There has been much talk about the death of the studio-based sitcom in the UK of late (there have been two programmes on it in recent weeks), after the success of The Office and The Thick Of It, with their documentary styles. So The IT Crowd hits our television sets with a strange mood around it, seeing as it is heralded as a traditional, studio-based sitcom. This feeling is amplified by the fact that it comes from Graham Linehan, the co-creator and co-writer of Father Ted and Black Books.
Set in the IT department of a large company, we are introduced to Roy (Chris O’Dowd) and Moss (Richard Ayoade), the only denizens of the dank basement office that looks after all the computers. Roy is the more socially aware, while Moss it the more traditional geek, with his short-sleeved shirt tucked into his high-belted trousers, bad hair and thick glasses. The company boss, played in full over-the-top mode by comedy god Chris Morris, with more than a little pinch of CJ from The Rise and Fall of Reggie Perrin, appoints them a new manager, Jen (Katherine Parkinson), who knows practically nothing about computers. Hilarity ensues.
Well, not exactly. Even though there are some laughs (‘Have you tried turning it off and on?’) and the characters are fully realised (as you would expect from Linehan), it is not laugh-out-loud funny stuff, which is the crucial factor. The first episode had some moments, but it was mostly set-up. The second show starts off with some inspired surrealism, with an advert for the ridiculously long new emergency phone number, 0118 999 881 999 119 7253, and has some mangled toes for slapstick, but there is not the sustained and immediate brilliance of Linehan’s previous work.
I think that this show has some potential, but it isn’t hilarious and isn’t must-see television, which is a shame. It is better than, say, Hyperdrive, and shows that there is good comedy out there, but I don’t think that it has resurrected the studio sitcom yet.