Revisiting shows we really should have watched first time around.
Binge Watch is a series of reviews and look backs at classic television that we’ve either revisited or joined the party late.
I’m not sure why I never caught The IT Crowd first time around – an job in IT and suitably geeky interests should really have made this the sort of thing I’d have gone out of my way to see. Instead, here I am in 2014 catching up on one of Britain’s great comedy classics – eight years after it started and almost a year after the final episode was eventually broadcast.
Starring a pre-Hollywood Chris O’Dowd and pre-Submarine Richard Ayoade, The IT Crowd is written by Graham Linehan who has previous excellent form with Father Ted and Black Books (the latter of which is another of my British comedy blind-spots). It also features Katherine Parkinson, Chris Morris (in the first series) and Matt Berry (from series 2 onwards). That’s not to forget the occasional appearance by Noel Fielding.
O’Dowd and Ayoade play Roy and Moss who provide the IT support for Reynholm Industries. They’re directly managed by Katherine Parkinson’s Jen – a character who doesn’t even know what IT stands for. They’re an amiable group of leads, each bringing something more to the show than their back-of-a-fag packet character traits would suggest and they drop into their roles instantly – by the end of the first episode, introductions out of the way, we already feel like we know them all well.
The over-the-top characters of Denholm Reynholm (Chris Morris) and in series two onwards, his son Douglas Reynholm (Matt Berry) offer a balance and act as great foil to drive the storylines forward. Berry in particular is a genius and his delivery of lines alone is enough to cause plenty of laughter (if you’ve seen him elsewhere you’ll know what I mean). The only real misstep is Noel Fielding’s Yuppie-turned-Goth-turned-Entrepreneur Richmond who is hugely funny in his first appearance but becomes tiresome by the time we reach his second – a good thing then that he only appears occasionally and is absent for the third season and only appears a couple of times later on.
Despite the subject matter, the show doesn’t require tech knowledge to get the most out of it. For the most part the belly laughs come up from the situations the characters find themselves in. Of course there are plenty of in jokes and things for those in the IT trade – plenty of fun poking at Windows Vista and the standard tech support solution of “Have you tried turning it off and on again” becomes Roy’s catchphrase.
There are so many great situations and despite the pace of technology, even the early episodes are completely relevant now – in fact the now-outdated terms occasionally used offer nostalgia rather than dating things. The three-year jump forward from the last series four episode to 2013’s final episode is probably the only time you really spot how quickly things have changed.
Linehan’s comedy is always consistently good – and there are really are no duff episodes in the entire run. My particular favourite is series four’s Reynholm vs Reynholm which acted as the finale until the 2013 revisit. Filled with real belly laughs with all four main leads firing on all cylinders, it brought with it the most laughter by far. In comparison, 2013’s ‘The Internet is Coming’ is slightly disappointing from a comedy perspective but has absolutely loads of brilliant moments for series fans – including a second, excellent appearance by The Internet itself.
Of course, it goes without saying – there was the usual ill-fated US remake too which also featured Richard Ayoade in his familiar role and had Community‘s Joel McHale attempting to fill the O’Dowd-sized void. It didn’t work.
The IT Crowd really does justify being put up on that ‘pedal-stool’ of the best of British comedy, alongside the likes of Fawlty Towers, Father Ted and Only Fools and Horses. It really is no damp squid.
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