What is it about British sitcoms that rarely translate to their bastard offspring here in America? The Office being the lone exception thanks to Ricky Gervais's creative input and a stellar American cast including Rainn Wilson and Steve Carell. Shows such as Monty Python, The Young Ones, Blackadder, Absolutely Fabulous, Father Ted, Extras, and now The IT Crowd just can't be replicated in America. Oh, we own cop shows, as well we should, being a gun-totting, Second Amendment-right-to-keep-and-bear-arms society, but this type of broad-based, cross-collateralized comedy we have a tough time pulling off.
To fully appreciate the writing and acting requires a focused mind or one will certainly miss the rapid-fire double entendres and silly innuendo. Sure, some of this is sophomoric, gross, and even disgusting, like slowing down to inspect an accident, but it is remarkably fresh in an Office kind of way. For which, by the way, we have Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld to thank. This is humor about nothing. Or, more to the point, about the day-to-day lives of everyday people, whether traversing life's everyday obstacles in the fictitious Reynholm Industries, whose company motto is: "If you're not sexy, we don't want you working here." It's rare that this kind of comedy -- bring back Boston Legal immediately -- survives on American TV. Remember, before we had a deluge of cable outfits, it was PBS that imported Monty Python, not one of the big three networks so many years ago.
NBC tried, having produced The IT Crowd as a mid-season replacement with Jessica St. Clair, Joel McHale (The Soup), and Richard Ayoade (imported from the British version) to try to replicate the success of The Office. It was originally schedule to air in 2007 but didn't pass muster. Now it may hit in 2009, but don't expect much. Do yourself a favor and stick with the original on IFC.
We should thank Irish comedy writer/director Graham Linehan, one of the folks behind Brother Ted and Black Books. He's taken pity on socially inept, unappreciated folks from an IT support staff cloistered in a dingy basement office. Whether it's the team's unlikely boss, the pretty but computer-illiterate Jen (Katherine Parkinson), or super nerd IT troubleshooter Moss (Richard Ayoade), these characters remind us of folks we've all worked for, with, or under. All you goth fans should check out Episode 4, when Jen is left alone in the department and she dares to investigate a strange red door she's been told never to open. Or Episode 3, when IT's always bloodied in every episode, luckless-in-love Irish snob Roy (Chris O'Dowd) has a very wonky date, leading him to post an over-the-top singles ad.
The action is brisk, as stated above, some of the comedy frat-boyish AKA laddish, yet the characters are so very likable that one nearly feels sorry for the lot. I suspect that we see much of ourselves in their day-to-day trials and tribulations, much as Jerry, Elaine, George, and Kramer resonated with so many folks that Seinfeld will probably play in syndication forever. Season 3 will air on IFC starting February 2009.
Mr. Wright is the former editor-in-chief of Creem and Prince's New Power Generation magazines as well as a writer of films, fiction, and music. He is also a singer/songwriter who has released 3 solo CDs, recently contributed to Chris Butler's The Devil's Glitch project (the longest song in the world), and a member of the folk-rock quartet GIANTfingers. And before all of this he was an agent at William Morris!