An ungodly amalgam of basically the two most disparate genres one could think of—sketch comedy and hospital soap—Green Wing was basically conceived on a dare. Everything about this show is weird, from its structure, to its tone, to its episode lengths. A full hour long in length, each episode of Green Wing is like a little oasis of strange, with comedic scenes of interpersonal drama and intrigue scattered among delightful sketch-like nonsense. The cast is expansive, including people working in many parts of the hospital, from administration to surgery to teaching. However, you’re unlikely to get much insight into any of these jobs, as there are few to no plots actually involving medicine. Instead, the hospital largely serves as a serious backdrop to silly shenanigans and soapy relationship drama, highlighting the degree to which basically every character on the show is a massive child.
Although much of the humour is strongly character-based, it is also consistently surreal, with the characters existing on a spectrum that runs from “fairly out of touch with reality” to “completely bonkers and probably dangerous”. Although all take part in bizarre games and unhinged one-upmanship on a regular basis, some are definitely more out of touch than others: not everyone would try to take out their romantic rivals with a crossbow (the incomparable Sue White) or engage in sapling-and-Puccini fetish play (the always almost-too-much Alan Statham and Joanna Clore). While some surreal shows’ weirdness comes at the cost of characterisation, Green Wing's long episodes mean that there is always space for character development as well, and characters' odd behaviour in the more sketch-like scenes can be understood to be an extension of the posturing and uncertainty that underlies their personal interactions.
If the show has subtext (and I’m not 100% sure it does), it’s that no matter who you are, social life is a performance, and a pretty ridiculous one at that. The seemingly-effortless cool of surgeon Mac is contrasted with the try-hard, casual misogyny of anaesthetist Guy, who in turn is mimicked by anxious doctor-in-training Martin. Each of these men’s self-image exists in relation to that of the people around them, all in constant competition for the respect and affection of each other and the rest of the hospital staff. Similarly, new hire Caroline is intimidated by, and lets herself be walked all over by confident blonde doctor Angela; and administrator Joanna, who is having a serious age and femininity crisis, often finds herself trying to gain the acceptance and respect of the indifferent young women who work under her in the office. The only person who exists largely above the interpersonal posturing is the puckish head of human resources Sue White, whose odd behaviour is frustrating and incomprehensible to the other staff, and hilarious to the audience.
Green Wing is a gem. Each episode is stuffed with moments that run the full range from delightful to distressing, and populated by a cast of indelible characters. First and foremost it’s a really fun show, but the way that so many of its characters are horrendously insecure while interacting with everyone around them as if they’re the king of cool means that it has some interesting things to say about the fact that, no matter your station, there are going to be people you desperately want to impress, and people you desperately want to leave you alone.