One of last year’s most nerve-racking issues for me was whether Graham Linehan would commit to a fourth series of The IT Crowd. We were lucky enough to speak to him several times in 2008, but didn’t get a firm answer on the matter until this glorious news emerged last week.
In complete defiance of how TV episodes are usually placed in the running order, series 3 opens and closes on pot-boilers. If audience expectation was unreasonably high for S3E1, it was only because series 2 opened with the absolutely barnstorming ‘works outing’ episode (in the commentary Graham himself explains the logistical reasons for the order in which the series 3 episodes were broadcast).
Once it’s fully booted, IT Crowd 3 is a whirlwind of comedy invention. Highlights include Roy (Chris O’Dowd) and Moss (Richard Ayoade) persuading power-mad boss Jen (Katherine Parkinson) that a black box with a flashing light is ‘the internet’; Moss learning to talk like a ‘real man’ via the football-phobics’ cribber site BluffBall; the ‘electric sex pants’ of Douglas Reynholm (Matt Berry); Jen’s nightmare I.T. job interview, where she realises that she doesn’t even know what ‘I.T.’ means; Douglas’s unwitting experiments in transgender love; and Roy’s Joker-faced obsessive ex-girlfriend.
The geek world yields so many fads, crazes, controversies and innovations that it really does need an annual kick in the pants, and here’s hoping that IT Crowd keeps on fulfilling that remit. Anyone who passes more than 15% of their working day on Facebook will love the ‘Friendface’ episode in series 3, which gently suggests that the likes of Friends Reunited and Facebook have a tendency to dig up situations – and people – that were buried with good reason. Since the characters in the show are self-zeroing, there are no cursed story-arcs to stop IT Crowd going for its targets and actually being funny. Dramedy is the last refuge of a scoundrel, and this show is the antidote.
The continuing triumph of I.T. Crowd is that it manages to be funny without being cruel. In Linehan’s world, everyone’s a bit of an idiot and all hope of improvement is automatically doomed. Every change is a sidegrade, never an upgrade. All that Douglas’s lust for Jen get him are a pair of legally appointed underpants that provide an electric shock if he gets too excited; Roy’s ambition to bed women out of his league is foiled once again; Jen’s hopes to find employment away from the nerd nightmare of Reynholm Industries’ I.T. basement are dashed when she realises, to her horror, that she has now become ‘one of them’.
Only gentle Moss, in an ongoing bravura performance from comedy-god Ayoade, is making the best of the considerable forces that keep him where he is in life. And sometimes even Moss has to retreat to his ‘happy place’ in order to get through.
Certainly there are weaknesses in series 3: Roy’s ‘tramp’ adventure doesn’t quite hit its comic mark, whilst the closing ‘geek calendar’ episode has an incongruously breakneck pace, like comedy on crack. That said, there’s nothing really wrong with the much-criticised ‘plumber from hell’ opening episode, except that it would have sat better as ep3. On balance, series 3 is at least as funny and rewarding as its predecessor, if not more so, and moments of absurd madness such as Jen’s ‘I’m not a magician’ boyfriend dispel all complaints.
The very busy Noel Fielding is sorely missed as lamentful goth Richmond, but if we’re lucky he’ll recover from scurvy in time for series 4.
Commentary by Graham LinehanI’m a big fan of Graham Linehan’s commentaries, but he may have recorded these a little too close to finishing his writing and directing duties on series 3. He’s awfully hard on himself at times, even apologetic, and I think with a little hindsight and distance he’ll dismiss most of his criticisms about this series, just as the fans do. His doubts about whether the ‘F’ word was a suitable novelty for series 3 are unfounded, for instance, and many other little niggles bother him. Luckily, he’s usually able to pull back from hyper-criticism and appreciate how much fun IT Crowd is.
Interview with GrahamMr Linehan talks about the previous and current series of IT Crowd.
Cracking the I.T. CrowdThe history of the legendarily fiendish DVD-based competition on series 2, wherein part of the process involved downloading code for the BBC Micro in order to pursue the prize of a Porsche laptop. The competition proved so hard that the makers – interviewed here – confess that they practically had to provide the answers in order to get a winner.
CompetitionA little gentle exploration with the menu interface of the disc in your computer will quickly reveal the next round of website passwords and intriguing clues that will lead fans to a great prize. Hint: play the ‘Cuke’ game for a start.
Set TourGraham joins show runner Ben Capel in taking a quick look at the acreage of ‘geek’ set-dressing provided by fans for series 3.
Show:Extras: The IT Crowd series 3 is out now.