The Final Countdown
After last week’s solidly entertaining series opener introduced the concept of counselling via Dungeons & Dragons, Graham Linehan’s consistently excellent IT Crowd comes up with an equally engaging idea: crossing a popular Channel 4 quiz show with Fight Club.
As ever, it’s Moss who gets all the best lines this week (his “an unopened door is a happy door” exchange is priceless), in an episode that sees him appear in Countdown – a show he was surely born to appear on – with an uncanny, Jedi-like ability to convince the host that “Tnetennba” is a real word.
Meanwhile, Roy’s drawn into a convoluted scenario that is classic Linehan, where he spends much of the episode trying to convince a highly successful old college friend that he’s most definitely not a window cleaner.
When Jen points out that window cleaning is a perfectly honourable profession, Moss replies, with brilliant candour, “If your last profession was cleaning balls!” It’s a snobbish attitude that ultimately leads to Roy’s undoing in a stand-out scene of toe-curling awkwardness.
For Moss, a character who is normally awkwardness incarnate, The Final Countdown sees him in a rare moment of social ease. His prowess with anagrams and maths leads to an encounter with Prime (played with perfect cool by Benedict Wong), a fellow Countdown champion, who introduces him to an exclusive club reserved for contestants who survived eight episodes of Channel 4’s geekiest quiz show.
Moss’s status as the club’s new alpha male gets him on the wrong side of another Countdown champion Negative One, who challenges him to a game of Street Countdown. (“It’s more or less the same as normal Countdown except we play it on the street. It can get quite cold.”)
Elsewhere, Jen finds herself intrigued by another apparently secret club, and ultimately discovers that, in her absence, the company’s head of department meetings have evolved into an aerobics class.
The sight of oleaginous boss Douglas Reynholm, clad in spandex and dancing in horribly suggestive fashion, is easily the funniest moment in either episode screened so far – thanks to Matt Berry’s extraordinary physical performance, it’s a genuinely memorable moment.
But then, this is an episode full of memorable moments – not least thanks to the welcome sight of our own Pete Dillon-Trenchard in a stern-faced cameo – and quite possibly one of the best IT Crowd episodes yet.