Green Wing was a breath of fresh air on Channel 4 last year. Inventive, surreal, visually distinctive, populated with great comedy actors, backed by good writers, and experimenting by doing comedy in an hour-long show, rather than taking the easy route of 30 minutes of jokes. Most importantly, it was very, very funny.
It was with great anticipation that I was looking forward to last Friday at 9pm, for the first show in the second series, despite the fact that they have been promoting the show with ads for at least a month, if not longer, telling us it was ‘nearly ready’. There hasn’t been any great new, British comedy in a while on terrestrial television and, with the promise of having learnt a lot from the first series, the second series would be even better.
What we got were smiles, chuckles, the occasional guffaw, but not consistent laughs. Following on from the end of the (literal) cliffhanger at the end of the first series, where Mac (Julian Rhind-Tutt), Guy (Stephen Mangan) and Martin (Karl Theobald) were left dangling in an ambulance over the edge of a cliff after Guy found out he had slept with his mother, Joanna (Pippa Haywood), we eventually discover that Mac is in a coma. (His coma provides some nice chuckles, especially the Take That and Kraftwerk bits, when his brain takes something from the outside, but not more.) Caroline (Tamsin Grieg) is pining for him after they revealed their feelings for each other, while Sue (Michelle Gomez), the maniacal staff liaison officer with a crush on Mac, tries her best to come between them. Meanwhile, Alan (Mark Heap) still suffers the tricks of Boyce (Oliver Chris), exacerbated by his dumping by Joanna.
There is the usual visual mischief from the cameras, some nice slapstick and wonderfully bizarre moments (Guy threatening to shoot a cute kitten in order to get Mac to wake up from his coma), but it didn’t add up to the genius that was the first series. Not that the first series was brilliant all the way through; there were times that the experiment didn’t work, but not for want of trying. I don’t know if it was trying too hard to tell a story this time, whereas the first series let the gags find their own feet, as the actors were allowed to improvise, but this seemed to force a structure on the show that didn’t permit the range for tomfoolery. When actors did try to riff, it didn’t quite work.
I really wanted this to be brilliant, which probably didn’t help in the enjoyment, but it didn’t achieve it. Still a lot better than most, but needs some work.
[EDIT: Turns out not many people watched the first episode, according to this piece. Not a confidence-inspiring start.]