"That's right, we're going to Hull!"
Initially, the premise of The IT Crowd may have seemed a little behind the times, with the technologically clueless new boss sent in to oversee the two comic-book-loving, socially stunted, computer geniuses, but writer and director Graham Linehan (Father Ted) and executive producer Ash Atalla (The Office) have managed not only to make the idea work, but to make it into one of the sharpest comedies on television.
With Series three now available on DVD, Reynholm Industries’ IT Department, Roy (Chris O Dowd), Moss (Richard Ayoade) and Jen (Katherine Parkinson), and its riotous throwback of a boss, Douglas Reynholm (Matt Berry), can dispense for the most part with explaining the set-up and get straight into the hilarity. Unlike some other shows about nerds, geeks and computer savants, The IT Crowd keeps most of its characters’ symbols of geek-dom in the background (literally, if you pay attention to the brilliant set), preferring instead to let basic human foibles and misunderstandings form the foundation of the comedy. The IT Crowd: The Complete Third Season also brilliantly makes use of classic physical comedy the whole cast, but especially O’Dowd, excel at this), funny facial expressions (Ayoade is priceless in this capacity) and perfectly delivered dialogue (“God damn these electric sex pants!”).
And while it is the pratfalls, pulled faces and ridiculous wordplay that often gets the most laughs, it’s also the little touches, the not-quite-inside-jokes—like when Moss is rebooted after a concussion, or the point where Jen realizes she has become “one of them” because she is now a fan of Guided By Voices when she “shouldn’t even know who they are!”—that really sell the show.
These six episodes are all self-contained, and could be viewed in any order (commentary with Linehan explains his choices, though), but if you’re watching straight though, the first will be “From Hell”, which is probably the weakest of the lot. Jen is having work done on her home and Roy is convinced he saw her contractor on a reality show called Builders From Hell, so she spends the rest of the episode trying to ensure the guy isn’t pissing in her sinks. Not that it’s bad, the episode is still amusing, especially the bits with the boys while Jen’s out, but it’s not quite the opener I’d have chosen.
“Are We Not Men?” gets things back on track, however, when Moss and Roy pass themselves off as “real men” using a website that teaches them how to talk like footballers. They fall in with a hard crowd, and are in mortal peril, but not to worry, everything ends with a kiss (two, actually). This episode is, arguably, the best of the series for Moss speaking in a Cockney accent alone.
Other highlights include the “Tramps Like Us” episode in which Jen discovers she doesn’t know what “I.T.” stands for and Douglas is ordered to wear the electric sex pants; “The Speech”, in which Moss and Roy convince Jen that the whole internet is contained in a small black box and Douglas dates a post-op transsexual journalist and of course, “Friendface”, which may be the most scathing and spot-on commentary on the dangers of social-networking sites ever made. It’s definitely the most entertaining (“Don’t think about germs.”).
Series three ends with “Calendar Geeks” with Roy volunteering to be the photographer for a nude charity calendar, only to have Jen meddle and change the assignment into something no man needs to see, let alone preserve on film. There’s really no way to do justice to this episode in a review, because it is built on visual gags, so it’s one of those things that really just has to be seen.
The IT Crowd: The Complete Third Season includes the expected special features like commentary by Graham Linehan, an interview with Linehan, deleted scenes, outtakes, a set tour and the original title sequence animation. Additionally, there’s an option to play subtitles in “geek”, which is a great concept, but it gets old quickly. Each feature has a unique menu showing games based on various episodes, so be sure to check those out.
Like the “Calendar Geeks” episode, The IT Crowd: The Complete Third Season must be seen to be truly appreciated, descriptions can’t accurately convey it. That’s probably true of the entire series. Obviously, much of the humor is dependent on the interactions between the three main characters, and their individual character flaws. Once you see it, however, you realize that The IT Crowd‘s brilliance is that the show is far funnier the sum of those flaws.