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The IT Crowd: The Office With a Laugh Track 

Geek Squad humor on IFC's new comedy from Britain

Wednesday, Sep 24 2008
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One of the lunatic joys of the comedy year debuts on IFC on Tuesday. Called The IT Crowd, it’s a deliriously funny workplace sitcom that’s been imported from Britain, and, more specifically, from the fertile, oddball mind of Irish writer-director Graham Linehan. Fans of Linehan’s other series — Father Ted, Black Books and the influential sketch show Big Train — will not only recognize his taste for exquisitely played absurdity but also his openhearted embrace of socially awkward people with fantastically delinquent coping mechanisms. Set in the basement no man’s land of a corporation’s tech-support center — where layabout geekazoids Roy (Chris O’Dowd) and Moss (Richard Ayoade) answer the phone with, “Have you tried turning it off and turning it on again?” — the initial comic tension derives from the addition of a fetching new female boss named Jen (Katherine Parkinson). She may have no knowledge of computers but is perfectly in synch with the general real-world helplessness of her new charges. This is a show of minor disasters, ill-timed comments, ridiculous side adventures, adults acting like children and bizarre twists of fate. If The IT Crowd could be said to have a theme, it’s in the irony of a department born of technological advancement being the nexus of human folly. But make no mistake, this is not one of those shaky-camera, shame-spiral mocktaculars, like The Office or Curb Your Enthusiasm. It’s old-school silly, filmed — defiantly, in these laugh-track-less days — in front of a studio audience, rich with sublimely broad performances, appreciative of the well-timed one-liner and the pratfall, in love with jokes of camera placement and confident in the healing power of a running gag. On The IT Crowd, nobody’s cool, but you’ll love everyone.

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