Tuesday, September 18, 2007

review: "the IT crowd" series 1

[l to r: ms. manages to sells a period joke, mr. the guy from "darkplace" who has my dog's haircut, and mr. why do i find you attractive even after seeing this taint shot.]

the other night, for reasons i can't possibly fathom, i tivo'd a preview screening of a show called "the big bang theory." i guess i was blinded by my decades-long love for (darlene's ex) johnny galecki, because the show, which is about two geniuses who live next door to a hot girl (really, that's the whole premise) is done by the guy who created "two and a half men," so really, "the big bang theory" is just "two and a half nerds." i watched two and half minutes before wondering if i'd accidentally lobotomized myself with a crochet hook when i decided this piece of shit was even tivo worthy.

for years, multi-camera comedies (like "bang") were the norm-- eg, johnny's old gig, roseanne, with its laugh track/studio audience, cheeseball sets, goofy establishing shots (so that's what the house's exterior looks like at twilight!). all my favorite shows as a kid were multi-camera sitcoms, and in my memory, they were all great, but the tastes of anyone 8 and under are dubious at best; most kids get to like anything their parents let them have. for years, i would order some nut-based ice cream because my mom suggested it, and it took me til i was 7 to realize that i fucking hate nuts. if they're not in butter or amaretto-flavor form, they can go straight to hell. but all i thought before that was, yay, ice cream!

still, "the golden girls," "cheers," "seinfield"...all classics, all multi-camera. these days, however, it seems that if a show has that format, it's a red flag that i will enjoy it as much as i do nuts. my beloved amy sherman-palladino, she of gilmore girls (and roseanne, now that you mention it), has a new show coming out this season called "the return of jezebel james," but there's no reason you'd know that because fox isn't promoting it at all and has probably already planned to cancel it in the middle of the first episode and cut to something american idol-related.

(side note: fox is notorious for canceling shows, many of them great [undeclared, wonderfalls, firefly!] either before the show's credit has even had a chance to appear on the actors' imdb pages, or after the show has gathered just enough of a dedicated audience so that, when they drop the axe, it pleases the fox dark lord that much more.)

anyway, "jezebel" is multi-camera, and despite having queen amy at the helm, i have to say, the preview didn't seem so great. it fell into that trap of stupid, easy jokes that shows with a live audience can't seem to avoid (i'm supposed to laugh at a dog sneezing? no wonder i loved this shit when i was 5). i thought if anyone could break the curse, it would be amy, and maybe the second episode's the charm (if fox lets them get that far), but in the meantime, there is still hope. you just need bit torrent in order to find it.

as tempting as it is to launch into a treatise on the superior quality of contemporary british comedy (and chocolate, and shoes, and cheesy pop music, and rail system...but yes yes, the teeth and the food, i know), i'll just say that there's a lot more to check out than just "the office" and ali g. while those shows make you simultaneously laugh and squirm (or, if you're me, put a cushion over your head while going LA LA LA LA LA), i (not surprisingly) prefer the sillier, more surreal fare.

on the early-90s news parody "the day today," the anchor/creator(/genius), chris morris, would randomly say things like, "those were the headlines. god, i wish they weren't," and "fact me 'til i fart!" (check imdb, i swear). then he'd cut to a story about the rampant problem of bullying among priests. then back to an environmental report from a she-reporter who's essentially half-goat. AND WHY NOT.

[oh, that's a picture of alan's desk of sport from "the day today," which i think is actually funny with absolutely no context.]

speaking of priests, "father ted" was silly and sweet enough to make all the church-mocking forgivable, and it was even an irish show. (plus it was made in the mid-90s!
if they tried a show like that on american tv right now, the city of boston would take up arms! [ahms, actually]). it's multi-camera, lots of sight gags and physical comedy, tidy endings and lessons conclude every episode, but also, there's a priest named father jack whose vocabulary is limited to yelling the words "feck," "drink," "arse," and "girls." but you can't take offense and get on a hotline to the pope, because jack's also got some sort of old priests' disease, which means he's growing hair all over his face and hands like a werewolf. OF COURSE.

graham linehan, who wrote "father ted," is the mind behind "the IT crowd," now in its second season on britain's channel 4. between pal and region 2 bullshit, getting your hands on a copy can be a pain in the ass, but viva the internet. i watched all of season 1 in a single sitting (not that hard-- i'm lazy, and, for the most part, a series in england is all of six episodes), and it was 3 hours of multi-camera gold. and more importantly, as a show about two semi-socially retarded IT guys and their lady-, computer ig'nant manager, it does right by nerds, making it the anti-big bang bullshit. plus there was a fake elton john, several references to the band cradle of filth, and a man who unknowingly has feces on his forehead. DUH.

[to the left: our heroes and the show's catchphrase, rendered in craft.]

and even when jokes were introduced that seemed like the worst of sitcom hackery-- pms makes you a bitch! one lie leads to another! girls like shoes!-- a joke about goth-discrimination or, and i can't say this enough, a man who unknowingly has feces on his forehead, made it all ok. plus the actors are just great; aside from my crush on chris o'dowd (tall, spazzy, and bad hair, call me), and the pitch perfect aspbergersy performance by richard ayoade (who was also on armando iannucci's "time trumpet", which i like but not as much as "the thick of it," and nothing compares to "i'm alan partridge"...ok, i'm done), AND the fact "the day today"'s morris plays the big boss, i was kind of mindblown by katherine parkinson in that i realized, hey, she's not just the token pretty girl manager, she's really fucking talented and funny. even their token female characters are better in england! fuck the bad dentistry, sign me up.

the show's already been picked up for an american adaptation (by the people that redid "the office" and "ugly betty," and the guy who currently programs all of nbc), but unless it's done by the exact harvard twats that do "the office," my hopes are low, ie, back to "big bang" territory we go. personally, i don't think the show's any sillier than "how i met your mother" (just a bit more weird and clever), but for some reason, silly always gets lost in the translation. which is so weird, because what's more universal than silly? are poop jokes, no matter how bizarre, not the international language? is mankind not united in a shared love of farts?

some britcoms (ugh, but i'm lazy) are available on region 1 dvds (i just rewatched "father ted" via netflix), and the rest are either torrent-able or here (this is the kind of site i can lose hours to, but instead of seeing them as hours i could have been getting work done or wooing the opposite sex, i will instead curse myself when working and/or wooing the opposite sex for not being on that site). because if "the big bang theory" and even "jezebel james" are any indication, this fall tv season might be hurting for comedies. but of those crappy comedies, at least the american ones, i'm sure they won't be hurting for cameras.

crib sheet of shows to torrent/buy a regionless dvd player for:

-the day today
-brass eye
-knowing me knowing you with alan partridge
-i'm alan partridge
-time trumpet
-the thick of it
-rock profiles / little britain (maybe just s1)
-garth marenghi's darkplace
-look around you
-father ted
-the IT crowd
-gilmore girls season 4 (just sayin!)

[to the right: the aforementioned "this."]

update: seen all of "the IT crowd" series 2 that's aired so far, and if you thought they'll couldn't trump man who unknowingly has feces on his head, might i introduce you to "gay: a gay musical." youtube beckons.

update II: "jezebel james" is indeed pushed back to mid-season. better to postpone the disappointment til i'm numbed by this fall's crop o'crap, anyway.

update to update II: oof.


Tobias said...

"Darkplace" is a thing of beauty.

When he does a flip away from the exploding ambulance, I almost want to cheer.

sb said...

you really need to see the mulligan & o'hare clip. their take on phil collins will touch your heart.

Tobias said...


Cheese on chains.