Channel: Channel 4
Recurring Cast: Chris O’Dowd, Katherine Parkinson, Richard Ayoade
Sometimes British sitcoms slip under the international radar, because of the British TV format. American sitcoms are over-achievers, smashing through around 24 episodes a year, filling an almost unlimited supply of content for fans of the show. Sure, British TV comedies tend to be more consistent, the pressures of such a demanding deadline not present in their writing, but there is a sense that when you find a hidden gem you really like, it is gone in an instant. The IT Crowd is addictively funny, but for that reason each six episode season is gone before you know. We could argue there isn’t a lasting impression.
Which is a crying shame, because the IT Crowd is rather good. Centred in a dingy basement carved out to be some form of IT department, it tells the story of three workers for a giant company that often forgets about the oddballs downstairs. We are introduced to the crew through the eyes of Jen, a woman who lied through her teeth on her CV to get a job at the company. She ends up sent down to this basement, despite knowing next to nothing about computers. Her colleagues are two social outcasts, a lazy office-worker, Roy (Chris O’Dowd), and the awkward nerd, Moss (Richard Ayoade). When they are not being ignored by the rest of the building, they are being ridiculed. Jen finds her place on the team as a relationship manager, someone who can make them more agreeable to work with. That is as close to a plot as we get with IT Crowd, because the rest of the show is pretty much a bizarre cross between observational humour and surrealism. On one hand, the lead characters are very grounded, if a little strange. They might be odd and prone to the occasional outburst of insanity, but as people, they work in a reality situation. Chris O’Dowd is a clever reworking of the nerd stereotype. While Moss is what we expect from the person trapped behind a IT help-desk (lives with mother, hopeless around women), Roy is probably closer to the truth, a person who has drifted through life being smart around computers in places no one else is, a skill that has made him lazy and complacent. He spends his day sitting at a desk, getting up to mischief, occasionally going upstairs to fix a computer. The jokes surrounding IT are also fairly on-the-nose, albeit somewhat exaggerated. Producer Graham Linehan mocks how to an IT person everyone knows nothing about computers. Every problem in the first season of IT Crowd can be fixed by turning the computer off and on again. Internet dating is also mocked. However, surrounding the grounded humour, there is also a surreal world in the IT Crowd. The company the IT Crowd works for is purposefully kept vague, no actual business specified in their works and surrounded by mad-as-hatters workers. Chris Morris plays the head of the company and is barmy. Performed as if the actor downed three coffees between each take, Reynholm is jumping off the walls, bursting with energy, each business decision based on whatever motivational poster he saw that afternoon. The whole company, especially the IT Crowd, are mercy to his whims. The employees are not much better, brainless sheep, the red shirt equivalent of comedy, there to be joke fodder and little else. They gather at funerals for people they don’t know, laugh at Reynholm’s jokes and fill out amusing stereotypes. The IT Crowd is strong because of this two sides of comedy, blended wonderfully together. It means that every episode can be anything it wants to be, creating a well-rounded, varied comedy series.
While the first episode is mainly setting up the characters, a necessary evil when it comes to lining up the gags for later, we are hit with five amazing comedy pieces. Episode 2 hits strong and fast, rallying fans for life early on. There is a scene where Moss needs to get hold of the fire department in an emergency that, even four seasons on, is still the ultimate IT Crowd anecdote for winning over your friends to this series. Episode Four also has one of the greatest twist punch lines in the history of the show that perfectly shows why IT Crowd benefits from nose-diving into the absurd on occasion. I won’t spoil it from you, but it is waiting for you behind the ‘Red Door’. Those two episodes are easily the greatest, but that doesn’t quite do the rest of the season justice. Every episode will feature belly laughs of the finest degree, an easy-going nature to the laughs. In many ways, IT Crowd is the net generation’s Spaced, made on a relatively low budget, but using razor sharp writing, an outside the box director’s style and good old-fashioned jokes to win us over. Roll on the next season.
Final Verdict: Sometimes a comedy will surprise you. IT Crowd is definitely one of those comedies.