I don’t think I’ve ever talked about British television on CXF before. That’s really a shame since there are some damn good shows produced exclusively in the U.K. Over the past 10 years or so, British programming has gained prominence in the states due to the popularity of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) networks that have reached American cable providers and online streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime. As a result, more and more British programming has been exposed to American eyes which has helped make presentations like Doctor Who, Sherlock Holmes, and Downton Abbey into the successes they are today. There is one British show though that I’m particularly fond of. One that was produced by Channel 4, another popular TV network in England. That show was a comedy entitled The IT Crowd.
The IT Crowd premiered on television in 2006 and focuses on a duo of socially awkward IT technicians working for a huge corporation, Reynholm Industries, in London. In the pilot, they’re joined by their new boss, an attractive woman who actually knows nothing about computers. Yes, the show’s title is not a reference to the “it” or popular crowds, but about those that specialize in information technology for companies.
Playing our two charming lads are Chris O’Dowd who portrays Roy, a sarcastic Irish bloke who possesses a great taste in music (Guided by Voices!) and t-shirts, and Richard Ayoade as Moss, a shy dork sporting a wild hairstyle who still lives with his mother. They are joined by Katherine Parkinson who plays Jen Barber, a cute, single redhead who is appointed the head of the IT department after lying about her experience on her resume and and charming her way through the interview process. Rounding out the cast is Matt Berry, as Douglas Reynholm, the sexual deviant CEO of Reynholm Industries. A hilarious recurring character is Noel Fielding, who plays Richmond, a seemingly normal Reynholm employee who morphs into a goth, coming to work decked out in black and white makeup and often referencing British black metal group, Cradle of Filth.
Together, the trio share a workspace in the company’s isolated basement that they treat as their own hangout and is the central background setting for the comedy. Jen does wonders for the boys with her outgoingness and wonders with people, encouraging them to become more than just dungeon dwellers. They get into tons of wacky situations usually dealing with their lack of social skills and general cluelessness for all things outside of their social circle but are always there for one another when they need a hand. Moss and Roy also need to deal with the various computer troubles of their Reynholm, most of which can be solved by simply turning off their machine and turning it back on. That very phrase is uttered by Roy at the beginning of every phone call the department gets. You also receive a glimpse into British culture and customs such as their legal system when Moss and Roy serve as witnesses to Doug’s divorce trial in the program’s final season.
Unlike the 20 plus episode seasons that dominate American television, the U.K.’s schedule is more subdued usually producing only a few installments per series. At the conclusion of its fourth season, The IT Crowd ended its run in 2010 but had a reunion special in 2013 to wrap up all the show’s loose ends. The season one episode where Moss, unable to tell a lie, informs an unwanted suitor of Jen’s that she passed away on a whim causing the entire office to mourn has to be one of my favorite sitcom episodes ever. Jen throwing a dinner party for all of her single friends in season two is also a treat when the shindig turns into something much more. In something most of us late 20s/early 30s folk can relate to, In the season 3 episode, Friendface, Jen winds up having to attend her high school reunion after reconnecting with former classmates via social media but dreads going alone and she asks the boys to play her partner.
I myself didn’t stumble upon the show until a few years ago. I first heard about it when a friend of mine, an avid TV watcher, told me I bore a striking resemblance to Moss. I couldn’t really see it. I mean, yeah we both had puffy, curly hair and wore glasses but while I certainly respect Richard Ayoade and find him hilarious, I must say that I’m way better looking than him! After that comparison, I read up about the show and decided to check it out. It didn’t take look before I found I really liked it. This was the first British show I watched consistently and wondered why my ignorance had me swaying away gems like this for so long. That Halloween, I even dressed up as Moss complete with Afro, black-rimmed glasses, tie, and coffee mug. It was really heartwarming to see people knowing who I was actually dressed as.
These days, Chris O’Dowd has appeared in a few notable flicks most famously as Kristen Wiig’s love interest in Bridesmaids. Richard Ayoade starred in the Ben Stiller comedy The Watch in 2012 and has successfully transitioned into a steady directing career. He helmed a small independent film in 2010 entitled Submarine and a movie starring Jesse Eisenberg called The Double in 2013. Parkinson has acted in a few minor roles in films but mostly stars in television in her native England.
Similar to how The Office reached the states after its successful run headed by Ricky Gervais in the U.K. in 2007, NBC attempted to do the same with The IT Crowd. Mr. Ayoade actually reprised his role as Moss on the revival while a pre-Community Joel McHale tried his hand at assuming the role of Roy. A pilot was filmed but and the series was set to debut on NBC as a mid-season replacement but was cancelled before it made it to the small screen. You can stumble upon the pilot using various measures but let me warn you, it’s really, REALLY bad. Joel McHale did not understand the character of Roy at all instead playing him up like a loudmouthed jerk rather than the lovable chap that Chris O’Dowd was. It doesn’t help the fact that I’m not a big McHale fan to begin with. In fact, the only character that seemed to showcase any sort of genuine personality was…well…Moss. It isn’t hard to see why this didn’t make it to prime time.
…but wait, you just can’t keep a good thing down. Rumors are circulating that another American adaptation is on its way produced by Scrubs creator, Bill Lawrence. I just hope this one fares better and captures the spirit of the original.