The I.T Crowd is something of a British institution. It is a beloved TV comedy from the pen of the incredibly talented Graham Linehan (Father Ted), which follows the slightly surreal, and completely hilarious escapades of some technical support workers at a large corporation. Ultimately comprising of four, six episode seasons and a one-off ‘special’, the show aired in the UK from 2006 to 2010, with its single, triumphant return hitting screens to great acclaim in 2013.
It helped launch the careers of its three main cast members – Chris O’Dowd (Dinner For Schmucks, Bridesmaids, This Is 40), Richard Ayoade (Submarine, The Watch, The Double) and Katherine Parkinson (Sherlock, The Honourable Woman), and also its main supporting player, Matt Berry (Moon, Snow White And The Huntsman). In the UK, it is widely held as the gold standard for TV comedy, and now, NBC have committed themselves to a US pilot of the show, from Scrubs creator, Bill Lawrence.
This is not the first attempt by NBC to bring The I.T Crowd to a US audience. In 2007, the network produced a pilot written by David Guarascio (Just Shoot Me), Joe Port (New Girl), Moses Port (Mad About You), and Joe Wiseman (Dilbert). It starred Joel McHale in the role originated by Chris O’Dowd, Jessica St. Clair in the role originated by Katherine Parkinson, and featured Richard Ayoade returning to his own role as Moss. The network cancelled the project before anything beyond the pilot was shot, however, as they were not confident in its success.
Now, NBC have made a ‘put pilot’ commitment to an I.T Crowd show produced by Bill Lawrence, and written by Neil Goldman and Garrett Donovan – both of whom worked on successful comedies Scrubs and Community. A ‘put pilot’ means that the network has agreed to air the pilot, and generally tends to guarantee that the pilot gets picked up. The fact that this commitment comes after an ill-fated previous attempt to remake the show, and within a competitive pilot-pitching situation, suggests that the script and pitch are very strong to say the least – at least as far as NBC are concerned.
There is no word yet on casting, which is perhaps the greatest challenge when it comes to this particular property. The original I.T Crowd was so impressively successful because it represented a ‘perfect storm’ of performing and writing talent. Graham Linehan is a very specific kind of comedy writer, with a signature style and individual wit. Bringing him together with Chris O’Dowd, Richard Ayoade, Katherine Parkinson and Matt Berry created a show that was of its time, and brilliant. The characters are so memorable that, even with Hollywood blockbusters under his belt, Chris O’Dowd is still best known as Roy, and Richard Ayoade’s distinctive delivery meant that only he could attempt to recreate Moss in the 2007 US pilot.
The chemistry between these actors – and Parkinson and Berry – is what made the show absolutely unmissable in the UK, and is not something that can be easily replicated. While NBC saw great success with the US version of The Office, that was, again, thanks mainly to great casting choices – so the announcements of those decisions regarding The I.T Crowd will be vitally important.
As with any potential transfer of a fan-favourite British comedy show, there will be sceptics – and it is a perfectly understandable response to cry, “If you want The I.T Crowd, just air The I.T Crowd!” The original is, after all, a demonstration of across-the-board, epic comic genius. However, eight years after the UK show first began, it is possible that Lawrence and his writers have come up with an updated version – building on the basic premise of the show, but embellishing it with a distinctive flavour of its own. In which case – avid Linehan fans though we may be – it could well be worth giving this US version of The I.T Crowd the benefit of the doubt. At least until we’ve had a chance to see what the team behind Scrubs and Community have up their sleeves.