If you’re new to the Attention Must Be Paid feature, here’s the deal: when I run across something that I think is great and isn’t getting the props it deserves, I write it up in this space.
Sometimes, we must look beyond our own borders for entertainment, and I understand that to Americans, this might sound crazy – after all, isn’t the USA the capital of TV and Film? We’ve got Hollywood! But in a landscape of network programming still largely dominated by reality shows and unappealing dramas, it’s necessary to call in the Britsh and have Channel 4 hook it up – enter The IT Crowd.
Available here in the good ol’ USA via Netflix streaming, iTunes and broadcast on the IFC network, The IT Crowd is a situation comedy unlike any I’ve seen before. Jen Barber (Katherine Parkinson), Maurice Moss (Richard Ayoade) and Roy Trenneman (Chris O’Dowd) make up the IT department of Reynholm Industries, which operates out of the building’s basement, out of site and out of mind – accept when they’re needed, of course. The first season has a running gag which entails Roy answering support calls saying, “Hello, IT; have you tried turning it off and on again?” before the person on the other end can say anything. In the second season, Roy answers the phone, “Hello, IT; have you tried – forget it, I’m sick of saying that.”
It’s that kind of show; brilliant in it’s simplicity and yet extravagant in its situations while the dialogue flows with an elegance not yet realized in American comedies. I enjoyed an episode in the third season during which Roy had to tell a woman he wasn’t interested in pursuing a relationship with her; he wanted to do this over the phone, but Jen insisted he do it in person. Roy complained she wore so much eye makeup that when she cried, she looked like The Joker, which was hilariously true. After their boss, Douglas Reynholm (Matt Berry) had taken a beating, he too looked a bit like The Joker with his black and blue eyes and bleeding lips. He approached the sobbing woman and asked, “Why so serious?” Again, brilliant – as they say on that side of the pond.
Jen and Roy are both fine characters; Roy’s slacker attitude and t-shirt collection would be easily understood by American audiences, but I have to wonder what middle America would make of Jen. She might be a bit too independent for some of the more conservative folks, but how can you not be on the side of a woman who rejects a man for looking too much like a magician? Very Seinfeldian, but I wonder whether or not Americans are ready for Jen – a sad bit of musing, but I feel a true one.
Moss, on the other hand, is the lovable runt of the litter. How anyone could dislike Moss’ boyish charm (he drinks milk at bars), difficulty with social skills and fantastic fro – no, I reject the idea outright. Moss is the greatest, no one could dislike him. Whether he’s getting harassed by teenagers at the park (he showed them: “I’ve got a flipping gun!”), increasing the vibrating capacity of a cell phone by one hundred times or inventing the most comfortable bra ever, Moss is a lovable force to be reckoned with.
The only bad thing I can say about the IT Crowd is the seasons are too short, with only six episodes to their credit. Happily, the show doesn’t appear to be anywhere near being canceled, and I assume the fourth season will be available here in the US soon.
Check out the IT Crowd – you’ll be glad you did, and maybe it will help you come to appreciate the folks at your office who fix the technology… just a little bit.
I guess NBC really did try to do an American version of the IT Crowd, which included Richard Ayoade. Shockingly enough, this didn’t work out and suffered the same fate as Coupling and Absolutely Fabulous. Maybe Comedy Central will pick up the Channel 4 version at some point. When are American TV Executives going to just give up and import the original show directly? The Office is the exception, not the rule!