‘The IT Crowd’: Flipping An Old Model

The IT Crowd

Hey, so, I haven’t posted something here for awhile, so lets talk about The IT Crowd!

The IT Crowd is one of the shows that everybody talks about and says how great it is, yet you’ve never seen and are unsure exactly what it is. I’m sure you have your own personal examples, lord knows I have a ton more, but lets start here. Basically, the extent of my knowledge of British television is The Office and Extras, so pretty much whatever Ricky Gervais was involved in, Spaced, so pretty much Simon Pegg and his friends, and Life On Mars, but that doesn’t really fit into this mold, so anyways… Cumulated from my slightest of mainstream British television I had assume The IT Crowd to be a sort of dramedy like The Office, funny, but rooted in base human issues and the examination of the human spirit, and all that jazz. Boy, was I wrong when I put the first episode in, for good and bad. If you don’t know, The IT Crowd is a multi-cam sitcom, a down and dirty “here are some simplistic jokes and some really easy humour,” think your basic CBS show. Now I gotta pull a 180 here right off the bat, because The IT Crowd is nowhere as loudly crass, sloppily put together, and really just containing a lack of effort that 90% of American multi-cam sitcoms take the shape of. It was a different animal, and something fun tackling over its short run.

Honestly, it took me awhile to get into the groove of The IT Crowd, because I had so intensely believed it to be a drastically different show leading up to even watching it. When I finally did, believe it or not, it was hard to shake my completely different expectations of a more nuanced comedy that was never delivered, but rather a broader series with common beats. This has never happened to me before with a television series, getting the exact opposite show that I had anticipated, but it was fun to work through. A multi-cam sitcom with a laugh track has a very distinct model and framework, you know the types of jokes you’re getting, the ones you laugh at, but feel kinda dirty about it because it’s usually a lower brow sense of humour. The IT Crowd features this at it’s base, but it’s characters and the actors commitment to these characters, their tics and beats really makes it something “real,” and beyond just a repetitive joke machine. Yes, there’s stereotypical nerd and geek humour, and making the same jokes about these people we’ve heard for years, but Chris O’Dowd and Richard Ayoade put in an honesty commitment that keeps everything relatively fresh, their delivery making dumb, old jokes, seems new, and you know, not dumb. Katherine Parkinson is a fun little appendage who at first is set in as the complete opposite of O’Dowd and Ayoade’s characters, but as you get to know here you see just how well she fills out the triangle with her own awkwardness. A repurposing of old and tired cliches and jokes because much more than that because of the caring behind the camera and the dedication of those in front of it.

So, let’s conclude this not too inspired “like” letter to The IT Crowd. I wonder how I’d take the show from the beginning if I had known exactly what it was, probably the same, but I think it was an interesting trial in absorbing media when you had an entirely different picture of it. The IT Crowd could have been another dumb multi-cam sitcom that the Americans like to produce, and in some ways it was, and in some ways it wasn’t, the Brits know good comedy but they also know dumb comedy that the Americans indulge in a little too much. Ultimately the talent made it more than that, not something amazingly groundbreaking, but something I’m looking forward to revisiting, full of Chris O’Dowd perfectly emitting a look of puzzlement on his face. A master class.

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