June 21st, 2012

Alien tech

The IT Crowd? More Like The Hi-C Cloud!

Last year, Fandom Steel Cage Match March Madness led to my finally checking out Community. This year, that distinction goes to The IT Crowd. I had heard about it for years, but it was only seeing hilarious Moss GIFs (and, of course, its presence on Netflix Instant) that convinced me I really did need to watch the show.

The IT Crowd follows the absurdly small IT department of Reynholm Industries, an absurdly large corporation whose function or product is never discussed. Despite taking up an entire building, the company's IT needs can be handled by two tech geeks in the basement. One is Moss, a nasal-voiced, socially awkward nerd. The other is Roy, an Irish-voiced, socially awkward nerd. Enter Jen, who claims to know about computers (spoiler warning: she doesn't) and becomes Relationship Manager. Where she manages...relationships. Or something.

Moss is basically the greatest. Although he has distanced himself from reality, he has truly embraced the special world that he lives in and he feels absolutely no shame about being a weirdo. In fact, it makes him kind of a badass at times. He is not good with women, but he doesn't really care. He is happy with who he is. Richard Ayoade gives him a distinct nasal voice and very deliberate intonation that make nearly everything he says comedy gold.

Roy is an unusual bloke. I wanted to own most of his geeky shirts, many of which I recognized. I also recognized all sorts of stickers and paraphernalia around the department; the set dressing is incredibly geeky. Unlike Moss, Roy generally lives in reality, but he's just not good at it. Roy has a penchant for getting himself into incredibly embarrassing, uncomfortable situations and just soldiering on through, especially if it means he'll get to sleep with a lady. He reminded me of Jeff from Coupling. Roy is slightly better with women than Moss, but not by much. Chris O'Dowd's lovable Irish brogue and general awkwardness make Roy terribly endearing.

Jen is a woman. She is 80% female stereotype, 20% actual character. She is, however, the only character who actually gets any character development, since she begins as, well, not a fish out of water, but more like a koala in water. She consistently misrepresents her own abilities, which leaves her scrambling to prove herself. She's a fuck-up, but she tries, she tries so hard (which is more than Roy ever does ["Have you tried turning it off and on again?" is his constant tech support refrain]). Katherine Parkinson joins Ayoade and O'Dowd in not being afraid to look ridiculous.

Douglas Reynholm is a hilarious sexpot. Although he is not the original CEO, he deserves special mention for being so funny and so very wrong. Matt Berry gives him a deep, sonorous voice and very deliberate intonation that make nearly everything he says comedy gold.

The show is largely an office comedy set in a very bizarre office, and the characters get into wacky, usually embarrassing situations. There was a lot that made me uncomfortable, and the show seemed incredibly, lazily sexist at times—I know sitcoms mine gender stereotypes for comedy all the time (like Coupling, for instance), but the show seemed to be just checking off all the clichés. The first two seasons had their moments of hilarity, but I wasn't truly addicted to the show, and I briefly considered just stopping. I'm very glad I didn't, though, because seasons three or four are much better, as the episodes tend to break the mold and take the characters out of the office more, expanding the strange sensibility into other environments. There is little to no real continuity (potentially major events are just one-episode jokes and never mentioned again), but there are some great callbacks.

The IT Crowd is not amazing. Its jokes don't always hit, and its plots can cross the line into poor taste. But it does have a great cast, and when it gets creative, it's really hilarious. It's absolutely worth it for the many times everything comes together. Or just because the characters themselves are generally funny, whatever they do! Go, you can watch it right now on Netflix Instant.

What, is it not working?

Have you tried turning it off and on again?