Created by Victoria Pyle
Starring Tamsin Grieg, Sarah Alexander, Mark Heap, Pippa Haywood, Stephen Mangan, Julian Rhind-Tutt, Oliver Chris, Michelle Gomez, Olivia Coleman
There are certain things you expect from a show these days. TV comedies are half an hour. Medical comedies are about wacky patients. Green Wing ignored these and became one of the funniest comedies of the last twenty years.
The cast was a big one, but the one who is closest to a lead is Caroline Todd (Tamsin Greig), who lacks confidence and is going to a posting at the mythical East Hampton Hospital* where she has to deal with situations that only lead to embarrassment. She ends up sharing and apartment with Angela Hunter (Sarah Alexander), who is effortlessly perfect in everything she does. Caroline also works with Guy Secretan (Stephen Mangan), a jerk who tries to bed any woman he sees, and “Mac” McCartney (Julian Rhind-Tutt), the handsome surgeon with plenty of real charm. There’s also consulting radiologist** Alan Statham (Mark Heap), who is overbearing, pedantic, and flustered, especially when his student Boyce (Oliver Chris) baits him. Statham is having a secret affair (he thinks) with the HR director Joanna Clore (Pippa Haywood), who hates her job. Harriet Schulenberg (Olivia Coleman) is the put upon mother of four, who is overworked and is stuck in a bad marriage. Martin Dear (Karl Theobald) is a shy and uncertain UK equivalent of a medical resident, who never has graduated to a full doctor because he keeps failing the tests.
And then there’s Sue White (Michelle Gomez), staff liaison officer. Ostensibly, her job is to help staff with problems, but her character is completely surreal. She doesn’t care about her patients, and goes out of her way to embarrass them. But it’s not deliberate cruelty. Sue does things that make no sense in any context, like wearing a mouse mask in her office or barking like a seal.
The show’s structure was very different. In addition to being an hour, it works like a series of blackout gags with multiple plotlines intertwined, some lasting multiple episodes. Stylistically, the scenes are separated by short bumpers of the characters doing something, with the action speeded up or slowed down (and often both in the same sequence) as sight gags come into play. Another characteristic is that it is extremely rare for them to be caring for patients. They are only seen occasionally and the doctors never even discuss medical issues.
The result is uproariously funny.
Of course, many of the names are quite well known now, most notably Olivia Colman, who seems to be in everything British these days. Tamsin Greig has been busy, mostly in TV like The Guilty and Episodes. Of course, Michelle Gomez became a figure in fandom after she was cast as Missy in Doctor Who.
The show ran two seasons, with a Christmas special. There was talk of more, but it never came to pass.
*In the UK. I grew up near East Hampton NY; my aunt lived there.
**The title becomes the basis of a very funny X-rated joke