Posts Tagged ‘green wing’

Can I say I was there at the start? Like seeing Radiohead when they were still On a Friday, I’ve loved Olivia Colman for, like, ages, since she appeared in sketches for The Mitchell and Webb Show (source of this blog’s title). And now she’s only gone and won a Golden Globe. So allow me to remind or introduce you to her fantastic body of work, enormously varied. Like the best in her profession, she makes great choices, and seems to make anything in which she appears better, however small her role.

The Night Manager was a fantastic BBC mini-series based on a John Le Carré novel, with amazing production values, glorious locations and a stellar cast dressed in beautiful things looking almost impossibly beautiful. Angela Burr was the ordinary person; the zealous, determined, heavily pregnant Government operative working almost entirely behind the scenes, focused on making the world a better place by seeking, finding and bringing down the Bad People. Played by Olivia Colman, she was dignity incarnate while all around her was deception, testosterone and greed.

olivia colman angela burr the night manager

(C) The Ink Factory – Photographer: Des Willie


And there was Broadchurch, where she played another decent, strong woman. Ellie Miller is a respected police officer in a small seaside resort, passed over for promotion and having to deal with the apparent suicide of her son’s close friend. In seeking the truth she unravels a very dark underbelly to the town she thought she knew, and faces a shattering revelation.

Olivia Colman Ellie Miller Broadchurch Season 1 final episode


Last but by no means least, perhaps her breakout film role as Hannah, yet another decent, Christian charity shop worker in Tyrannosaur. In what is basically a three-hander, she more than stands her ground alongside powerhouse performances by Peter Mullan and Eddie Marsan, both terrifying in their own way. It’s a brutal story and Hannah bears the brunt of it. Colman is mesmerising. I’d watch it again and again if only I had the nerve.

Olivia Colman Hannah Tyrannosaur

But before these often dark, definitely layered character roles, she made her name initially in comedy, from sketch shows to award-winning series. Much as I lover her as Sophie in Peep Show and Sally Owen in Twenty Twelve, my favourite performances and characters are contrasting.

Harriet Schulenberg is one of the hospital administrators in the surreal Green Wing. Permanently stressed, late, flustered and seemingly close to breaking point, she’s a small part who steals every scene she’s in.



In Rev she plays an upstanding vicar’s wife alongside Tom Hollander as her well-meaning husband clinging to his vocation despite the troubles of an impoverished parish in East London. It’s a fabulous series with tremendously human characters and performances, alongside occasional flights of fantasy, like this…


And after all that, I just have to mention PC Doris Thatcher from Hot Fuzz, whose unashamed filthy mind and single-entendres spew forth in a fabulous West Country accent…

I quite like a little midnight gobble …


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For what must have been most weeks over at least a couple of years, we used to telephone a friend around the same time every week. It was 9pm and we were settling down for our weekly dose of The West Wing. This was proper appointment television, we never missed it. We chatted for a few minutes before the programme started, then shared a strange but comforting ritual through the title sequence, reciting the cast’s names as they appeared on-screen, in a cod-American accent. These actors and their characters had seemingly become like trusted friends. Every week we spent an hour with them, and more often than not they left us on some emotional cliffhanger.

You can play along with the titles game if you like…

By the time we had giggled our way through “…and Martin Sheen” we were ready to hang up and watch the show. The first words “recently… on The West Wing” had served to remind us of crucial scenes that would be developed, and set us up for what might be to come. We had to reacquaint ourselves with the emotional space in which we were held, captivated, for the next hour. The titles gave us a tremendous sense of anticipation.

I remember my late 20s and early 30s (the late 1990s and early 2000s) as a great era for appointment television. Long-running series like ER, Friends, Frasier and Six Feet Under could serve as chronologies of that period, when Rachel and I bought our first house, got married, moved house and had our first child. On Fridays we would we walk down the street to our friends’ house, bottle of wine in hand, to watch Friends and Frasier, the theme tunes and pre-title sequences would become a familiar routine. This terrific clip I just discovered gives a flavour of each…

This has seemingly all changed. In recent years I’ve been migrating away from television series and towards films. My two young daughters and our other commitments meant that it’s often impossible to ensure we can sit down at a specific time every week. Sky TV has taken many of the series I might be interested in (I stopped watching 24 after the first two series), and the success of those dramas I’ve mentioned helped create a massive proliferation of titles: CSI-almost-anywhere, any number of police procedurals, hospital dramas and so on. I couldn’t begin to keep up, so stopped trying. I’ve never watched even a minute of The Sopranos.

And now it’s become the era of the Box Set: entire series, or indeed multiple series in one handy box format. This has changed how I’ve watched many of my favourite pieces of television in the last few years. I’ve written more than once about the amazing brilliance of The Wire. The BBC showed all five series, practically back-to-back, four nights a week, over a period of a few months. So I recorded it all and watched it almost compulsively, two or three episodes at a time. I was hooked.

Friends recommended the insane comedy Green Wing to me. I had read about this, but it sounded too weird for words. Then I watched it on DVD and found that it is too weird for words, but in an entirely fantastic way. We’ve also been trying to catch up with Spooks, but have so far only managed 3 series, while the final 10th series is currently running on British TV. I missed the first series of the wonderful Mad Men but having seen two episodes of the 2nd series on television and become a total worshipper, I watched the first series on DVD in barely a few evenings.

Watching series on DVD is very different from the weekly appointment. There’s a greater sense of urgency: no commercials break up the episodes and there’s almost an addictive quality to watch more and more (“just one more, then we’ll definitely go to bed…”). The narrative drive is more forceful, as we don’t have to remind ourselves of what has gone before. In fact, the title sequences that were so iconic, memorable and an important part of the experience can get annoying as we become desperate for that fix, the next scenes.

Except perhaps with The Wire, which (as with every aspect of that fabulous show) played the long game. Not only were its title sequences made up of images from throughout the entire series, so there is some ‘reward’ for the eagle-eyed viewer in spotting these moments, but the producers cleverly used different artists to record the title song for each series, and altered the images to demonstrate the overarching ‘theme’ of each series.

Mad Men is probably my only must-see appointment these days, as I try to catch up with all the things I’ve been told I really should see, that I would really like. I kind of miss my regular time with those characters from the old days. But I suppose I could always start again from the beginning…

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Funk-ee…No, funk-eh!

I love discovering films, music, books. I love being in at the start, as I was with The Road, or Scrubs, or In Rainbows. But perhaps even more, I love coming to things late. I love the expectation driven by praise from friends or critics I respect, and the thrill when I realise it turns out to be even better than I might have hoped.

As I rarely go to the cinema any more, this most often occurs with films I catch up with on DVD. The Wire is another example, which seemed to command my viewing for almost half of 2009. More recently, I caught up with a Channel 4 comedy from a few years ago.

Green Wing came recommended by friends, and I’ve subsequently discovered a whole ream of fans of the show. I didn’t know much about it, except it’s set in a hospital and has a strong cast of British comedy actors.

I’m reluctant to go into too much detail, as my experience of discovering Green Wing was a stream of delight and surprises. Broadly, it’s a sitcom unlike most sitcoms. It’s set in a hospital, yet goes out of its way to avoid pretty much all things clinical; patients are reduced to x-rays or anonymous bodies under operating theatre drapes. Instead, it focuses on the human interactions and behavioural oddities amongst the staff.

The ensemble cast are terrific. Every character has grotesque elements of caricature, yet they’re almost all oddly charming in their own way; many are pretty much sociopathic. Almost all of the relationships are spilling over with sexual frustration or tension. The language is fairly explicit, nearly always in an hilarious way. Most of the characters behave like children at least some of the time, throwing tantrums, bickering and joking at each other’s expense with the humour and cruelty of the playground.

Each episode is very loosely structured, with occasional set-piece scenes, most notably when characters visit the psychotic Staff Liaison Officer Sue White – played brilliantly by Michelle Gomez. Scenes are often linked with brief moments of accelerated or slow-motion film, highlighting the body language between people. This quirky style is just another element that makes Green Wing stand out from the crowd.

There are all sorts of clips available, but in general they don’t do it justice. They don’t enable you to experience the full joy of a full 50 minute episode. However, this one is an out-take from the DVD of Series 1; an extended version of a scene that does make the final cut. It illustrates several of the programme’s key traits; long scenes between two characters allowing the actors to improvise, general hilarity and large amounts of ‘corpsing’ by the cast. Just watch Tamsin Greig trying to hold it together while Stephen Mangan truly goes for it!

Green Wing reminds me at times of The Office, at other times of Spaced. I know that it won’t be to everyone’s taste. It’s shamelessly rude (sometimes excruciatingly so) and massively silly; but I’ve rarely laughed so often during a single programme, or so consistently through a whole series of programmes.

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