Saturday, 28 September 2013

Review: Channel 4's THE IT CROWD – 'The Internet is Coming'

Saturday, 28 September 2013

written & directed by Graham Linehan

The fourth series of Graham Linehan's The IT Crowd ended in 2010, and hopes for a fifth series (co-written with amateur and semi-professional writers recruited via Twitter) soon fell by the wayside. Chris O'Dowd then had a breakthrough Hollywood role in Bridesmaids, Richard Ayoade kick-started an acclaimed directorial career thanks to Submarine and The Double, and Katherine Parkinson's stage career took off. It wasn't a surprise that getting the gang back together suddenly became a logistical challenge; but the talented cast of The IT Crowd appreciate the role this sitcom played in launching their careers, so they've come together for an hour-long valedictory wave.

The result is "The Internet is Coming", which perfectly encapsulated the highs and lows of The IT Crowd as a comedy. I've never been completely behind the show, because there always seemed to be something rather chaotic and desperate about it at times. Graham Linehan dreams up some funny scenarios and ideas, but he doesn't always assemble them in the best way. It doesn't help that he directs the episodes, often quite poorly, which only adds to the sense of disorganisation. There were a few moments in this special where a basic grasp of spacial awareness felt missing, which often led to scenes looking like they'd been edited together by an enthusiastic novice.

Like many IT Crowd episodes, a lot of the humour relies on running jokes and sub-plots eventually criss-crossing, so it took awhile for the show to build a head of steam. Consequently, the beginning of this hour felt rather shaky and dull, the middle saw things come together rather pleasingly, and then it became clear why The IT Crowd shouldn't attempt to go beyond a half-hour. I lost interest after 40-minutes, as this style of nutty comedy burns out quickly.

Still, as a series finale it worked nicely as a treat for its fans—although I find it hard to imagine people have been chomping at the bit for more IT Crowd since 2010. Is that true? It could have melted away into history without causing too much heartache in me, but this special was nevertheless a fun way to say goodbye. There were callbacks to its classic jokes (the internet in a box, the "have you tried turning it on and off again?" advice), the return of cult character Richmond the goth (Noel Fielding), and a resolution that saw Roy (O'Dowd), Moss (Ayoade) and Jen (Parkinson) ascend from their basement. It's still very possible the show could come back for future specials, too—but I rather hope it doesn't.

This episode itself was a little messy and not every storyline worked (the "small barista's funeral" was a low), but Graham Linehan tends to use The IT Crowd as a way to poke fun at internet tropes he enjoys. So there was a pastiche of the notorious 'Cat Bin Lady' (Jen recorded throwing coffee over a tramp), viral videos in general, a parody of those insane Taiwanese animations about western news stories, social media miscommunication ('Chitter'), and a masked member of Anonymous even got involved.

I had enough fun with The IT Crowd special to say it wasn't a wasted opportunity, and a part of me wishes a full six-part series could have been filmed (O'Dowd would rather make the considerably duller Family Tree?). I still the show suffers from a lack of discipline (the influence of Linehan's old Father Ted writing partner Arthur Matthews?), and the live studio audience wetting themselves over the tiniest joke became very annoying, but nobody else is making comedy like this right now. It was something joyously daft and knowingly silly, that existed purely to try and make anyone on the geek spectrum giggle in recognition.

Oh, and the scene with Moss gaining Superman-style confidence by changing into women's trousers in a phone box, to prevent an old woman getting mugged, was worth watching this for on its own.

27 September 2013 | Channel 4