Dismal comedy finally dies a deserved death

Green Wing Special, Channel 4

Build a New Life in the Country - Was it Worth it? Five

FOR fans of dismal comedy, this past fortnight must have been a time of some mourning. Not only did The Vicar of Dibley host her valedictory service, but also Green Wing worked its final shift. And not a moment too soon.

Of course, fans of this gruesomely overrated medical comedy - which bowed out with a feature-length Green Wing Special - like to think of it as a sort of hip antidote to the mainstream cosiness of something like Dibley, when in reality both shows are as conventional as each other. At least Richard Curtis writes actual jokes, whereas Green Wing has always been more interested in showing off how desperately cutting-edge it is with its self-conscious surrealism, pointless camera trickery and scratchy lo-fi soundtrack. This was "edgy" comedy for people who like their edginess spoon-fed to them by a JCB - driven by a GP in a tutu.

This final instalment was typically awful, more so considering its length. Full of horrid student whimsy (a character dressed as a squirrel for no reason - how random!) and clumsily sign-posted gags, there wasn't an iota of genuine wit or inspiration to be found. The script was astonishingly weak, with ghastly performances all-round, particularly from Karl Theobald as the child-like Dr Dear, surely one of the least loveable characters in popular fiction since Hannibal Lecter. Mark Heap, an otherwise talented comic actor, also reached new heights of irritation in his jarringly OTT role of Dr Statham.

In fact, Heap's cartoonish mugging highlighted Green Wing's main problem. We were asked to care about the relationships between its characters (one even announced he was dying last night), but since they lived in such a deliberately "wacky" world, it was impossible to believe in any of it. When at the end Tamsin Greig floated off into the sky holding a bunch of balloons, what were we meant to think? That this was somehow sweet and whimsical? Or was it just because it looked cool? Green Wing wanted to be a comedy drama, a soap, and a black Chris Morris-esque satire all at once, resulting in a truly wretched clash of styles. I was glad to see it finally flat-line.

Another confused concept loomed large in Build a New Life in the Country - Was it Worth it? which looked back at the story of a couple building a new life - in the middle of busy St Ives. I was expecting to see Ma and Pa Larkin-like couples hammering away at barns and worrying sheep, rather than harassed urbanites attempting to get their stylish seaside B&B off the ground. But for those of you desperate to know whether Peter and Andrea from the last series managed to fulfil their dream, this was a chance to wade through footage you've already seen to eventually discover that, yes, it was worth it. May you now rest easy at night.

Appending "Was It Worth It?" to a programme's title is clearly an inspired method of disguising a repeat as something new. The World at War - Was It Worth It? could simply end with a shot of a bulldog giving the thumbs-up. And what about Green Wing - Was It Worth It? a tearful apology broadcast on the hour, every hour, featuring those responsible promising never to do anything so tiresome again? Now that would be something worth repeating.

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