Although not in the ‘genius’ category of Father Ted, Graham Linehan’s IT Crowd is one of the most original comedies for the past five years, and while a lot of people have moaned about it – or rather, a lot of ‘mostly’ IT people have moaned about its geek credentials and accuracy – the writing for the first two series was superb. Whether it was Moss’s chat with a cannibal, Jen’s ghostly revenge on her boyfriend or Roy’s being a ‘right bastard’, the first two series had a warm sense of familiarity and accessibility that welcomed you into the weird and wonderful den of geek that is Reynholm Industries’ IT support.
So series three kicked off with expectations higher than Moss’s trousers, and really I must admit it was all a little bit disappointing. Sort of like Windows ME; it didn’t really fit, and was all a touch underwhelming. Running three parallel stories in one episode, we got to see that at the beginning of every day Moss (Richard Ayoade) gets bullied by some hoodies on the way to work; Jen may (or may not) have a cowboy builder with a piddling problem fixing her flat; and series 2 newbie, Douglas, the long-lost son of series 1’s superb Denholm Reynholm (Chris Morris), gets the company into financial difficulty (not to mention shagging all the members of HR). Added to all this we have Roy (Chris O’Dowd) obsessively chasing money he lent Jen (Katherine Parkinson) and a superb cameo by Denholm…and Hitler! While it seems that all the comedy ingredients are there, something is missing…
Maybe it’s the absent joke icing, the gag equivalent of hundreds and thousands on the comedy cake, but something wasn’t quite right, especially after the first episode of the previous season being one of the funniest (and gay-est) episodes ever. Personally, I feel that moving the jokes away from Roy and Moss has watered down the comedy a little. Much as Douglas is funny, and though Matt Berry is having a fantastic old time with the scenery-chewing lines and overly-dramatic flip flop from letch to idiot, he remains a two-dimensional character for others to bounce jokes off. And while it’s funny to see him shooting himself in the pocket with Denholm’s grandfather’s service revolver (a good way of getting out of any financial difficulty the company might be having) and trying to organize a business meeting while bleeding to death, it’s been done before – to greater effect – by Alan Partridge.
Even Moss’s revenge on his bullies was lazy, the resolution telegraphed a mile away, and having Moss chase people around a park with the revolver was breaking, rather than developing, his character. It would have been a lot funnier if his scientific prowess was put into action, and some sort of hoodie-destroying ray-gun had been built.
Although not the comedy gold-mine of the first two seasons, it is early days and I will, of course, tune in every Friday night to catch the show (and review it). But it doesn’t bode well if the rest of the series is as lazily written as this. Still, at least it’s not Birds of a Feather, I suppose.
Check out all Rob’s reviews of season 3: