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Under the Radar: 'The IT Crowd' on Netflix

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Jan 05, 2011 | 6:08am EST

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The IT CrowdEvery once in a while, Netflix adds a goodly amount of content to their Watch Instantly lineup. With slightly less frequency, they will add scores of new content. And once a year they will open the streaming content floodgates and a tidal wave of new instant viewing options comes crashing into your eyeballs. January 1 marked just such an occasion as over 450 new titles were added. If you’re anything like me, you will spend the next several months tearing into the new releases and spending far more time watching movies than should be legally permissible. But try not to get too distracted by your marathon sessions of Shaft’s Big Score and Robocop 3 that you fail to discover The IT Crowd.

If you’ve ever worked in a big office, or are currently working in a big office, then you are familiar with the delicate dance that commences whenever you are forced to call upon the IT department. It’s one of the few times in life that the nerds have the upper hand and they intend to make the most of it. I’m generalizing of course, but one constant that does seem to exist is the infuriating initial question: “have you tried turning it off and on again?” British television series The IT Crowd is a comedy that takes you deeper into the dungeon-like lair of those in the technical support department than anyone would care to be.

Unlike most British comedies, The IT Crowd does not rely on dry humor. The comedy comes from cartoonish characters that exist as hilarious exaggerations of people you may very well recognize from your daily life. But the brilliance of The IT Crowd over something like, say, The Office is that they are given an environment to be as ridiculous and uber nerdy as possible with little regard as to how true to life it seems. The fact that their IT department is sequestered from the rest of the employees in the building gives the show an opportunity to explore and satirize the more outlandishly absurd aspects of the corporate world.

The show focuses on Jen (Katherine Parkinson), a hapless but well-intentioned young woman who manages to bluff her way into a management position at Reynholm Industries only to discover she’s been assigned to the unpopular and completely neglected IT department residing in the basement. Her new underlings, Roy (Chris O’Dowd) and Moss (Richard Ayoade) are the most unrepentant geeks one could ever hope to meet. Moss sports a half-ro, high-rise pants, and coke bottle glasses while Roy’s carousel of nerd culture tee-shirts is awe-inspiring. The two of them engage in activities that both demonstrate their oddly compatible friendship and illustrate the cause of their social alienation.

The IT CrowdThe first series (not season, it is British after all) has them mostly dealing with interoffice fiascos—dating, stress, Jen’s special lady time—but the subsequent seasons see our heroes branching further and further away from the office. This allows them to wreak as much havoc on the citizenry of London as they do on their own coworkers. The show really hits its stride in the second series when Douglas (Matt Berry), the son of Reynholm Industries’ president, shows up. Berry is absolutely unhinged and even the preposterous trio from the IT department can’t make heads or tails of his antics.

The writing is sharp and wickedly clever and the characters are all instantly likeable for one reason or another. While some of the in-jokes are perplexing at first, drawing from British pop culture, the broader gags are sidesplitting. There are movie, music, and techno references taken to the nth degree in a glorious testament to the geekiness of the show’s writers. What really impresses me is the incredible and masterful slapstick employed with precision and impact. It’s not often seen in sitcoms and it blends well into the comedic stew that is The IT Crowd.

Series 1, 3, and recently 4 are available on Netflix Watch Instantly and Series 2 is available through their mail service. As you will certainly be hooked by the end of Series 1, waiting for the second through the mail will be well worth it.

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