The IT Crowd

If North American television lineups were a reflection of the composition of the population, we’d live in a continent of cops, lawyers, doctors and forensic investigators. If you don’t fit one of those profiles, the only job left for you is perp or patient.

There’s a reason, of course, that TV focuses on such professions, rather than accounting, construction or animal husbandry. There is conflict, without which there is no drama; there is mystery, without which there is no engagement with the audience. All the same, don’t you want to watch something more familiar, something torn from the pages of your daytimer rather than the headlines – at least once in a while?

Enter the U.K.’s Channel 4 and its The IT Crowd show. The series follows the escapades of Roy and Moss, the IT department relegated to the bowels of Reynholm Industries, and their new boss Jen, who – according to the Channel 4 Web site – “knows as much about computers as a yak.”

TV viewers of a vintage slightly older than me may remember a game called Bob. While watching The Bob Newhart Show – the 1972 version – participants had to drink a shot every time a cast member said the name “Bob.” From viewing The IT Crowd’s microsite, I fear in a game of Spot The IT Cliché with the same rules of engagement, simply remaining conscious through an entire episode would be a moral victory.

The gormless Moss (Richard Ayoade) lives with his Mum, who dresses him in checked short sleeve dress shirts and styles his hair (badly). Roy (Chris O’Dowd of Vera Drake) wears a RTFM T-shirt and loves comic books. Jen (Katherine Parkinson), clueless about IT, coaches the boys in life outside Reynholm’s basement.

The ace up The IT Crowd’s sleeve is its creator, Graham Linehan. The Irish co-creator of the ironic and irreverent TV series Father Ted is, according to newspaper The Observer, one of the 50 funniest people in Britain. Episodes of The IT Crowd available online show evidence of Linehan’s trademark rhythm, balancing the gentle with the over-the-top.

Roy: Moss? Did you use a soldering iron to make that stress machine?

Moss: Yes.

Roy: You turned it off?

Moss: Oh, I’m fairly sure I did.

Roy: Because … you remember what happened last time, right?

Moss: Yes, that was very funny.

Roy: Well, no. It was very dangerous and someone almost died.

Moss: Right. I was thinking of a different incident. The one on the golf course.

Given Linehan’s gifted CV and the viral nature of geek entertainment (and I mean that in only the most affectionate way), The IT Crowd has the makings of a cult success, even if the show’s catchphrase – “Have you tried turning it off and back on again?” – hardly funny once, is used as a repetitive bludgeon.

Channel 4 had been airing the full episodes a week in advance on the microsite, but at press time, the link wasn’t working; hopefully, it’ll be up again by the time you read this. I’d be interested to hear what you think. Approach it with a sense of humour and an open mind. And if you see a reflection of yourself in the show, for the love of all that is holy, make sure you turned off the soldering iron.

Dave Webb plays an expert marine biologist who teams with a beautiful, sarcastic investigative journalist to expose the seamy underside of exotic Nassau in the crime drama … oh, never mind.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Dave Webb
Dave Webb
A journalist of 20 years experience in newspapers and magazines. He has followed technology exclusively since 1998 and was the winner of the Andersen Consulting Award for Excellence in Business Journalism in the eEconomy category in 2000. (The category was eliminated in 2001, leaving Webb as the only winner ever.) He has held senior editorial positions with publications including Computing Canada, eBusiness Journal, InfoSystems Executive, Canadian Smart Living and Network World. He is currently the editor of ComputerWorld Canada and the IT World Canada newswire.

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