The IT Crowd
The IT Crowd is a sitcom written by Graham Linehan and produced by Ash Atalla for Channel 4. Currently, only one series of six episodes has been produced, but a second series of eight episodes has been commissioned by Channel 4 and is scheduled to be recorded in Spring 2007, airing just after the summer. The show was recorded in front of a live audience at Teddington Studios. The first two episodes were broadcast by Channel 4 on Friday 3 February 2006. The show's name is a parody of the concept of it boys and it girls combined with "IT" for Information Technology.
In a first for Channel 4, each episode was available for download via the station's web site for the seven days preceding its initial TV broadcast. Downloads are only available for UK viewers and are supplied in Windows Media Video format. Each download was encoded with DRM restrictions, however there was no DRM on the first two episodes. It was nominated for best sitcom for the 2006 Rose d'Or. The program attracted the interest of the software development community worldwide, resulting in almost immediate cracking of the DRM protecting the episodes and widespread availability of them as torrents in mpeg, avi, and wmv formats. The final episode of season 1 was available on-line virtually in real time.
The show was also broadcast on ABC television in Australia from September to November 1, 2006.
The IT Crowd is set in the offices of Reynholm Industries, a fictitious British corporation in central London. It focuses on the shenanigans of the three-strong IT support team located in a dingy, untidy and unkempt basement - a stark contrast to the shining modern architecture and stunning London views enjoyed by the rest of the organisation.
Moss and Roy, the two technicians, are portrayed as socially inept geeks. Despite the company's utter dependence on their services, they are despised by the rest of the staff. Roy's exasperation is reflected in his support techniques of ignoring the phone in the hope it will stop ringing, and using reel-to-reel tape recordings of stock IT suggestions ("Have you tried turning it off and on again?", "Are you sure it's plugged in?"). Moss's wide and intricate knowledge of all things technical is reflected in his extremely accurate yet utterly indecipherable suggestions, while demonstrating a complete inability to deal with practical problems like extinguishing fires and removing spiders.
Jen, the newest member of the team, is hopelessly non-technical, despite claiming on her CV that she has "a lot of experience with computers". As Denholm, the company boss, is equally tech-illiterate, he's convinced by Jen's interview bluffing and appoints her head of the I.T. department. Her official title is "relationship manager", yet her attempts at bridging the gulf between the technicians and the business generally have the opposite effect, landing Jen in situations just as ludicrous as those of her team-mates.
* Roy - Chris O'Dowd: Roy is a laid back, lazy IT engineer who goes to great lengths to avoid performing his role within the organisation. He constantly eats junk food and has a low regard for his career in technology, despite signs that he is more than capable. He is a big fan of comics and often reads them when he is supposed to be working. He also wears a new geek related t-shirt every episode. Before IT, he held a job as a waiter.
* Maurice or "Moss" - Richard Ayoade: Maurice Moss (Age 32, although his online dating profile seems to assert it is 22) is a typical computer nerd, and displays characteristics typical of nerd behavior. The humour in his character is derived from his comments and his intricate and detailed knowledge. He lives with his mother, and does online dating. Both he and Roy feel they never get the credit they deserve in the company.
* Jen - Katherine Parkinson: Jen is a woman who enters the department in episode one as a new starter, placed there seemingly at random by boss Denholm, despite her lack of technical or technology management experience. Her role is that of a relationship manager. She has admitted to a propensity for telling lies in order to further her own goals, as evidenced by her current occupation as a member of the IT support team.
* Denholm Reynholm - Chris Morris: Denholm is a director of Reynholm Industries, and is a parody of modern earnest upper management, always ready with new and often ridiculous initiatives, such as mixed-gender lavatories in the office, stress-busting seminars, and other equally ludicrous ideas, all intended to boost performance in a company he openly boasts as employing attractive people who do very little work and all engage in adulterous relationships. Denholm is also very easily distracted, and often pays little attention to the people he happens to be having discussions with.
* Richmond Avenal - Noel Fielding: A goth whose new-found love for Cradle of Filth instigates his downfall from being Denholm's second-in-command. He works in the server room behind "the Red Door" all on his own, shunned by the rest of the department, who find his affected sense of gloom infectious, even though he personally describes himself as "cheerful".
* Daniel Carey - Oliver Chris: Daniel is the security guard that Jen falls for, but unfortunately her plans for romance go pear-shaped after she fails to help him as a "phone a friend" on Who Wants to be a Millionaire?
* Rebecca - Hannah Bourne: Rebecca goes on a date with Roy after he puts in a classified ad online which made him sound like a psycho.
* Paul - Danny Wallace: Fired by Denholm from his position as cultural adviser for his choice of gift to the Japanese, but regains his position after a quick hand on the "Profanity Buzzer"
* Bill Crouse - Adam Buxton: Goes on a date with Jen and after being told by Moss that she'd subsequently died, told the entire office that he was the last person to sleep with her. Nicknamed, "The News," because of his propensity to announce those who he has slept with.
* Small Paul - David Garfield: The tiny, elderly post-room worker who dies of exertion after pushing Jen around on his cart.
* Dr. Julian Holmes - Toby Longworth: A stress expert who visits the company to give a presentation, and ends up very stressed himself due to Roy and Moss's behaviour.
* Dr. Mendall - Frances Barber: The company psychiatrist who has a crush on Moss, and the feeling is mutual. Roy claims that she looks exactly like his mother.
* Judy - Cheryl Fergison: A horribly ugly woman that Roy gets entangled with while trying to meet a woman named Julie. Roy claims she has hair on her eyes and three rows of teeth.
The technically challenged boss, Denholm Reynholm, is fooled by Jen's techno-bluffing, and appoints Jen as the manager of the IT support office, where she demonstrates her complete lack of knowledge in technical matters. Roy and Moss want to get rid of her, as neither likes having to report to a higher ranking employee, and also feel that she is undeserving of her position. They try to undermine her authority while Jen struggles to maintain her leadership role. Moss and Roy attempt to bring up her lack of experience with Denholm but discover Denholm's pathological devotion to teamwork and decide to work together after all. Jen's ability to get on with people proves to be an asset to the IT department, both defusing situations and attracting attractive people to hang out in the basement. Jen gets the idea to have a party and everything goes well until Moss tells an embarrassing story about hiring prostitutes in Amsterdam, further alienating them from the rest of the building.
The three protagonists are summoned to a company wide meeting with Denholm, "I bet he declares war on something" Moss adds forebodingly. Denholm inevitably "declares war" on stress. Moss and Roy attend a seminar on stress while Jen buys a pair of shoes she falls in love with, but which are two sizes too small, causing plenty of stress in the basement. A fire breaks out after a soldering iron is used, causing many problems. This episode also contains the infamous 0118 999 88199 9119 725 3 advertisement, which states that the 20-digit number is to replace the UK emergency phone number 999, the service itself having been upgraded with 'better looking drivers'.
Roy has a horrible date with a woman who thinks he is "some sort of disgusting tramp" because he spends an hour with chocolate on his forehead looking like poo. The story of his disastrous appearance makes the rounds of the office building (and beyond) and the notion of what attracts women to men becomes the main theme of the episode. Jen impresses the temp security guard Daniel by correctly guessing some of his musical history questions. However, things go horribly wrong when Daniel uses Jen as his "phone a friend" when he is a contestant on the television game show Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?. Jen guesses incorrectly, costing him £31,000. To make it up to him she buys him dinner at "Messy Joes" (pronounced by Moss: "Mesigoes," leading her to believe it is an elegant continental restaurant, but instead is a rowdy family casual dining establishment). Roy is convinced that all women are drawn only to bad guys, and never to gentlemen. Roy and Moss therefore invent a dangerous persona in an attempt to solicit people on an online dating site and to win a bet with Jen. Roy gets a response and is taken with the girl's photograph so much he wants to go through with date. He takes the date to the same restaurant recommended by Moss to Jen. It goes poorly and Roy winds up with chocolate on his forehead again and his date leaving with Jen's increasingly agitated security guard. This episode stars Graham Linehan as a Mexican singer and Chris Tarrant as himself.
While Roy becomes stuck under a desk with Moss attempting to rescue him, Jen investigates the strange red door in the basement, leading to her discovery of Richmond, a lonely goth. Jen discovers Richmond's fall from grace through a series of flashbacks and tries to help him, while Roy tries not to become a "desk rabbit" (a term Moss created for the situation, and is one that has never been used before).
Moss tells an extraordinary lie to help Jen escape the attention of Bill Crouse - he tells him that she is dead. Everyone at the office gathers for a memorial for Jen, where Denholm invites his friend Elton John (or is it?), and Bill starts telling everyone that he was the last person to sleep with Jen. Meanwhile, Roy is trying to escape the attention of a woman of his own. While trying to get acquainted with Julie on the fifth floor, he mistakes her for Judy, the horrible looking office cleaner, who becomes very smitten with Roy.
Jen's menstrual cycle, nicknamed Aunt Irma, has unexpected consequences for the office, with her colleagues all directly suffering from the associated effects. Roy, Moss, and even Richmond says he's gloomy, rather than cheerful as he would normally describe himself. Furthermore, Moss has sent an email to all he knows in the IT community, inciting "Aunt Irma" riots and disturbances throughout the world. For instance in Tokyo (a dog was frightened) and Hamburg (a bus was shouted at). The website "Ladyproblems.com" is devoted to them, bearing an image of their faces superimposed on old ladies. The only cure is to have a big girly night out with scented candles, and watching the movie Steel Magnolias. However they then all go to the company's "Thank-You" party, get incredibly drunk and wake up screaming in bed with various people.
The domain ladyproblems.com was registered by series producers Freemantle on 24 August 2005, but is currently not in use.
The show features a large number of references to geek culture, mostly in set dressing and props. Dialogue (both technical and cultural) is usually authentic and any technobabble used often contains in-jokes for geek viewers. Some of the more obvious references include:
* Posters depicting the atheist pseudo-deity the Flying Spaghetti Monster; retro computer games such as Elite and Underwurlde; 8-bit computers such as Atari 8-bit family and the Commodore 64; Matthew Gast's 802.11 Protocol Map; the Stephen King short story The Monkey; and Jim Woodring's Frank comics.
* Retro computer hardware litters the set - including a Commodore PET; a ZX81; a BBC Micro; a Mac Plus; a NES games console; and large quantities of Atari 2600 cartridges.
* Toys shown in the background include Dave Cooper's 'Eddie Table' and 'Pip', and Chris Ware's Jimmy Corrigan.
* Comics read by Roy include several Daniel Clowes' comics such as 'Eightball #23'.
* Film and TV references include The Haunting of Hill House, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Carrie and The Sopranos.
* During the episode Calamity Jen a scene from the Computer Game F.E.A.R can be seen on Moss' monitor.
* A menagerie of O'Reilly Media animals feature - including the Perl camel and a moth mug.
* Roy's t-shirts include "RTFM", an alien from Space Invaders, the Flash's lightning bolt, the 256th level of Pac-Man, Guided by Voices, and the number 42.
* Other Douglas Adams references include boxes for Starship Titanic and The Lost Treasures of Infocom.
* Websites seen on Roy's monitor include Slashdot and Boing Boing.
* Stickers decorating the office include 'MP3 is not a Crime'; 'Fair Use has a posse'; the Electronic Frontier Foundation; and an O rly? Owl.
* Warning/information signs are used decoratively - 'Emergency Exit' on Moss's desk; a WIFI hotspot; 'Beware of the bull'.
* A copy of My New Filing Technique Is Unstoppable by David Rees is seen on one of the shelves in the office.
* The title sequence animation depicts a Linux kernel panicking during a Fedora Core 4 installation. This is frequently mistaken for a Windows blue screen of death.
* The show's theme song is deliberately reminiscent of Gary Numan's work, specifically his 1979 song "Are 'Friends' Electric?"
* The slideshow at the end of "Yesterday's Jam" is a stock iPhoto slideshow, including the default music.
* The spoof TV commercial announcing the emergency phone number has changed from '999' to '0118 999 881 999 119 7253' is a reference to the 2003 change of Directory enquiries from simply '192' to various six digit numbers beginning '118'.
* Denholm Reynholm has The A-Team photo on his desk.
The first series was released in the UK as "The IT Crowd - Version 1.0" on November 13, 2006 by 2 Entertain Video Ltd. The DVD start-up sequence and subsequent menus are designed to resemble a ZX Spectrum game, even to the extent that the loading sequence features the famous striped border. Games similar to Manic Miner and Head Over Heels play while menu choices are made; characters are replaced with representations of the characters in the TV show.
Also included on the DVD are subtitles in leet. The leet subtitles, for the first episode, are not a direct translation of the show and include many references to geek culture that were not included in the original episode. The second episode has the subtitles ROT13 encoded, episode three has all the words in the subtitles sorted in alphabetical order, episode four has the text base64 encoded and the last two episodes are direct leet translations.
It is possible to run the decrypted VOB files for episode four from the DVD through a subtitle OCR program such as SubRip which will give you a text file containing the base64 data. After removing the extra line feeds and time indexes, the resulting file can be processed by a base64 decoder and it will give you the 15.3KB plain text of the subtitles (using Unix linefeeds, oddly enough). Such a method could also have been used to attach an image or any other binary file - a truly "geeky" easter egg for those who would put forth the effort to decode the data. The base64 encoding does contain one error: line 423 and 424 are duplicates and one must be removed for proper decoding (the text is "LAoKCgp0aGUgcGVvcGxlIHRoYXQgdHVybmVkIH").
The first series DVD was also released in Australia on December 6, 2006.
NBC filmed the studio audience portion of a pilot for an American version of The IT Crowd on February 16, 2007. The show will be remade with an American cast, akin to The Office, although Richard Ayoade reprises his role as Moss. Jessica St. Clair plays Jen, the female lead. Riley Smith was initially reported to play the part of Roy, the male co-lead, but Joel McHale was instead chosen to play this part.