Green Wing is a television show that is difficult to pin down. It’s primarily a comedy but was produced in hour-long episodes more like a drama series. While there are ongoing storylines, the show is composed mostly of sketch-like scenes that feel as if they stand alone. The focus of the show revolves around the soap operatic relationships between various hospital staff members such as the bittersweet love story of Caroline and Mac. And yet indescribable things like this happen:
After watching all eighteen episodes of this absurd, camera-tricky, melodramatic, sweet, edgy ball of contradiction called Green Wing, I believe I’ve gleaned some lessons about medical matters in the UK and the full extent of adult content programming.
First off, they call their doctors different things than we do in the States.
Consultants are senior specialist physicians who’ve completed all necessary training in their field. (In America, we tend to call them attending physicians.) For example, Doctor Alan Statham is a radiology consultant.
Registrars are doctors who are undergoing advanced training towards becoming a specialist. Caroline Todd is a surgical registrar.
Finally we have House Officers (similar to interns in the US). Boyce is under the direct supervision of consultants and other senior staff and primarily lives to torment Dr. Statham.
Martin Dear, on the other hand, never seems to be able to pass the exams that will allow him to progress in his medical career:
Don’t let all the medical titles and jargon above fool you. The second thing I’ve learned from Green Wing is that medical procedures rarely take place in hospitals. In the UK, hospitals are venues for practical jokes, deviant sexual behaviors and parking space feuds. They are receptacles where strange people gather and pretend to work, but spend a majority of their time in the canteen or making up games like the Spoon of Destiny. Patients are almost non-existent and when they are present, they’re basically scattered about like furniture or serve as props for the doctors’ amusement.
In addition, I have gathered that Human Resources departments are surprisingly short of humans. Meet Green Wing‘s prickly, eccentric staff liaison officer, Sue White and her nemesis, Head of Human Resources, Joanna Clore.
Neither woman is particularly tolerant, let alone compassionate. Sue is dangerously obsessed with a staff doctor and basically treats everyone else who comes to her for assistance with disdain. Joanna hasn’t a kind word for anyone, particularly her son, and is deathly afraid of getting old. Not really anyone you’d want in charge of your workday or private concerns. Given these examples, one can only extrapolate that all hospital support personnel are nasty pieces of work.
My final observation is that what is allowed on UK television during the watershed period (9 pm and after) is basically…anything. I’ve watched a lot of British programs so I like to think I’m immune to anything they throw at me. But on Green Wing – maybe because the tone is so all over the place – I sometimes found myself surprised. Most swear words aside, the characteristic inappropriateness of Guy’s sexual comments actually offended me, as was intended. Any nudity, of course, was always for comic effect, but Sue White’s painting of Martin’s frontal nudity was a bit of a graphic shock. In fact, any artistic medium Sue took an interest in tended towards a phallic representation.
However, there is always something to pull the show back from the edge of total depravity. Notice how skillfully the crassness of Guy is juxtaposed against the sweet quirkiness of Mac.
If you wish to venture into the mind-altering world that is Green Wing, the entire series is available on Hulu and Netflix. If you wish to check into a hospital across the pond, just make sure it’s more like the hospital from something like Casuality and less like East Hampton Hospital, home of Green Wing… unless of course it’s true that laughter is the best medicine.