Monday, December 13, 2010

The IT Crowd Series 1 and the Return of the Golden Age of Imported British Television

Spoiler Level:  Low

This is a hilarious British sitcom about about an "Information Technology" department, and it's the best British sitcom I've seen since Coupling.  You've got Roy, the typical computer guy who has a chance in hell of being a cool guy but inevitably shoots himself in the foot; Moss, who's the typical nerd stereotype, and Jen, who really knows nothing about computers at all but has wound up being in charge.  Not to mention the boss of the company, Denholm, who comes across as more than a little bit insane.  The show gives great opportunities to make fun of corporate office life (in a way that I found much more amusing than the original British version of The Office), with a computer bent and some great character humor.  The geek humor is obviously more tech-oriented than SF oriented, but the two have always been closely intertwined. And there's enough little in-jokes, such as Roy wearing a t-shirt of the Pac-Man kill screen and people reading "Love and Rockets" comics, that it hits me just right.

It also makes me feel like I've come into a second Golden Age of British Programming.  For me, the first Golden Age was the late 80's and early 90's, when my local PBS stations, A&E and even MTV were airing Doctor Who, Blake's 7, Red Dwarf, Blackadder and The Young Ones, along with old staples Monty Python's Flying Circus and the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. (Yes, I realize that a bunch of those were made earlier, but they were all new to me.)  America had Next Gen, but everything else cool was coming from England.  (Oh sure, we briefly had Max Headroom too, but that started over there and moved over here, so we can't take full credit for that show either.) Then Doctor Who was canceled, Blackadder finished up, and even Red Dwarf eventually dried up and disappeared, and it felt like we had a real drought.  I would try out the occasional British show that looked interesting but nothing really grabbed me like those old days.  I remember being so excited to get BBC America and then being disappointed that I wasn't really enjoying anything on there.

Then Joy and I discovered a sitcom called Coupling on BBC America (written by some guy I'd never heard of called Steven Moffat), and we absolutely fell in love with it.  Then Doctor Who came back.  Then Doctor Who started making spin-offs, like Torchwood and Sarah Jane Adventures and now K9.  (Okay, K9 is made in Australia, but it takes place in England, has aired in England, and the lead character was created in a British show, so that's close enough.)   Not to mention shows like Primevil and Sherlock, which I haven't even seen yet but all my friends have said they really enjoyed.  And now I've just discovered The IT Crowd.  I haven't had this many new British TV shows in my life since those Golden Days. And having seen Series 1 my entire family is now completely hooked on this show!

I think the obvious link here is Doctor Who.  Doctor Who runs from 1963 to 1989, and we get all kinds of cool stuff out of Britain.  They cancel Doctor Who and things dry up.  They bring back Doctor Who and then we have lots of cool shows again.  Coincidence?  I think not!

1 comment:

greatplaidmoose said...

exactly. I haven't seen this show but your analysis of British TV I think is accurate. I also enjoy Robin Hood (which coincidentally there was Robin of Sherwood back in the 80s as well), Merlin and Being Human. And don't forget we got three more episodes of Red Dwarf!