Reynholm v Reynholm
Oh no! Douglas’s long presumed dead wife Victoria has come back from wherever she was! All is joyous… for about two weeks, until Douglas decides he wants a divorce. Victoria wants to take him and Reynholm industries to the cleaners, and it’s up to Jen to provide legal counsel! Old faces pop up at the trial which could decide the IT Crowd’s very future!
The last episode in the series sadly doesn’t seem to deliver any big pay off. Despite the rather dramatic storyline, it all comes across a tad self-indulgent, referencing the problematic court case storyline in episode three. It’s not all bad though, since there’s a quite frankly inspired and accurate Star Trek tribute in the form of a naughty home video. And Belinda Stewart-Wilson (known as Will’s fit mum from The Inbetweeners) delivers an amusingly stilted performance.
But the whole thing goes absolutely nowhere. At one point, Noel Fielding briefly returns as Richmond and takes over the whole thing for a few minutes before bowing out in what just feels like a giant wink to the fanbase.
Not that there’s anything wrong with playing to the gallery in itself. But for anyone new to the show it could be alienating as they’ll doubtless wonder what they’re missing out on. The rest of the main group also seem totally superfluous to proceedings, Roy and Moss reduced to bit parts in their own show.
Matt Berry as Douglas entertains best in small short doses. Given a whole episode to himself, his funny voice schtick loses steam and his detached acting style drains the energy from the screen. His predecessor, Chris Morris as Denholm Reynholm, was like a giant ball of barely restrained lightning capable of exploding at any moment. Matt Berry in comparison is a grey raincloud spouting drizzle, delivering a sometimes amusing monotone blankly.
In my review of episode one, I noted that The IT Crowd had slowly moved on from its Father Ted-esque roots to become something more of an American sitcom. In particular, Seinfeld. The way the various plots thread out in order to dovetail neatly into one big finale, the way observations are crow-barred into the dialogue. Seinfeld is recognised as one of the true greats of TV, so to be compared to it should be a high honour. Except Seinfeld had a team of writers, and The IT Crowd only has one, and he’s clearly running out of ideas.
Another thing I’ve noticed during this series: Roy’s obvious discomfort at being naked and vulnerable in the presence of another man in episode three – we’re in the 21st century now, is this even acceptable any more? Consider this. My Family had an episode where the son Michael came out… to universal indifference. It’s crazy to believe that a pre-watershed BBC sitcom is now more progressive than a late night Channel 4 show. Let me repeat that, My Family is more progressive than The IT Crowd.
How could this improve? Firstly, lay off the Seinfeld box sets for inspiration. Look instead towards The Big Bang Theory, which manages to be cartoony and semi-realistic. Remember why Moss and Roy are in the basement in the first place – they’re outcasts and Jen is at best socially functional. Let’s get back to the early days of barely plausible happenings coming to great crescendos with flights of fancy that take life on their own instead of relying on pithy one liners.
The IT Crowd started off with genuine promise, which later series have failed to deliver on. The year off it took in 2009 doesn’t even seem to have done any good. But if a new team of writers can come in and start injecting fresh ideas, with Linehan as the lord overseer, then perhaps the already confirmed fifth series may not seem like the final nail in the show’s coffin.
Read Jake’s take on episode 5 here.