Green Wing title screen
|Genre||Comedy drama/British sitcom|
|Created by||Victoria Pile|
|Theme music composer||Trellis|
|Opening theme||Last Week|
|Country of origin||United Kingdom|
|No. of series||2|
|No. of episodes||17 (+1 special and 2 shorts)|
|Executive producer(s)||Peter Fincham|
|Running time||Approx. 50–55 minutes, Special 90 minutes|
|Original channel||Channel 4|
|Picture format||576i (SDTV)|
|Original run||3 September 2004 – 4 January 2007|
|Related shows||Campus (TV series)|
Green Wing is an award-winning British sitcom set in the fictional East Hampton Hospital Trust. It was created by the same team behind the sketch show Smack the Pony, led by Victoria Pile, and stars Tamsin Greig, Stephen Mangan and Julian Rhind-Tutt.
Although set in a hospital, there are no medical storylines; the action is produced by a series of soap opera and Commedia dell'arte-style twists and turns in the personal lives of the characters. They proceed through a series of often absurd sketch-like scenes connected by lazzi, or by sequences where the film is slowed down or sped up, often emphasising the body language of the characters. The show has eight writers. Two series were made by the Talkback Thames production company for Channel 4. At sixty minutes including advertisement time, the episodes are twice as long as is usual for a British comedy series.
The series ran between 3 September 2004 and 19 May 2006. A special episode was filmed with the second series, which was shown as a 90 minute long special on 4 January 2007 in the UK, but was shown in Australia and Belgium on 29 December 2006.
The series begins with a new arrival, surgical registrar Dr. Caroline Todd (Tamsin Greig). Caroline suffers from constant embarrassment and misfortune, stumbling from one crisis to the next due to a mixture of her own indecisiveness, clumsiness, and general bad luck. Caroline works alongside two other doctors: Guy Secretan (Stephen Mangan), a half-Swiss, womanising anaesthetist, and Dr. "Mac" Macartney (Julian Rhind-Tutt), a charming, effortlessly cool surgeon. It is not long before Caroline begins to develop feelings for both of them, though she is unsure as to which of the two she truly loves. Throughout the series, it becomes clear that Mac is her true love, but a range of disasters prevent their relationship from flourishing. Other people Caroline meets include Martin Dear (Karl Theobald), a well-meaning house officer who is constantly failing his exams. He is unloved by his mother and is often bullied by Guy. Martin soon develops feelings for Caroline, and begins to fall in love with her. There is also Angela Hunter (Sarah Alexander), a seemingly-perfect, but irritating, senior registrar in paediatrics. Whilst Angela appears to mean well, Caroline cannot stand her and despite her best efforts to avoid Angela, she ends up as Caroline's lodger.
Caroline's main rival for Mac's affections is Sue White (Michelle Gomez), staff liaison officer employed to listen and respond to the problems of East Hampton's staff. However, Sue, a Scot, is perhaps the least suited person for the job. She is the most eccentric member of staff in the hospital; abrasive, cruel, foul-mouthed, obsessive and, seemingly, a sociopath. Her office is a place where the impossible tends to happen, and anyone who enters is normally treated with a mixture of verbal abuse and psychological torture. The only person she treats with any affection is Mac, whom she loves to the point of madness, but Mac, like everyone else in the hospital, sees her as beyond the edge of insanity. Anyone else who attempts to get involved with Mac is treated with contempt and hatred by Sue, in particular Caroline, whom Sue attempts several times to murder.
Another doctor with relationship problems and bordering insanity is Alan Statham (Mark Heap), a pompous, stuttering, kinky and extremely odd consultant radiologist. He is desperately and hopelessly in love with Joanna Clore (Pippa Haywood), the 48-year-old head of human resources with an increasingly bitter attitude. Their relationship is an open secret, with student doctor Boyce (Oliver Chris), often using it as a weapon against them, bullying Alan constantly. Joanna's human resources staff also use it against her, in particular Kim Alabaster (Sally Bretton), who has a bad attitude towards most of the people she meets, and Naughty Rachel (Katie Lyons), who earned her nickname due to her perverted nature. The other HR staff include Harriet Schulenburg (Olivia Colman), an overworked mother of four trapped in an unhappy marriage, and Karen Ball (Lucinda Raikes), who divides her time between doing much of the office's work, trying to attract Martin's affections, and being bullied by Kim and Rachel.
Green Wing was created and devised by Victoria Pile, who is also the casting director, one of the writers and the producer (with Peter Fincham as executive producer). Pile is involved in the editing, filming and post-production. She describes Green Wing as "a sketch-meets-comedy-drama-meets-soap", and a continuation of her previous show, Smack the Pony, where Green Wing's crew also worked. The show has eight writers: Pile, Robert Harley, Gary Howe, Stuart Kenworthy, Oriane Messina, Richard Preddy, Fay Rusling and James Henry. This is unusual for British sitcoms, which normally have only one or two writers.
The show is directed by Tristram Shapeero and Dominic Brigstocke. Along with Pile, they contribute to editing Green Wing. Sketches are sped up or slowed down to create comic effect, often using body language to create humour. Editing is also used due to the amount of corpsing that occurs during the filming of the show. Tamsin Greig is said to corpse frequently. The music, which plays prominently in the show, is written by Jonathan Whitehead (under the name "Trellis"). His work won him an RTS Craft & Design Award (See Awards).
Green Wing's title is said to have come from a small plastic green man with wings that was in executive producer Peter Fincham's top pocket, and fell on Pile's desk. Fincham claimed it was not his, so Pile kept it. This plastic man appears at the end of the credits on every show.
Originally, the show had a half-hour pilot made a year before transmission that was never aired. Scenes from the pilot can easily be spotted in the first episode, "Caroline's First Day", due to the characters' appearance, most notably Mangan's and Rhind-Tutt's haircuts. The pilot allowed the writers to experiment, such as using different filming techniques. In the pilot, Doon Mackichan played Joanna Clore and was meant to play her in the original series, but left because she had a baby.
Although each script is fully written, the actors are allowed to improvise their own jokes, frequently adding to what has already been written. Normally workshops are used to allow actors to improvise their own material. One example of improvised material was Stephen Mangan's idea of Guy falling in love with Caroline. Rusling, Howe, Messina and Harley all have had speaking parts in the show, most notably Harley playing Charles Robertson, the hospital's CEO. The show's crew also make appearances in the show as extras. For example, Pile's former assistant Phil Secretan (whom Guy is named after) appears at the end of a scene in the first episode. Henry appears in the background during Martin's exam in the episode, "Tests".
The filming was done at two hospitals, the Northwick Park Hospital in Middlesex and the North Hampshire Hospital in Basingstoke. This presented a problem because the show had to work around the real-life hospital, with its actual doctors, patients and emergency situations. In one scene in the final episode in series one, Guy (Mangan) was hitting squash balls behind him, and nearly hit a patient. However, some scenes, such as those in Sue's and Alan's offices, were filmed in a studio.
Green Wing had some plotlines that were never used. Unused storylines included Alan having an eighty-year-old wife and step-grandchildren as old as him, and Guy suffering from impotence. Pile originally wanted the show to cover the entire hospital, not just doctors, but also porters, car park attendants and kitchen staff as well. However, she eventually decided that they had enough material with the eight main doctors and human resources workers.
Two endings were created for the special. The alternative ending is included on the DVD release of Green Wing, along with deleted scenes from the episode. The alternative ending was planned to be used if a third series was going to be commissioned, as this ending was much more ambiguous. It is known that the actors wanted the alternative ending, but after some debate, it was not shown.
Caroline arrives at East Hampton for her first day of work, where she begins work with Guy and Mac. She soon develops feelings for both of then, first believing that she loves Guy, but then – after a day out with him – realising that it is Mac she truly loves. At the same time, Martin begins to fall in love with her, and Angela becomes Caroline's lodger. Elsewhere in the hospital, Alan and Joanna try to hide their relationship from the rest of the staff, unsuccessfully. Then Joanna becomes attracted to Lyndon Jones (Paterson Joseph), the hospital's head of I.T., with Alan becoming jealous of Lyndon.
Sue becomes jealous of Caroline as she starts to fall for Mac, and does her best to try and stop her, even to the point of attempted murder. However, Caroline is having problems in the form of Mac's current girlfriend, Emily. Martin is having problems with his exams, as well as avoiding letting anyone know that Joanna is his mother. Boyce is busy mocking Alan and having a relationship with Kim. With Alan and Joanna's relationship falling apart, Alan becomes a Christian, but this is mainly due to the attractive chaplain.
Mac decides to move to Sheffield to get a better job, taking Emily with him. Before he leaves, Mac bets Guy that he cannot sleep with Joanna. Guy accepts the bet and takes her home. However, Martin has discovered some shocking news and tries his best to stop them having sex, but is distracted by Karen's affections. Caroline does her best to break up the relationship between Mac and Emily, but it is Emily who breaks up with Mac. Lyndon soon tells Joanna that he finds her disturbing, and Joanna then puts an end to Alan's new-found Christian beliefs.
After Guy and Joanna have sex, Martin arrives to tell them that Joanna is Guy's mother. She met Guy's father whilst she was an exchange student in Switzerland. Guy then stabs a syringe full of Botox into Martin's legs as an act of revenge. Martin is taken into an ambulance, and Caroline helps Joanna, but Guy punches Mac in a drunken rage and steals the ambulance. Mac tries to stop him and gets on the ambulance, which drives away. Guy drives the ambulance to Wales, with Mac and the paralysed Martin with him. Whilst Mac tries to phone the police, Guy drives into a field and almost goes over a cliff. The first series ends with Guy, Mac and Martin teetering on the edge – a literal cliffhanger – while ending up in a discussion about which of The Three Musketeers they are most like.
Mac fends off Sue's advances by saying he will only allow her to touch his arse if she can raise £10,000 for Comic Relief. Sue then proceeds to try and ask Martin, Joanna, Guy and Alan for the money, which she eventually manages to raise, though Mac runs off before she can get hold of him.
Eight weeks after the incident with the ambulance, Mac is in a coma and Guy has been suspended from his job. Caroline is spending too much time with Mac, in Sue's opinion, and tries to stop her from seeing him. During his coma, Sue steals some of Mac's semen to make herself pregnant. Mac then comes out of his coma, but is suffering from memory loss and cannot remember his new-found love for Caroline. Angela soon leaves the hospital in order to take a career in television. With Angela gone, Guy becomes Caroline's new lodger.
Alan and Joanna are still having problems, though Martin and Karen seem to be getting along well. Martin then decides to leave Karen, and Joanna then tries to pull Lyndon again. However, Lyndon avoids this by saying he is dating Harriet. After a date, Harriet feels uncomfortable with the relationship and leaves him, but soon her husband Ian dumps her for having the affair.
Just when Caroline thinks she has managed to win Mac back, his former girlfriend Holly (Sally Phillips) returns to the hospital, to replace Angela. Things become even worse when it is discovered that she never had the abortion that was the cause of Mac and Holly's breakup years ago, and that Mac has a son. Caroline distances herself from Mac, and Guy starts to fall in love with her. Caroline however seems to have feelings for Jake Leaf (Darren Boyd), a complementary therapist. Guy takes actions into his own hands and throws a Swiss army knife into Jake's head. Sue then discovers that Holly is lying, that Mac is not her son's father after all. Holly leaves the hospital. Caroline dumps Jake and then tries to impress Mac again.
When Alan becomes unusually happy after winning an internet caption competition, Joanna plans to make him upset again. Using her dwarf cousin (Big Mick), she plans to scare him. The plan backfires when Alan is so scared, he beats Joanna's cousin to death with a stuffed heron. Alan and Joanna throw the body into the incinerator, but become paranoid that they will be discovered. Alan however learns from Boyce that the death is being viewed as a suicide, so Alan and Joanna go on a rampage, thinking themselves above the law.
After the death of a patient known as "Yo-yo Man" who offers them wise advice, Guy, Mac and Martin all decide to propose to Caroline. She rejects Martin, considers the offer from Guy, and Mac appears to be unable to form a proposal. Caroline then learns that Mac wants to meet her at the train station, but when she arrives, it is Guy who turns up. Mac is still at the hospital, where he learns that he is going to die. Caroline then accepts Guy's proposal of marriage. Meanwhile in the HR department, Karen is sitting on a windowsill, due to her fear of Clangers. Whilst sitting there, Rachel opens the window behind her, and causes Karen to fall out. However, no one seems to notice.
The police arrive at the hospital. Alan and Joanna believe that they will be arrested, and with Boyce's help escape from the hospital. Alan and Joanna then escape in a camper van, with Alan becoming increasingly unstable. When it is discovered that Martin is riding in the back, Alan then drives into a field, and nearly drives the camper van over the same cliff that Martin was teetering over at the end of the first series.
A sketch was performed for Amnesty International's Secret Policeman's Ball, with performances from Tamsin Greig, Stephen Mangan, Julian Rhind-Tutt and Michelle Gomez. Mangan and Rhind-Tutt appeared in two sketches.
When the announcer at the ball asks if there is there a doctor in the house, Mac puts his hand up, to Caroline's embarrassment. Things get more embarrassing when Guy also volunteers, and asks why Caroline is sitting next to Mac when she is Guy's fiancée. Things become even more bizarre when Sue appears in a tutu and a pair of long arms, trying to protect Mac from stalkers.
The episode begins with the funeral of Angela, who departed the show during the second series, after being killed by a moose, according to Guy. Mac, after a month's leave, discovers what has happened between Caroline and Guy, and although hurt, makes no attempt to interfere. Guy, on learning of Mac's terminal illness, tells Caroline to marry Mac instead of him.
Meanwhile Alan and Joanna are still on the run, rescued by Martin who calls the AA. Whilst on their journey, they accidentally kill two more people, a mechanic and a shop assistant. Boyce ends up missing Alan, after his replacement turns out to be even more horrible than Alan. Soon, they decide that, with no transport, money or employment, the only option is suicide. They are last seen, naked, walking hand-in-hand towards the sea. Meanwhile, Karen returns to work after her fall, but has changed drastically. She has become more confident, has developed better dress sense, but has lost her right hand and her nose whistles whenever she has an orgasm. With Joanna gone, the office girls start to run riot, as in The Lord of the Flies. They form their own tribe and become hostile to anyone who enters the department.
Mac and Caroline finally marry, despite Mac's terminal illness (the exact nature of which is never disclosed, although Mac does tell Guy that its name has an "a" and an "e" in it). Sue gets over her obsession with Mac and finds love with a new man, who reciprocates her feelings. The episode concludes with Caroline being carried into the air by a mass of helium filled balloons at the wedding reception, although on the DVD boxset extras it shows an alternate ending where Guy and Mac grab onto Caroline's ankles and are taken to the sky with her, this alternative ending ends with Mac saying "Caroline, there's something I've been meaning to tell you."
Green Wing contains running jokes; the most notable is Guyball, a sport invented by Guy when he was at public school, with somewhat confusing rules. The basic object of the game is to throw a ball into a "Topmiler", a basket attached to a helmet. This game was even played at the Wingin' It Green Wing Convention.
Another Green Wing series of running jokes is about hair. One of the more notable was various cracks about Mac's untidy hair, with Sue lending him a hair tie and hair clips before he goes in for an interview. Another was the character Karen getting her hair trapped in a printer in the first episode. Mac was often referred to as a Ginger by the other characters, although he is more blond. Other recurring jokes include Boyce's practical jokes, the bizarre games played by the human resources staff, and the operation scenes (with Caroline, Guy and Mac) in which they mess around whilst doing the operations.
The show has received generally very positive reviews. The Evening Standard said that it was "a comedy as physically adroit as it was verbally sharp", and The Guardian said that "Channel 4’s hospital sitcom is the most innovative comedy since, well, The Office." In a review of television in 2006, Kathryn Flett in The Observer voted it one of the top ten TV programmes of the year. In Broadcast magazine, the second series was voted joint-second best comedy series in 2006. In South Africa, where Green Wing is broadcast on BBC Prime, The Sunday Times of South Africa voted the show the best DStv programme of 2007. Composer Daniel Pemberton wrote that the soundtrack to Green Wing was, "One of the most innovative TV soundtracks in recent years." Famous fans of Green Wing include novelist Ian Rankin and comedian Catherine Tate.
Criticisms of Green Wing include the lazzi methods of filming and the overall length of the episodes, claiming that hour-long episodes are too long. The show won the 2005 and 2006 Comedy Tumbleweed Awards for "Worst Camerawork". Some were also critical of what was seen as a decline in quality when the second series began. Cathy Pryor in The Independent on Sunday said that, "Sadly, though, since I'm something of a fan, I have to report that the first episode of the second series is, disappointingly, rather flat. To be fair, there were a couple of laugh-out-loud moments - Dr Statham banging his head and falling down being one of them - but the whole [thing] didn't quite gel. Or should that be coagulate? I'll stop making bad jokes now since I'm still not as funny as anyone in the show. But I sincerely hope that the opener is a one- off and not a sign that Green Wing is going down the pan."
Similar comments were made by A. A. Gill. When the first series was broadcast, he praised the cast and characters, although he did comment negatively on the filming style and dramatic qualities. He also said:
"...it was one of the most freshly funny and crisply innovative comedies for years. The humour was all based in the character, not the situation. The story lines were negligible; there were no catch phrases; it was surreal in a way we hadn’t seen since Monty Python; and the cast were actors being funny from inside a characterisation, not stand-up comics bolting a cartoon persona onto the back of gags."
But then Gill attacked the first episode of series two, in particular the use of a dream sequence at the beginning of the episode. He wrote,
"Now, every 11-year-old knows dream sequences are the lowest form of plotting solution, lower than unexplained superpowers such as the ability to stop time or become invisible; even lower than a magic get-better potion. Within two minutes, Green Wing had destroyed itself, lost its assured grip on the cliff of comedy and tumbled into the abyss of embarrassing overacting, formless gurning and pointless repetition. What had once looked Dada-ishly brilliant now looked like stoned improv from a show-off's drama school. The lack of plot and coherent narrative that previously had been a blessed freedom was revealed to be a formless free-for-all, brilliant performances as silly mannerisms. Nothing I've seen this year has disappointed me as sharply as the second series of Green Wing. As Tom Paine so poignantly pointed out, only a step separates the sublime from the ridiculous."
The rest of the series, however, did receive the high praise Green Wing had become accustomed to and, in a 2009 article, Gill - writing about the current comedy output at the time - said: "Show me a funny indigenous comedy series; show me one that has been made in the past five years, other than Green Wing."
|Region 2 DVD Name||Release dates|
|Region 2||Region 1||Region 4||Contents||Extras|
|Green Wing: The Complete First Series||3 April 2006||No information yet; some Region 2 DVDs found not to be region encoded.||2 January 2008||All 9 episodes in a 3 disc set in a bespoke digipak with translucent slipcase.||Deleted scenes, Audio Commentaries with Cast & Crew (Episodes 1, 2, 5 & 9 only), "Behind The Scenes" Featurette, Cast & Crew Biographies|
|Green Wing: The Complete Second Series||2 October 2006||No information yet.||No information yet.||All 8 episodes in a 3 disc set in a bespoke digipak with translucent slipcase.||Deleted scenes, Audio Commentaries with Cast & Crew (Episodes 4 (two versions), 6 & 8 only), "Behind The Scenes" Featurette, Cast & Crew Biographies|
|Green Wing: The Complete First & Second Series||2 October 2006||No information yet.||No information yet.||A box set containing both the series 1 and series 2 DVDs.||The same as series 1 and 2.|
|Green Wing: Special||8 January 2007||No information yet.||No information yet.||The full 90 minute episode||Deleted scenes, Audio Commentaries with Cast & Crew, "Behind The Scenes" Featurette, Alternative ending, Cast & Crew Biographies|
|Green Wing: The Definitive Edition||15 October 2007||No information yet.||No information yet.||All 18 episodes on 7 discs, plus a special bonus disc.||Same as Series 1, 2 and special, plus phenomena documentary, music tracks, extra deleted scenes and a 12-page booklet.|
The first series scripts were released as Green Wing: The Complete First Series Scripts in paperback on 22 October 2006 (ISBN 1-84576-421-8), by Titan Books. The book contains bonus material made exclusively for the book and previously unseen photos.
The soundtrack, entitled Green Wing: Original Television Soundtrack by Trellis was released by Silva Screen on 8 October 2007. It contains 23 tracks of the best of Jonathan Whitehead's Original Music created for the show.
Green Wing won the first BAFTA Pioneer Audience Award in 2005. This is the only BAFTA award that is voted on by the general public. Pippa Haywood won the 2005 Rose d'Or for "Best Female Comedy Performance". Tamsin Greig won a similar award at the RTS Awards in 2005 for "Best Comedy Performance". Jonathan Whitehead won "Best Original Score" at the RTS Craft & Design Awards 2005.
Green Wing has also won a number of times in The Comedy.co.uk Awards, including being named "Comedy Of The Year" in 2006.
The cast, crew and writers of Green Wing have shown no interest in creating a third series because of scheduling difficulties due to new projects being undertaken by the creators and talkbackTHAMES not having a big enough budget. However, creator Victoria Pile mentioned in an interview in the Radio Times that she may do a spin-off, saying, "I'm hoping to do another Channel 4 comedy imminently, possibly starring some of the same cast. Hopefully, it will be some kind of spin-off from Green Wing." Since then, it has not only been accepted that Pile is creating a spin-off, but also that Channel 4 will probably accept it. However, details are unknown. During the special appearance at the British Film Institute (BFI), "When asked about a rumoured spinoff at the BFI event Victoria Pile seemed to glance in the direction of JRT, TIG and SM before dodging the question." However, Pile and other writers have successfully written a new half-hour sitcom pilot for ABC, set in a police precinct in America. This is something of an unusual move as this show is marketed for the Americans first rather than the British.
In 2009, Pile and most of the writing team behind Green Wing created a sitcom pilot set in a university entitled Campus, which features similar concepts to Green Wing, including improvisation. The motto of the university is "with wings", a reference to the show.
A Green Wing convention called "Wingin' It" was organised to raise money for Great Ormond Street Hospital, and took place on 13 January 2007 at the Brook Green Hotel, Hammersmith. The convention included a quiz, lunch, dinner, dancing, games, screenings, and a charity auction which raised £2,205. Other highlights included a game of Guyball, refereed by Stephen Mangan. Other Green Wing cast and crew who attended included James Henry, Richard Preddy, Oriane Messina, Robert Harley, Patrick Schulenburg (Producer's Assistant), Billy Sneddon (Offline Director) and Finn Hopson (3rd Assistant Director). A DVD of the convention is to be released.
There was a special appearance by Green Wing at the British Film Institute, on 17 January 2007. Pile, Greig, Mangan and Rhind-Tutt appeared, and some of the other writers, Theobald and Heap were in the audience. The event was hosted by John Lloyd. Green Wing appeared in an episode of the BBC documentary series Imagine, entitled A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Studio. Some of the funeral scenes from the special were shown, and the presenter of the show, Alan Yentob, appeared as one of the mourners.
Green Wing (2004 –) is a British television comedy broadcast on Channel 4. There have been two series:
|Green Wing Quotes|
|Caroline's First Day | Rumours | Lodgers | Joanna's Birthday | Housewarming Party | Tests | Tangled Webs | Slave Auction | Emergency | Comic Relief Sketches (2005) | Misc Quotes|
|Episode 1 | Episode 2 | Episode 3 | Episode 4 | Episode 5 | Episode 6 | Episode 7 | Episode 8 | The Secret Policeman's Ball Sketch | Misc Quotes|
|The Special | Alternative Ending|
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