MPI // 2006 // 144 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Kent Dixon (Retired) // March 31st, 2009
Have you tried turning if off and on again? Are you sure it's plugged in?
Graham Linehan, the creative comedic genius behind Father Ted, brings his writing and directing talents to bear on the world of nerds and information technology in corporate Britain. Is The IT Crowd worth your time, or is it just another failed sitcom experiment that needs to go away?
Welcome to the IT department of Reynholm Industries. Unlike the glitzy modern architecture and appeal of the rest of the building, the IT team -- Jen Barber (Katherine Parkinson), Roy (Chris O'Dowd), and Maurice Moss (Richard Ayoade) -- find themselves in the dank, dingy basement at the whim of their above-ground colleagues. Place a call to The IT Crowd, where secret rooms, stress machines, games shows, and fancy red shoes await you!
I liken British comedy to bagpipe music. It seems most people either love it or hate it, with no middle ground. British comedy is best known for its sarcasm, over-the-top antics, parodies of stereotypes and foreigners, and the ability to poke fun at daily life, along the lines of Seinfeld. Raised on Monty Python, thanks to some insane older brothers, I was quoting dialogue by the time I was in junior high and watching British comedy every chance I could get. I've missed a few shows over the years, but Fawlty Towers, the U.K. version of The Office, and Father Ted are on my list of favorites. The IT Crowd is no exception.
It was Father Ted (1995-98), co-written by Arthur Mathews, that helped the pair gain significant public attention. After the series ended, Linehan wrote for several other shows before launching The IT Crowd in 2006. The show represented a bit of a departure from more mainstream British comedy, returning to a more traditional sitcom format including filming before a live studio audience. The decision to take the new approach paid off, as The IT Crowd won the 2008 International Emmy for Best Comedy.
For some reason, British TV productions are grouped into "series" rather than "seasons," which may throw North American audiences a bit. To us, the term series identifies the complete run of a show from premiere to finale, and may include several seasons, usually broken down into 22 or more episodes each. On British television, each series consists of a fairly small number of episodes. For example, the British series Jekyll was limited to one series (season) that lasted for only six episodes. The logic seems to be rather than producing 20+ episodes a year, averaging just a handful of notable episodes, British productions possess fewer episodes with higher overall entertainment value. Such is the case with The IT Crowd: The Complete First Season, which includes just six episodes on a single DVD:
* "Yesterday's Jam" -- Banished to the basement to manage the IT department of Reynholm Industries, Jen Barber finds herself working with the boorish and lazy Roy and the uber-nerdy Maurice Moss. At first, Roy and Moss resent being assigned a manager but ultimately see her personal skills as a potential asset.
* "Calamity Jen" -- Obsessed with a new pair of shoes, Jen goes to great lengths and ultimately personal injury, in the name of fashion. Declaring war on stress, Reynholm Industries' director Denholm Reynholm (yes, I'm serious) brings in a stress expert whose testing machine creates a new challenge for Roy and Moss.
* "Fifty-Fifty" -- Bad dates cause a series of mishaps for both Roy and Jen, as they place bets on whether or not women are really just interested in "bad boys."
* "The Red Door" -- While Roy and Moss are out responding to employee calls, Jen examines what's behind a mysterious red door, only to discover a reclusive and mysterious member of the IT team.
* "The Haunting of Bill Crouse" -- After a date goes horribly wrong, Jen's reputation tanks and she ends up attending her own memorial service.
* "Aunt Irma Visits" -- Roy and Moss discover Jen's dark side and some surprising symptoms of their own, as she hits "that time" of the month and her mood begins to affect the rest of the team.
The widescreen video presentation is sharp and clean, but there's no hiding the fact this was a TV production. There are times when the image seems somewhat soft and others when it appears artificially sharpened, but there's nothing distracting and the picture quality is above average. Given the nature of the production as a dialogue-based show, the majority of the audio is anchored in the front speakers with minimal use of surround, aside from the opening and closing music, and audience reaction.
I rarely comment on menu design or functionality, when I write a review, but I'd be omitting a fun treat here. With geeks and video game fans clearly in mind, the menu design and navigation are reminiscent of an Atari 2600 or Intellivision video game with all the blocky, primary-colored goodness you'd fondly remember, if you grew up as a child of the late '70s and early '80s. The core cast is represented in video game form and fans of the show will also notice some nods to highlights from the First Season.
When you consider the immense comedic and creative talent behind the show, the extra features included on this release are somewhat shameful. One cute feature is a subtitle track composed entirely of "L33T" characters, an online alphabet using various combinations of ASCII characters to replace traditional letters. Also included is "Hello Friend," a short comedy horror film written and directed by Linehan, which tells the story of an unsuspecting Internet user whose life is taken over by a sinister software company. A short selection of deleted scenes round out the set with some chuckles, but nothing too tragically cut from the episodes. The lack of episode commentaries are a missed opportunity. Discussion with any of the cast or production team would have been a welcome addition; and a character-based track with comments from Jen, Roy and Moss would have been an absolute treat.
The real tragedy of The IT Crowd: The Complete First Season is there are only six episodes. You may find, like I did, that you were just getting into the show when you'd already come to the end and wished there was more. Thankfully, the show is now in its third season, so there's hopefully more Jen, Roy, and Moss coming to DVD in the future.
If you're a fan of British comedy, you'll likely find a lot to love about The IT Crowd: The Complete First Season. The show is filled with quirky and loveable characters, some excellent comedic writing and timing, and a lot of entertainment packed into just six episodes. If you're familiar with and a fan of Graham Linehan's work on Father Ted, then it's pretty much a no-brainer you'll enjoy The IT Crowd. If you find yourself likening British comedy to a root canal, you'd be wiser spending your time elsewhere.
MPI should be fined for failing to deliver on the extras, but if your hard drive's gone soft or your motherboard has you screaming "mother!," you can trust Jen, Roy, and Moss to boot you up right.
Review content copyright © 2009 Kent Dixon; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
* Unknown (L33T)
Running Time: 144 Minutes
Release Year: 2006
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Deleted Scenes
* Short Film