Reynholm v Reynholm
The fourth series of The IT Crowd shudders to a close, and what a rollercoaster it’s been. And while most episodes have delivered something to raise a smile, writer Graham Linehan reached his creative zenith with The Final Countdown, an instalment with some genuinely inspired, amusing ideas, but has since coasted on a steadily diminishing wave of half-formed ideas and narrative dead-ends.
With the series finale, however, there’s a last opportunity for The IT Crowd to pick itself up and end the season on a high. The episode starts well, with Douglas Reynholm making some bang-on-the-money references to Heston Blumenthal’s alchemical style of cooking (“I ate a chocolate radio that continued to work in my stomach”).
And as Douglas’s estranged, presumed dead wife Victoria returns from the ether, the fat-cat boss takes her to The Flappy Duck for a post-modern, slap-up meal: a hi-fi followed by invisible desert.
Two weeks later, and Douglas is already sick of the sight of Victoria, and consults Jen for advice on the best way to file for divorce. Over a glass of milk and a decapitated head at The Flappy Duck, Jen (having been bribed with the prospect of £10,000) awkwardly explains to Victoria the bad news. Unsurprisingly, the latter wants a vast settlement that would amount to a considerable chunk of Reynholm Industries’ capital.
After five episodes of a series that has largely concentrated on the bumbling activities of Moss and Roy, the decision to devote the concluding show almost exclusively to Douglas, a comparatively incidental character, seems like a bizarre one, like basing the final episode of, say, Fawlty Towers on Major Gowen.
And while Matt Berry is a fine comic actor in his own right, there’s little more to his character than misogyny and smarm, and there’s simply not enough depth to his character to carry an entire thirty minute episode almost exclusively on his odd shoulders.
Nevertheless, there are plenty of funny moments to be had, as you’d expect from The IT Crowd even at its most lacklustre. Douglas’s homemade suit is a funny, throw-away sight gag, and the episode’s highlight is arguably its fantastically ramshackle, stilted Star Trek sex tape, which could quite easily have gone on for an extra few minutes.
By contrast, far too long is spent on a largely laugh-free court case scene that churlishes references back to episode three’s desperately unfunny arse-kissing scene, before rambling on with a similarly flat exchange regarding Roy’s misunderstanding of the phrase ‘damp squib’.
Thankfully, Moss steps in to save the day, with a genuinely funny physical performance that immediately lifts an otherwise drab chunk of the episode. Noel Fielding also turns up to briefly reprise his role as Richmond Avenal who, after his wilderness years as a Goth (not to mention a brief bout of scurvy), has reclaimed his businesslike mojo and reappears to show off his strange promotional video for new enterprise ‘Goth 2 Boss’.
Largely, however, this is an oddly low-key, abrupt end to a series that has perplexed rather more often than it has entertained. While certainly not bereft of comedy sparkle and surreal, playful humour, the series as a whole has been a particularly scattershot one, and some of its ideas came across as distinctly half-baked.
This final episode was sadly, in Roy’s own words, something of a damp squid.
Read Ryan’s review of episode 5 here.