassment alongside physical slapstick and dream-like surrealism. It manages to feel and look like a fragmented, sketch show in which scenes and situations do not necessarily follow on from one another, while maintaining short and long term plot lines focused on certain characters. Alongside the set piece slapstick, there's clearly a lot of ad-libbing too.

Like The Mighty Boosh, Green Wing manages to be utterly absurd, yet maintains a deadpan restraint at the same time. I think that's what I like about it most - despite the surface gimmicks, the comic absurdity isn't endlessly milked (as it is, say, in anything Vic and Bob have done). It's surreal, but doesn't go out of its way to draw attention to its surrealism, as it were. It's that deadpan, take it or leave it, see it or don't see it quality I like. Like The Mighty Boosh, too, Green Wing is not really laugh out loud, rolling on the floor comedy (though it has its moments) - you watch it because it's interesting and unpredictable.

My favourite characters are Dr Alan Statham, the pompous, bumbling and neurotic consultant radiologist, prone to exaggerated Basil Faulty-style outbursts of anger and the utterly vile, (but strangely likeable) Dr Guy Secretan - a hugely competitive and selfish wannabe ladies' man. These two characters seem to me like polar opposites. Secretan is a completely believable, 'realistic' character (we've all met men like him) while the manic Statham is, almost, a cartoon creation. Yet the characters both 'fit' perfectly well into the same scene. There's an example of the successful blending of comedic factors in the show. It shouldn't work, but it does.

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