The IT Crowd
The Complete Season One
Written and Directed by Graham Linehan
Starring Chris O’Dowd, Richard Ayoade, Katherine Parkinson, Chris Morris
MPI Home Video
‘That’s the sort of place this is, Jen. A lot of sexy people not doing much work and having affairs.’
At the high-rise headquarters of Reynholm Industries beautiful people go about their work in clean, bright office areas. On the 34th floor everyone is friendly and smiling and happy. The man in charge, Denholm Reynholm (Chris Morris), hires pretty, red-haired Jen (Katherine Parkinson) as a new head of department after being impressed with her glowing CV. Jen falls in love with her new workplace, adoring the stunning London views and fawning at the sight of unisex toilets ‘like Ally McBeal!’
But this is not where Jen will be working. The department she will be heading is not on the stunning, sunny 34th floor. She will be riding the elevator down to the depths of the building to become a part of The IT Crowd.
In this surreal sitcom world, the basement is the domain of Roy (Chris O’Dowd) and Moss (Richard Ayoade), Reynholm Industries’ resident computer nerds. As typical of such men, their work area is a mess, crammed with geeky paraphernalia. It is obvious that Roy and Moss are vital to this company as Jen, and everyone else, knows nothing about computers. Every time Roy answers the phone his first question is ‘have you tried turning it off and on again?’ as the solve-all computer treatment. Followed by ‘are you sure it’s plugged in?’
Both Roy and Moss are obviously computer experts, but both are also social novices. Moss does not understand people and is especially uncomfortable around women. Roy hates people, especially people with computer problems, and strives to better his lot in life. Roy does like the ladies though and will take up any offer or excuse to go and see the pretty women up on the 7th floor. But he always seems to be caught in a difficult situation like when he goes on a date and gets poo on his forehead.
O’Dowd and Ayoade are both very good comedians. Moss’s awkward physical jerks are played brilliantly by Ayoade, really tensing up when Moss is in the company of ‘normal’ people. Parkinson is not here to make up the numbers; she does an excellent and hilarious job of playing Jen. She is equally awkward around members of the opposite sex (men, I mean). She may be slight and softly-spoken but she can have a mighty temper. This is an ensemble cast who each get a good amount of screen time and a healthy share of jokes (good ones, too. The best ones are not saved for any particular character).
‘Have you tried turning it off and on again?’
The IT Crowd is written and directed by Graham Linehan, co-writer of another brilliant sitcom, Father Ted and has written and directed many other excellent British comedy series like Brass Eye, Black Books, and Big Train.
I watched maybe one or two episodes of The IT Crowd when it was first broadcast on TV and I was not a fan. I felt like I was being beaten around the head with jokes, not many of which I liked. But I could see all the jokes were there and this is the kind of thing I should like and I should laugh at, but I didn’t. When I watched it on DVD and saw all six episodes back-to-back, I finally got it. The jokes were absolutely there and the ones which I thought were OK on TV now made me laugh out loud which I did several times per episode. But it still feels like a show finding its feet. I have seen interviews with Linehan where he has acknowledged that he was always trying to find the right balance for the show during the first series. Which is fair to say of most sitcoms; rarely do they get it right straight away.
At first glance the jokes may seem broad (they did to me anyway) but are very astute. That is not to say that broad comedy cannot be very funny, but Linehan works his sharp jokes into a broad comedy package like some kind of stealth comedian. No, that’s a stupid thing to say. But whatever, it works.
There are disappointingly only three extras to choose from: ‘Behind The IT Crowd’ is a very funny behind the scenes documentary presented by obnoxious filmmaker Ken Korda (played by Adam Buxton who makes an appearance as one of Jen’s slimy dates). This features (albeit rather silly) interviews with Linehan, Ayoade, O’Dowd, Parkinson and producer Ash Atalla.
There are a handful of Deleted Scenes. Each is funny but was understandably cut from the final episode as they would have slowed the episode’s momentum. There is also some line-fluffing and laughing on camera.
There is also a darkly funny short film co-written and directed by Linehan called ‘Hello, Friend’ about a mysterious and incredibly complicated computer add-on called Praemus which slowly destroys a man’s life.