I have just wasted an hour of my life. An hour! Mind you, the people who made this university-based series have wasted months of theirs. And they have squandered the comic legacy endowed to them by Green Wing.
The Channel 4 announcer was at pains to point out the towering antecedent of this new comedy – ‘If like me you have been suffering Green Wing withdrawals for what seems like forever, then your prayers are answered’, he breathlessly intoned. With a build up like that it had better be good. And Lord knows it was not.
Benny Hill meets It Ain’t Half Hot Mum with just a hint of The Office. That’s the nearest I can get to listing its real antecedents.
With the same creative team as Green Wing – but none of the same cast – why did it not work? Here’s a list of my top seven reasons:
- Can you do a fairly poor imitation of David Brent for us please? The main character – Vice-Chancellor, Jonty De Wolfe (see what they did there?) – was clearly intended to be a corrupt, ruthless, alpha male, making Kirke University spin around his every whim. He came across as the palest copy of David Brent, without the undercutting identity of being a regional sales manager.
- Let’s take non-PC language and ideas dare to use them in cutting edge comedy, that will defy convention. So we had “spastics”, “cripples”, mockery of Indian students, fat women “jokes”. See that was funny wasn’t it?
- Our comedy doesn’t need anything approaching a plot, right? Well actually you need something to keep you watching, since the writing and performing won’t. This had a half-assed idea about the faculty needing to write best-selling books (the episode title being “Publication, Publication, Publication”) which failed to go anywhere. And then something shoe-horned in about overpaying staff by mistake. Are you interested yet?
- Will anyone notice there’s not a semblance of plausibility? There are seven diverse characters from across the University – the VC, his PA, an English Professor, a maths lecturer, an engineering researcher, an accountant, and a housing officer. Yet they all know and speak to each other all the time. They seem all to be based in the same building. The exciting publication that was to save the university was a popular science book. There’s a PhD student taking seminars, but only at the university because he’s good at sport. There were no committee meetings. Hmmmm.
- Let’s not avoid stereotypes, stereotypes are funny. The English professor (Matt Beer – see what they did there?) is lecherous. The maths lecturer (Imogen Moffatt – see what, oh no they just gave up on the funny names idea, I guess) is dowdy. The PA is fat and lazy. The boss is power-crazed. The accountant is incompetent. Are you laughing yet?
- Sex is funny, let’s mention sex. A lot. By my reckoning, every character discussed having sex and used the word vagina – almost regardless of what scene they were in or what the plot point was they were involved in. High-larious, as Mr Burns says.
- Hey wasn’t Green Wing great when characters did off beat things in the middle of a scene – let’s do that. So they did. A bit. Someone ate a cigarette. The VC put on a green dress in the library and disappeared from a table. A woman pissed in a male urinal. A student sat awkwardly in a chair. Um, is that doing it for you?
- We don’t need any sympathetic characters do we? Do we care about any of these people as they struggle and fail and hate each other? Nope. I don’t care what happens to them. Thankfully I’ll never have to find out.
I did not laugh at any of this even once. I may have smiled. My jaw regularly swung open – perhaps widest as I watched the VC openly mock the (non-English) language being spoken by a group of Indian students, while they happily went along with it.
After half an hour I was relieved it was ending. Then when I realised we were only half way through I swore out loud and literally punched the sofa. The direness of this programme was such that in the breaks the Halifax ads set in a fake staff radio station were amusing by comparison.
God help the university where they filmed this, since they sure as heckfire shouldn’t want to be associated with it.
Green Wing is available on 4OD. This may also be. Don’t watch it.
Posted by arialbold from the recovery room