(This is the first of a number of pieces I’ll be dragging over from Freewebs. )

The IT Crowd then. What better way to start a series of new, possibly dangerously bad website entries than with a piece on a dangerously bad, yet curiously entertaining TV show about computer nerds? (Answer: there are plenty of better ways, but I can’t think of them, nor could I be bothered putting the effort into actually “do”ing them.) A sitcom from the still-hot brain of Father Ted creator, Graham Linehan, it’s onto – I think – its third series on Channel 4. The question is: how did it get this far, and why haven’t Richard Ayoade and Chris O’Dowd – the stars of the show – moved onto something better?

Linehan, as I said, made his name with Catholic-bothering, tea-loving, catchphrase-adoring sitcom, Father Ted. The key to that show was that it was all done with a kind of homey charm… Mrs Doyle was an exaggerated version of the old housewife every Irish person knows. Father Jack was a loving look at the alcoholic priest stereotype. Ted and Dougal were the classic straight-man/fool duo, and every guest character ever was a riff on a well-known theme. The humour, without putting too fine a point on it, was derived from creating as stupid and absurd a situation as humanly possible from a combination of those stereotypes. So clearly, the only logical thing for Linehan to do with his next show was abandon that winning formula, and write a bog-standard, “it’s funny cos they’re nerds” show. Haha! They’ve convinced their tech-ignorant (because GASP! She’s a woman) department manager that the internet is stored in a small black box with a red light on top! Emmys (Emmies?) and BAFTAs for all! Sigh.

It’s also home to two of the most incredibly awful characters ever to be written into a show that made it past pilot. The boss character, Denholm something-or-other, is a poncey idiot who talks with a deliberately stage-like (read: affected and loud) English accent, and sexually harasses people. That’s real ingenuity there, writers. You’re clearly earning every banana they’re probably paying you with. The other character-that-should-never-exist, and even worse than Denholm, is Richmond, played by Noel Fielding of bafflingly-popular sketch-cum-music-cum-we wish we were as funny as Flight of the Conchords show, The Mighty Boosh. Here’s the presumed pitch for the character: “So, he’s a GOTH, right, and he’s all gloomy and that. And he talks in a monotone, one-speed voice and tells stupid stories at every possible opportunity. He probably waxes poetic, but in a really awful way, and not in a funny-awful way either. It’s cutting bloody edge.” Except it’s not cutting edge, it’s not a lesson learned from every time a similar character has been attempted on other shows, and most importantly, it’s not funny.

It would be very easy to go the lazy journalistic route at this point, put a “SH” before the “IT” in the show’s title, and damn the show as the stunted throwback that is, but get this: I still, in some perverse, brain-addling way, enjoy it. The thing about The IT Crowd is this: for everytime you think “That’s the worst piece of sitcom-making I’ve ever seen”, you also laugh at the sheer boneheaded, it’s-all-been-done-before-but-we-don’t-care way the show sticks to the sitcom formula, without putting any sort of modern or interesting spin on it at all. It’s more a testament to how good the formula is rather than how good the writers are, and the show would fall flat on its face if Chris O’Dowd and Richard Ayoade weren’t such gosh-darn likable guys, but it keeps me watching, even if I end up groaning half the time. It’s sometimes very tempting to write the show off – mostly when Noel Fielding is on-screen – but I love that it’s performed in front of a live audience, even though it debuted at a time when Office-like, fly-on-the-wall shows were the big money-makers. I even sometimes love the weird “HAHAAAAAR! We’re making a bloody sitcom, we are!” vibe the show gives off. Either way, it’s not like I’ve got anything better to do than watch it. And watch it I do – far more often than I watch Father Ted repeats. Ah, the strange compulsions of a bored, hungry college student.


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