Did we like it?
It was like watching a trial of an exceptionally promising young footballer who has bags of natural talent but is prone to the odd bout of inconsistency. While offering sporadic flashes of brilliance now, if properly nurtured he could be a star of the future.
What was good about it?
• Usually when a show is hugely derivative of a classic, it’s a bad thing. But in the IT Crowd’s case, we’re willing to mostly make an exception because: a) Writer Graham Linehan actually (co-)wrote Father Ted; and b) Any show that even partially apes Father Ted is worth watching because Father Ted is one of the greatest programmes in TV history, and certainly the funniest.
• The scenario duplicates Father Ted with three social misfits exiled to a cold and lonely wasteland (Craggy Island and the IT department in the dilapidated bowels of Reynholm Industries). And while Jen (Katherine Parkinson) is distinctive, Roy (Chris O’Dowd) is a Ted clone, and Moss (Richard Ayoade) is Dougal reincarnated (minus the charm, however).
• Roy, who acts as the protagonist, is at the same time aware of his pariah status and desperate to be accepted by the “normal” people upstairs, yet unconsciously lets himself down with his behaviour which condemns him to a life of servitude. In the second episode, he couldn’t help himself in wanting to have a go on a tranquil-natured scientist’s machine that illustrated how easy it was to induce stress, and ultimately caused the scientist to lose his temper and attack him.
• The inventive, surreal touches which at least indicated the potential of a great comedy. Such as when Roy exclaimed to Moss that their new boss Jen didn’t know anything about computers, Moss dropped his cup of tea in shock. Roy looked at him in dismay before Moss ambled over to another cup adding: “Oh don’t worry. That’s why I always make two cups of tea.”
• The credits at the end of episode one, which illustrated Roy and Moss’s journey to an Amsterdam fair with a pair of disenchanted prostitutes.
• Denham Reynholm (Chris Morris) exchange of gifts with a visiting Japanese chairman after a business deal had been struck. The Japanese gift was an oriental samurai sword, while Reynholm Industries furnished the visiting dignitary with a pair of Doctor Marten boots. As the chairman stomped about in his new boots, he accidentally trod on Jen’s already mangled feet and her expletive-ridden rebuke (censored by Denham’s minion pressing the profanity button) cost the firm the contract.
What was bad about it?
• The laughter track. Not since I’m Alan Partridge has there been such an unwelcome external intrusion into a comedy. In the first few minutes the “audience” laughed at a phone ringing. Why is this funny? It lingered throughout the double-bill like a tuberculosis-ridden cough, ruining a number of moments that would have been more amusing without its unsolicited approval. And by the second episode matters had declined to the point that when we’d start laughing at a gag, the “audience” would pipe up with its insincere chortling, and thus compel us to stop laughing as we didn’t want to be associated with anything that would bracket us with that rabble.
• The first episodes of any new show, whether a drama or a comedy, should concentrate on bedding the characters down. This was performed adroitly with Jen and Roy, but with Moss there was too much effort to establish him as an uber-nerd. He had ordered both the children’s and adults’ editions of Harry Potter to spot any discrepancies in the text, playing up to the stereotype of the geek, and his accent was too annoying sounding like Lou from Little Britain on helium.
• And while we’re on the subject of accents, what happened to Denham’s? In opening scene where he met new employee Jen it had an American twang, and from then on flitted between both sides of the Atlantic with the frequency of blacked-out planes illegally transporting suspected terrorists.
• Denham repeatedly asking Jen if she was “sure” was too much like Mrs Doyle offering cups of tea.