The IT Crowd

The IT Crowd is another one of those kooky British TV shows on BBC4 (which, unlike Sirens, wasn’t unceremoniously canned), set in the fictional offices of Reynholm Industries in London. The show follows Moss (played by Richard Ayoade, middle), Roy (Chris O’Dowd, right), and Jen (Katherine Parkinson, background). Chris Morris plays Denholm Reynholm, the CEO, and Matt Berry plays Douglas Reynholm, Denholm’s son. I’ve heard the show described as a sort of “British Big Bang Theory” (BBBT if you will); I would add the caveat “except not shitty.”  Moss and Roy are two, 30+ men working dead-end jobs as IT professionals. Their love lives are bleak, and have few friends. They’re witty, of course, and they like the hip, indie music scene. They’re nerds at heart, and are social pariahs in the officeplace. Jen, a new hire, is their manager, despite not knowing anything about computers (not even knowing what I.T. stands for) Denholm and Douglas are ultimately in charge, the former being an incredibly competent and firm businessman who rarely jokes, and the latter being an incompetent one who never stops joking. This main cast is supplemented by Noel Fielding who plays the IT department’s token goth, Richmond (left), and is one of the funniest characters on the show.

The IT Crowd’s humour is a combination of clever jokes, dumb jokes, and slapstick comedy. Characters frequently fall over or bail or are crushed by computer equipment. The jokes vary from the insanely dumb (such as a scene where a main character has some brown, sticky stuff on his face), to the somewhat dumb but very funny (a character mispronouncing a name as “Misijo’s” and “tapas” a “tape-as”), to the fairly brilliant and hilarious (such as when Jen is acting strange and Roy says “come here you crazy bitch,” revealing how a normal person would find her behaviour). The characters themselves manage to be very likable; Roy seems to be the most normal of the bunch, while Moss is certainly the most emotionally damaged and kooky. Jen seems as though she’s poised to be the show’s straight-man, but it is quickly revealed that she’s pretty strange herself. Richmond is, like the rest of them, very weird but his coworkers treat him as a pariah himself; he’s ostracized by the ostracized. There are, of course, IT jokes that anyone working in a call centre or IT would appreciate, such as having to tell employees with questions to try turning the computer off and back on again and telling them to make sure it’s plugged in. The show does spend some time focusing on the character’s personal lives, such as the security guard Jen falls in love with and the secretary that Roy falls in love with, along with the creepiness of certain office employees (such as one squirrely looking fellow claiming to have slept with Jen — after everyone thinks she’s dead). It’s a comedy about weird characters, and all in all it’s a very funny show that I recommend watching 100%, even if you hate The Big Bang Theory (or, even if you like it, I guess).

One episode in particular which I think is insanely clever is Episode 3, Season 4 (sorry, Series 4, for my UK readers), entitled “Something Happened.” In the episode, Roy ends up hurting himself and is convinced by various people to see a masseur (a male masseuse). Paul the Masseur, played by Ralph Ineson (you may remember him playing Chris Finch [“Finchy”] on the UK version of The Office and Dagmer Cleftjaw in this uninspired season of Game of Thrones), helps Roy, puts him at ease, and at the end of the massage,”kiss[es him] on the arse.” Roy, with some difficulty, tells Moss, begging him not to laugh. Moss asks why he would laugh at that, and then Jen begins laughing hysterically at the emotional way Roy continually says “he kissed me on my bottom!” Moss and Roy prepare a legal defense, and at the trial, everyone takes it incredibly seriously — save for Jen and, of course, us. The brilliance of the joke and the episode is that Roy was obviously sexually harassed — even molested. The concept is, at face value, funny, but the episode forces us to consider how we treat sexual abuse against men. Were it Paul the Masseur kissing Jen on the rear or just about any other combination, it would be without a doubt a sexual crime and be treated very seriously — anyone would be a monster for laughing about it. While The It Crowd doesn’t deal with social issues too much, there are some important ones like this that overlap, such as the concept of masculinity in the workplace, particularly how Moss and Roy aren’t often regarded as men (and spend at least an episode trying to cultivate more masculine images) and how Jen is often treated as a female manager: both groups are denigrated for not being manly enough.

The IT Crowd is brilliant. Catch up now while you can; rumour has it a Christmas Special (wacky Brits) or a full-length movie are in the works.

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