Italian For Beginners
I’ve often thought of The IT Crowd as being like an eccentric aunt. You love her regardless, despite her tendency to shout at curtains or store her clothes in the oven.
And in spite of its often uneven humour, The IT Crowd exudes a dopy charm that has always kept me coming back to it, week after week.
But after the desperately unfunny previous episode last week, I watched Italian For Beginners with more than a hint of trepidation. Did Something Happened mark the beginning of a downward slide for Graham Linehan’s sitcom?
This week’s episode starts off well, with Jen’s boardroom rivalry with colleague Linda leading her, in a typical Linehan leap of logic, to pretend she can speak fluent Italian. When boss Douglass Reynholm ropes in Jen as translator in a meeting with high-powered businessman Silvio Bernatelli, the situation looks dire.
Thankfully, Moss comes up with the bright idea of using voice translation software to interpret Bernatelli’s conversation, allowing Jen to sit in the meeting with her laptop, reading the translated results on the screen and repeating them out loud (in an implausibly authentic accent).
Predictably, the ruse doesn’t last long, and the resulting non-conversation towards the end of the episode (“Vienetta, Fiat Punto”) is simultaneously daft yet undeniably amusing – vintage IT Crowd, in other words.
While Jen wrestles with the subtleties of the Romance languages, Roy’s having a spot of romance of his own, as he embarks on a new relationship with Julia, a girl with a tragic past whose baffling intricacies gradually chip away at Roy’s fragile sanity. Just how did her parents die in a fire at a sea life centre?
As ever, it’s Moss who provides the episode with the most laughs. His theory, during a discussion about Julia’s murky childhood, is laugh-out-loud funny: “Maybe she doesn’t know what the word orphan means. Maybe she just thinks it means… house proud.”
His childlike, irrational hatred of Roy’s new jacket is also a bewildering highlight (“you look like a tall girl. Burn it!”), as is one brief yet welcome reference to Close Encounters Of The Third Kind.
The real focus of the episode is Jen, however, and Katherine Parkinson once again proves that she’s an expert comic actress. Like a female Basil Fawlty, her efforts to maintain an air of dignity and poise as events come clattering down around her is entirely thanks to her note-perfect performance.
After the disappointing nadir of the last episode, Italian For Beginners, while not achieving the greatness of The Final Countdown, marked a real return to form for the mad auntie that is The IT Crowd.
Read Ryan’s review of episode 3 here.