IT Crowd 2.0 Review
Ever since Graham Linehan and Arthur Matthews went their separate ways, the world has been a poorer place. They have done some nice work since but they have never again reached the heights of Father Ted. Few things are as good as Father Ted so it is a little unfair for the two writers to have their early creation hung around their necks like a comedy albatross, and it does need to be remembered that in addition to the surreal clerics they have given us the mighty fine Big Train, and that Graham Linehan co-created Black Books whilst Matthews has written for Brass Eye. Linehan's most recent comedy, The IT Crowd, had an ok opening season benefiting from a Chris Morris cameo and the wonderful Richard Ayoade as the computer geek to end all geeks. A US remake awaits with Ayoade reprising his role and so the second series comes to us with no little expectation.
Series Two rejoins Roy and Moss and their manager Jen in the bowels of Denholm enterprises as the dysfunctional IT department. In The Work Outing, Moss and Roy get invited along with Jen on what she hoped was a hot date. They point out that her intended beau reads women's mags and has "friends in the theatre", but she refuses to be put off even when the musical they are invited to is called "Gay: a gay musical". Once they are at the theatre, Roy gets stuck in a disabled toilet, Moss gets mistaken for a member of staff and Jen forces her man to wake up to himself. Without doubt, this is the funniest The IT crowd episode from both series and Chris O'Dowd is hysterical when he plays as disabled in the sequence on the chair lift. Episode two allows for a changing of the guard with megalomaniac Denholm committing suicide over a pensions fraud and his long lost son the horny Douglas, played by Matt "Whiskey" Berry, replacing him as CEO. Denholm's funeral gives us a great gag with a souped up mobile phone but the episode is less successful than the first one of the series. Moss and the German improves the quality with a daring storyline based on the internet cannibal sensation from last year. Moss decides that life with Roy has got too narrow - "You're my wife, Roy" - and takes up German cookery to make friends. Meanwhile Jen finds herself excluded in the soviet hell that is the new smoking exclusions and Roy struggles to watch the latest Quentin Tarantino before anyone tells him the twist. Misunderstandings unravel and a great pastiche of those anti-piracy messages is the highlight of the show - "You wouldn't shoot a policeman, then steal his helmet, take a shit in it and send it to his widow".
The remainder of the season is a disappointment with laughs becoming mechanical and formulaic, and the wonderful surrealism lacking inspiration or originality. Episode 4 is The Dinner Party, when Jen, lacking any guests for a meal with a new boyfriend, makes the mistake of inviting her socially useless colleagues. The result is Roy wondering if he can pick up a disfigured model and what she'll be like when the bandages come off, Moss fighting off a drunken nympho and Richmond making noisy love with a jabbermouth. As for Jen, her prospective lover becomes ruined by the fact of his name - (Airport announcement)"Is there a Peter File present, can anyone see a Peter File". Smoke and Mirrors is an opportunity for Moss to invent the perfect bra only to discover it explodes, and Roy and Jen train him for TV appearances on the Dragon's Den. A couple of rather obvious montages and Ayoade being goofy are really the only strengths of this story, undoubtedly the weakest of the season. The conclusion of the searies has Douglas finally trying to seduce Jen by offering her a pay rise and eventually using Rohypnol on her. It gives Matt Berry his best episode of the series but the whole thing is rather thin overall, especially the final scene - "Pucker up...it's hammer time".
Series two is really funny at times yet very weak at others. The first episode is as good a sitcom half hour as you'll see all year and rivals the best of Linehan's work but then the series tails off into formula and a lack of imagination. Ayoade remains magnificent and he proves that Channel Four should have more faith in his talent than the awful Man to Man with Dean Lerner debacle of obscure scheduling and poor production. IT Crowd 2.0 is as good as anything else on the goggle box at the moment.
Series two comes on a jokily designed dual layer disc with animation of the leading characters in the style of the show's title sequence. The show itself is available through "play all" and individual episode options with the sub menus using the same rudimentary computer animation style. The transfer is presented at about 1.78:1 throughout but for the last two episodes there are black bars visible at the side of the screen narrowing the image to about 1.74:1(see below). The transfer is sharp and the colours and contrast are well handled but there is some saw-toothing at times and overdone edges.
The special features include a commentary with Linehan proving that funny men are not always interesting men, and he is not helped out by being on his own here with his own sense of drudgery only too obvious. For the first episode this works ok and Linehan talks about the events in his own life which inspired the storyline, but later on his frankness isn't always helpful - he admits how poor episode 5 is and how series always try to hide the weak episode at number five, and he commiserates with the poor part that Matt Berry was given. The impression his commentary gives is one of a morose over analytical man and 150 minutes of this is rather hard to take.
In addition, there is an outtakes reel with Ayoade corpsing all around him, even leading to the point that O'Dowd is replaced by a cushion for some shots. This is followed by a short piece where series producer Ash Attala narrates footage of the recording of the show. Attala describes the experience for the studio audience being like "going to see a play with cameras in the way". The final "witty" extra is subtitles which cover the whole screen with code and gibberish while episodes play underneath.
Nowadays, TV sitcoms are rarely re-commissioned after series one and if the best that we can expect is My Family then even the inconsistent quality of the IT Crowd is deeply preferable. If you haven't seen episode one then you do need to catch it, but the whole series will only prove a good purchase for people who have already got the joke.