Graham Linehan talks IT Crowd series 3.0

No Richmond. Booo! But double-Douglas. Hurrah! Writer Graham gives us a taste of the third season of antics for our favourite basement geeks...

It's not what it looks like.

Having helped Graham Linehan put off writing series 3 of The IT Crowd by distracting him with questions about Father Ted, we interrupted his lunch yesterday to demand spoilers that will ruin the whole of the forthcoming third series for everyone. Luckily, we were foiled…

How’s series 3 going?

I have this weird thing where I actually forget everything I’ve written until I pull it up out of the file, so I pull it up out of the file, so let me remind myself how it’s going…[laughs]

It’s not really for me to say, but I think it’s more consistent than the last series. I really liked how the ‘work outing’ turned out last time, so, I think I’m aiming towards more farce, because it just seems to really work and it just seems to be a lot of fun. There were a lot of people who didn’t want me to take them out of the office, and wanted me to keep them in there. I’ve taken that on board, and rejected it [laughs]. I like getting them out and about and giving them adventures.

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Will there be a lot of exterior filming?

Oh no, just little bits, the way it was in the first and second series. The work outing was very much ‘on location’, but I think I’ve got a nice mix this time; it just kind of pops back and forth in an interesting way. I could be wrong; I might be misremembering what I’ve written! But it seems to be a little bit more farcey.

Was this a hard series to write?

It was hard, but not really because of any problems with the show. The characters are getting easier for me to write, and I’m getting to know them a little bit better. One of the problems with the first series was that I think I started writing it before I’d really made enough decisions on who the characters were. To be honest with you, I’ve been kind of finding out who the characters were during the course of series 1 and series 2. I think now I feel like I’ve got more of a handle on them.

For instance, something that happened in the last series: the line that Jen says, when she says “If you type Google into Google, the internet will break”. That line really came as a bolt out of the blue for me, and I realised afterwards, ‘Wow, why aren’t I doing more jokes about Jen’s weak understanding of the internet?’. Or of computers in general. That seems to be kind of key to her. So I’ve really enjoyed taking that to its logical conclusion.

Are you taking any greater risks with the nerdy in-jokes this time?

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The thing about nerdy jokes is that I kind of want to do what other shows do, which is keep the references there for people who want to know them, but not make them central to the comedy. So if you don’t get a joke about Firefox, or whatever it happens to be, you don’t mind. But I don’t want to do plot-lines that focus on ‘nerd-issues’. If I did a storyline about someone trying to get a record number of hits on Digg, or that sort of thing, then I think that the rest of the audience would quite rightly fall asleep.

So I’ve got to keep it general, but not mess up on the specifics. I’ve got a fantastic IT team on the show who just run over to me whenever I’ve written anything that wouldn’t work. I think I wrote one thing once that got through, and they were very annoyed, and they just said ‘No no no no…no-one could get a virus on a computer that’s been set to administrator’ and all this sort of stuff.

Okay, so that got through, but generally the fact-checking is as far as I go with the nerd-references.

I was going to ask…in terms of getting it right, are you regretting how hard your Easter egg competition proved to be on the series 2.0 DVD?

[laughs] We thought that as soon as people got a sniff of it, it would make the nerdiest people out there like sharks sensing blood! We thought they’d be all over it. [laughs] I think basically we just made it one layer too deep. There’s all these different things you have to do, and I think maybe the final layer, the way you actually get the answers in, is possibly too complicated.

Having said that, I think someone in Germany did it, and did it right. We’re trying to get in touch with them so we can invite them to the show or something like that. It’s virtually impossible. It’s fun though – we all thought ‘Wow, this’ll be all over the internet’ [laughs] and it didn’t do anything.

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Is there a broadcast date for series 3?

I’m not sure, because I’m desperately trying not to think about that, to be honest. I’m stuck on the last episode…

Oh, I didn’t finish the answer to your last question! The difficulty in writing the series didn’t really come from the characters, it came from the fact that I had to move back to England during it; with two young kids, it’s just been a bit crazy. But the show hasn’t suffered, and I’m really relieved about that. I think it might have balanced out because, as I say, I got to know the characters a little bit better.

Can you tell us any of the guest stars for this series…?

Errrrr…ahhh….

One…?

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Ooh…one…ah…oh, I can’t! All these things are subject to negotiations and stuff like that. I will say though, that there might be two Douglases in it. I love Matt [Berry] so much I wanted two of him, [laughs] so there might just be an extra bit of Douglas this time round.

But all the regulars are back?

Yes. Oh, except that I can tell you Noel [Fielding] won’t be appearing in this series.

[Untranscribable glum sound]

No, he’s just got too much on. I did write a little part for him; I wrote one scene for him, and even that turned out to be too much. He wouldn’t even be able to walk across the set, he’s so busy. It’s a shame, but he’s still in that green room, so I’ll bring him out hopefully in the next series.

Will this be the final series? It’s that magic ‘three’ that you’ve mentioned before.

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Yeah, I’ve hit my usual number. But as I say, it’s not like Ted, where we had all the characters down when we went in. I feel that the first series was a bit of a false start, and I kind of want to make up for it. If this is a good run, I think there’s possibly one more in me.

And, as I say, all these late discoveries like Jen and the internet, and stuff like that…I think it kind of means that there’s probably a lot of untapped stuff that I haven’t handled yet.

The great thing about nerd culture is that it keeps throwing up new phenomenon…enom. It keeps on with weird new developments. Things like the German Cannibal…the reason that’s in the show is that that couldn’t have happened without the internet. You couldn’t have advertised in the paper for someone to eat you. And then got a million responses [laughs]. ‘I want to eat someone’…’Oh, I want to be eaten!’ [laughs]. That’s something that can only happen with the internet. It keeps throwing up all these new situations that – once they become famous enough – I can use for the show.

So it could continue as an ongoing commentary on this kind of tech-world, then…?

It could…it could! And that’s what I always wanted it to be. I always thought that the internet and developments in technology were changing us so fast, that there didn’t seem to be a sitcom about that change. And I thought The IT Crowd would be it. It kind of wrested control from me and became it’s own thing for a while, but I think it’s becoming the thing I always wanted it to be again…

The IT Crowd is back in the Autumn. We’ll post dates when we have them. Graham would like to point out that he didn’t invent the ‘Google’ joke – some mates suggested it. And we would like to strongly recommend you to Graham’s excellent site, Why, That’s Delightful.

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