Friday, November 16, 2012

Reasons You Should Be Watching The IT Crowd

Sometimes I don’t really have anything critical to say. I wanted to talk about The IT Crowd because I love it and think everyone should watch it, but I don’t really have anything critical to say about it. Do I sometimes wish there were more female characters? Sure, but there are really only four major characters, so it’s not horrible as is. Do I think that it’s a phenomenal example of ideal sitcom writing? Yes, but I don’t feel like boring your pants off.

And could I probably write an insightful article about why the show was so terrible when they tried to make an American version a la The Office? (It starred Joel McHale and the pilot is on youtube and it is PAINFUL). I could, but, again, boring.

Nope, today I’m just going to give you a bunch of reason why you should totally watch this show. No more, no less.

1. It makes Community look cheap and derivative.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Community. I am a huge fan of how innovative and surprising the writing is on that show. I think it’s a real triumph of the American Network system, and I think it’s going to go down as one of the highlights of American comedy.


The IT Crowd is hands down ridiculous, in the best of ways. It follows the exploits of an IT department at a massive British corporation, Reynholm Industries. Like a lot of shows about companies, we have absolutely no idea what RI does, but that doesn’t matter. All we know is that the computers break a lot, and most of the employees are idiots.

Our heroes, best known for their deadpan, “Have you tried turning it off and on again?”, in response to any problem, are the besieged IT workers. You’ve got Jen (Katherine Parker), who barely understands how a computer works, but is still better at it than most of the other people at the company, and mostly deals with inter-office politics as their department head. Jen’s got a bit of the usual sitcom heroine messiness, where everything she does is just a little bit crap, but contrary to a complaining Liz Lemon, you actually believe that Jen’s life is shit. It never really appears otherwise.

Roy, played by the becoming famous Chris O’Dowd (Bridesmaids – the Irish cop), is a messy, gross, hilariously self-loathing computer nerd. He’s the sarcastic quipping one, a tradition held by many a man but surely perfected here. Roy hates everything and everyone, but his general disaffection is only made more lovely by his occasional moments of passion. That are inevitably quashed.

And finally, we have Moss, played by indie director Richard Ayoade (Submarine), a nerd so nerdy he side-parts his afro. Moss is the high-functioning crazy person who is absolutely incapable of telling a plausible lie, and has gone so far as to proclaim a coworker legally dead in order to cover it up. One of those genius loner types, Moss is surprisingly sexually confident, and manages to be both a massive stereotype and incredibly deep at the same time. Also funny. Which is handy.

The other major character is Douglas Reynholm (and in early seasons, his father, Denholm Reynholm). Douglas is an incompetent, misogynistic, mildly psychotic manchild, who is constantly running his company into the ground. He doesn’t really have an additional depth. But that’s okay.

Now, when I say that The IT Crowd is super original, I don’t really mean the characters. They’re pretty standard, if exemplary examples of a standard sitcom bunch. The show uses that normalcy as a base for some truly insane episodes.

I am really not kidding about these storylines:

Season One, Episode Two: Calamity Jen: Moss sets the office on fire.

Season One, Episode Five: The Haunting of Bill Crouse: Moss convinces the office Jen is dead.

Season Two, Episode Three: Moss and the German: Moss nearly gets eaten by a cannibal.

Season Three, Episode Four: The Speech: Jen breaks the Internet.

Season Four, Episode One: Jen the Fredo: Jen becomes a pimp.

More than that, though, every episode manages to create an individual storyline for each of the characters that seamlessly blends with the other plots and comes together in the end for a truly satisfying denouement. Every. Single. Episode.

The stories are ridiculously told, experimenting with absurdist filmmaking, noir, mystery, action films, and even dabbling in courtroom drama. It’s all that stuff you loved on Community, except British, more experimental, and they did it first.

2. There are only four seasons of six episodes each. That’s only twenty-four half hour episodes. You can do that. You’re a champion.

3. It’s on Netflix (Instant. It might be on DVD, but I don’t get that anymore.).

4. Richmond. Arguably the strangest character/storyline to come out of this show, Richmond is a friendly goth who lives in the basement of Reynholm Industries, watching some lights blink and waiting for the day when he can go back to being a high powered executive. Also had an ambiguously homoerotic relationship with Denholm. And is played by Noel Fielding. Enjoys staring off into the distance and listing ominous omens.

5. All the cool kids are doing it. And British stuff is totally in.

6. It’s a geek show that actually seems like it likes geeks. This isn’t Big Bang Theory. Here, the geeks are in on the joke just as much as they’re the butt of it. Jen is as much made fun of for her ignorance of computers and technology as the guys are for their social awkwardness. No one is above being slammed, and geek culture is held up as just as good as it is weird.

Plus there’s that one episode where Jen starts pimping out Moss and Roy to play Dungeons and Dragons with visiting executives.

So. Have I convinced you? No? Well then you’re just not awesome, I guess. But really, it’s a great show, not a huge time commitment, and genuinely bizarrely hilarious. I can’t recommend it enough.

Who doesn't love a workplace comedy that dabbles in illegal wiretapping, male PMS, and other such savory subjects?

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