Saturday, November 01, 2008

I'm in with the IT Crowd


Last night I toddled along to the world-famous Pinewood Studios with good chum John Soanes to watch the recording of the final episode of season three of Channel 4 sitcom The IT Crowd. If it's a series that you've somehow managed to miss before now ... Where were you? What were you doing? It's very good. You're missing out.

As the title suggests, this is a comedy set within the IT department of a huge multi-national company called Reynholm Industries. No one seems to quite know what Reynholm Industries actually does - least of all its boss, the ever-strange Douglas Reynholm (Matt Berry) - but it does it well, apparently. In an early episode of season two, former boss Denholm Reynham (Chris Morris) hears from his board of directors that the company has made 'a profit so far this year of eighteen hundred billion billion' to which Denholm announces, 'When I first started Reynholm Industries I had just two things in my possession: a dream ... and six million pounds. Today I have a business empire the like of which the world has never seen the like of which. I hope it doesn't sound arrogant when I say that I am the greatest man in the world'. He then commits suicide following allegations of 'irregularities in the pension fund', paving the way for prodigal son Douglas to take over.

Meanwhile, down in the deepest bowels of the company skyscraper, in a nearly windowless suite of offices, sits the IT Department. It consists of Moss (Richard Ayoade), a curiously coiffured geek of the first water with many strange idiosyncracies attached to his obvious genius with computers, and Roy (Chris O'Dowd), a laid-back, comic reading, fast food junkie slacker with the work ethic of a sloth. In charge of the department is Jen (Katherine Parkinson) whose accidental promotion to head of IT has caused her some small degree of difficulty as she knows absolutely nothing about computers (even to the extent of pronouncing the word 'computer' incorrectly). There is a fourth member of the team, a strange, pale Gothic creature called Richmond (played gloriously by The Mighty Boosh's Noel Fielding) but he is only occasionally let out of his room as he is too depressing to be around. The show is penned and directed by Graham Linehan, one half of the writing partnership that gave us Father Ted, and with The IT Crowd he's scored another palpable hit.

We were doubly blessed last night as we got to see two of the six new episodes. Without providing any spoilers, the first revolved around Roy's and Moss's attempts to 'be like normal men', and the second around a speech that Jen has to make about computers - a subject she is wholly unequipped to talk about - when she has just alienated the two men who can help make the speech successful. A secondary plot in the second episode involved Douglas and his new love interest (Lucy Montgomery). Both episodes were very, very funny. Linehan has now fallen comfortably into a groove; the characters are established and work well together, the plots are as clever and surreal as ever and the gags are terrific. On the studio floor itself, we saw how much of a perfectionist he is as a director too. Several scenes were filmed three or four times with Linehan constantly suggesting improvements and enhancements. But he was right - every change resulted in something funnier than before, which was great for the energy of the audience. The cast too were great fun to watch. Chris O'Dowd is a natural comic with a very expressive face and a talent for giggling at inopportune moments. Richard Ayoade was extraordinary; he resolutely stays in character as Moss all the time that he's on the set, even during the fluffs and gaffes and corpsing that will undoubtedly become outtakes on the DVD. Four hours of recording absolutely flew by, ably assisted by the very talented and very funny warm-up guy, Tom Binns.


Behind the scenes - it's all smoke and mirrors. And paint.

Because we were there as guests of one of the production crew, we did get to go backstage afterwards and on to the Green Room. After helping to de-rig the set (this was the last episode to be filmed - editing starts first thing on Monday), one of the crew - the very splendid Sean Solle - took some photographs of John and myself on the various sets and with some of the more prominent props. I won't post them yet as they could also act as possible spoilers but I will do at some later date. In the Green Room we got to chat with the cast and crew. I was particularly interested to talk to Graham Linehan himself.
Graham is one of those very amiable media types who is always described as 'a very nice chap' in interviews. From what I saw, it's a deserved reputation. He's genuinely interested in your opinions as a viewer and we spent some time discussing a particular scene that he worried was 'over-the-top' in places. We gave our opinions and he said that he agreed and that he'd canvassed the opinion of several others. As we saw on the set during filming, Graham is a man who takes his job very seriously even though, paradoxically, his job is making us laugh. You could see his shoulders visibly relaxing as the evening wore on and as more of the gags he'd written got the reaction he'd hoped for. And if they didn't, he did an instant re-write. But these instances were few and far-between. Having got a glimpse of the shooting script later, I could see that the show was recorded pretty much word for word.

A very enjoyable evening spent in good company. I look forward to the series and being able to show you a few more of the photographs in time.

Meanwhile, back at Castle Colgan, I'd left Dawn all alone to defend the family fortress from the hordes of suspiciously short vampires, witches, mummies, ghoulies, ghosties and long-leggity beasties that came trick or treating. She did so in excellent fashion with a combination of props, sound effects and weird voices. She got several satisfying screams in return.

Hope you had a great Halloween!

14 comments:

Persephone said...

Now I'd really like to see this series, if they deign to show it in Canada. (I have a soft spot for Noel Fielding -- is that wrong of me?)
What the dickens are you pointing to in the first photo? At first I thought it was the twin towers collapsing in New York, but that can't be right! The Big Smoke, perhaps?

Stevyn Colgan said...

Persephone - The photo was taken outside the infamous unisex toilets on a corridor set. As with most of the 'Reynholm Industries' sets, there are posters, mugs and screensavers all curiously uninformative about what the company actually does. This poster was no different as whatever was happening in the pic was obscured by smoke. Sadly (for you) I understand that Noel Fielding isn't in season 3 as his many other commitments - particularly to The Mighty Boosh - prevented it. There was a passing reference to the character of Richmond in the 'Speech' episode but no more than that. As for whether the show will get to Canada ... no idea. The US did toy with an American version (Richard Ayoade was the only actor carried over) but I believe it got no further than a pilot. The first two series are out on DVD if that helps!

Persephone said...

Are the DVD's in Region One format? Shortsightedly, we failed to purchase a universal DVD player and thus we are barred from a number of British programmmes unless some farsighted Canadian specialty channel picks them up. (Fortunately, we are able to see Doctor Who and The Mighty Boosh. [Hey! Doctor Who and the Mighty Boosh! I'd watch!])

Stevyn Colgan said...

Persephone - I can see a whole untapped area of crossovers here! Doctor Who and the Wizard of Oz ... Doctor Who and the Simpsons ... As for Region 1 - no idea. I guess if it is, it'll be on Amazon.

Kathryn said...

Hello Stevyn - I just stumbled across your blog whilst pottering around the internet in search of other people who'd been to The IT Crowd last night. I, too, had a lovely time, and my ribs ached from laughing as I left. How lucky you were to get to mingle with the cast & crew after the show, and that you got to speak to Graham Linehan. Did you chat to any of the cast, or to Ash Atalla at all? They seem such an interesting bunch of people, it'd be interesting to know what they were like.

Debby said...

My first thought, glancing at the picture, was that you had been sucked back into the seventies. Oh, oh, oh, oh, staying alive, staying alive....

Lucky you went out. As Dawn mounted her spirited defense of Colgan Castle, you'd have probably just gotten in the way. You'd have been over run by mummies and goulies and ghosties.

chris hale said...

Terrible Hallowe'en joke:

Q: Why did the ghost have a high-pitched wail?

A: Because he'd been kicked in the ghoulies.

Sorry. Honest.

Stevyn Colgan said...

Kathryn - It was a laugh wasn't it? Yes, I got to speak to most of the cast and crew, albeit briefly in some cases. Richard was on his way out as I arrived in the Green Room and Ash was also on the move being kindly pushed by Matt so it was the very briefest of handshakes and hellos with them. But I did have a short chat with Chris and a nice long chat with Graham. The only person I missed completely was Katherine who was there but too busy chatting for me to simply butt in. The crew were great too. I can't remember everyone's names (sorry) but I can say 'Hello' to Sean, Tim and Adam (from Asus). Everyone was extremely pleasant and seemed to be really nice people. As Graham said 'It's a happy show'. He reckons it's the happiest time he's ever had in his career.

Debby - Ha! I'm waiting for the bills for post-traumatic stress disorder counselling from all of the neighbours' kids ...

Stevyn Colgan said...

Chris - Terrible is too modest a word. You deserve to be pumpkin'd to death. It's like stoning, only it involves squashes. Maybe you should be squashed?

doctawho42 said...

Doctor Who and The Mighty Boosh. Well, it'd be interesting. OH, AND LESS BLOODY ANGSTY, than just Doctor Who in recent times. Maybe with a new Doctor, we can finally sort out all this irritating melodrama. Why am I saying "we"? ohhh, "With our powers combined...". No, I think Moffatt will be grand. Grand and un cheese-festy, as the late, sort of okay, and far too often defended, RTD was.

Stevyn Colgan said...

Docta - Yeah, the RTD stuff can get a little too whiney and deep at times. In the old days, the Doctor really was an alien (Colin Baker in particular) and the most angsty it got was Tom Baker puzzling over whether he had the right to destroy the Daleks at their point of creation. Moff's stories tend to be a good mix of action, psychological drama and great, original plotlines. I hope he chooses writers who do the same.

Stevyn Colgan said...

Oh, and as for The Boosh ... Noel Fielding as the first Glam Goth Doctor? It's worth considering ...

'Do I amaze you?'

chris hale said...

I think The IT Crowd is an excellent programme, having been introduced to it by No.1 daughter.

The photo of your good self at the head of this posting; is it perchance to publicise your next project, Stevyn Colgan points at things? I'd like to suggest other things you could point at; blancmanges, PCSOs, power drills (cordless), sage and onion stuffing, low energey bulbs...the list is endless.

Incidentally, your index finger appears to be extraordinarily long.

Stevyn Colgan said...

Chris - It is an excellent show. Yes indeed. I have taken your advice and tried out my pointing technique. So far today I've pointed at half a dog, some buffalo wings, a stapler, a twenty pence piece, three carrots and a ladle. Life doesn't get much better than that. Blimey ... my finger does look elongated there. It must be the focal length on the camera. Or my habit of tying weights to it at night to lengthen it.

My finger.