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Notes on The U.S. IT Crowd

October 18, 2007

News reached me a while back that there may not be a US version of The IT Crowd. Apparently, there’s been a change of management at NBC and they’ve gone off the idea. I found this out on the Internet, which is how I find out all my information on the US IT Crowd.

To be frank, I have very mixed feelings on whether or not this counts as bad news. The IT Crowd is a very British show in the sense that it comes from a tradition of surreal sitcom that doesn’t really have an equivalent in America. The only point in a mainstream U.S. network taking on a show like this would be to reinvent it from the ground up, using my story-lines and characters merely as a jumping-off point, throwing away what’s not useful and keeping everything else. Judging by the pilot I saw, this was not what they had in mind.

The pilot is basically exactly the same as my first episode with some really nice new lines for Moss and a few structural tweaks that, frankly, don’t do much except move the furniture around. It’s very sweet of them–flattering, I guess– that they should stick so closely to my original story. But…well, frankly, baby needs shoes. I hate being vulgar about it, but there it is. And a weird British sitcom with taped-on American accents is not going to buy any shoes.

As far as I can make out, even the oddest US mainstream sitcom–‘Seinfeld’, say– is rooted in the real world. Mainstream American audiences aren’t used to characters who can cling to ceilings, or sit calmly playing computer games while a fire is raging beside them…all that crap that makes me laugh. I’m not saying they’re incapable of handling this kind of humour, I’m just saying that if you really intend to do this kind of nutty show, you can’t just grab the scripts and slap a few American actors on it. You need to rethink the whole thing, so that people who haven’t seen, say, ‘Blackadder’ about a thousand times, don’t get turned off by all the silly.

Anyway, this brings me to my main reason for writing this post. It’s a long shot, but should anyone from NBC find the project lying around in a drawer before the option is up and decide to give it another go, I thought I’d do a quick checklist of things they might try in order to give any future version a snowball’s chance in hell of finding an audience. Because, really, when I looked closer at ‘Big Bang Theory’, it was just a checklist of modern geek references, and I think an American ‘IT Crowd’, if done right, could show those trespassers who the fucking daddy is.

1. Get them out of that basement.
Putting the guys in the basement made sense early on as a visual metaphor for how the IT Guys are treated in my imaginary company, but it has proved bit of an albatross for us ever since. It is incredibly difficult to get storylines going when your hero set is a basement, accessible only from a lift (sorry, elevator). Better to move them somewhere with a bit of foot traffic and get the storylines moving more organically. We can’t change the location of our set and we’re stuck with our problems. You can nip them in the bud. The office is my show is small, claustrophobic and British. It suits my purposes, but it may not be right for you. Open it out; make it more of a living space. However, like our set, it should be a ‘den’–a cross between a comics shop and NASA, a haven for nerds, a batcave. As long as you get that right, you can put it anywhere.

2. Will they/won’t they?
Right until the week we were shooting the final episode of series 2, I was toying with the idea of getting Roy and Jen together romantically. I always loved the way ‘Seinfeld’ disposed of that theme with the whole “Ah, we tried being a couple, didn’t work out” attitude, but I originally thought a ‘Sam and Diane’ will they/won’t they through-line might work out for me, or at least test my abilities. Well, it did that very thing, my friends and I wasn’t up to it.

I initially wanted both Jen and Roy to have symmetrical love lives. Their romances never seem to work out, and really what is happening is that they are slowly gravitating towards each other. But I’m just no good at any kind of real emotion when I know there’s going to be an audience sitting there at the end of every week, wating for the next gag, and the whole idea made the actors uncomfortable. They would have had to play the show in a completely different way than they had the previous five weeks, and we just didn’t have the time to get into it (that’s where the whole Rohypnol, Benny Hill ending to series 2 came from– it was basically a band-aid over an exit wound.)

But if you do decide to go with this thread, bear in mind that you need to do very, very little to keep it going. Try and keep it out of the way as much as possible.

3. Play around with the characters.
Richmond wouldn’t exist if Noel Fielding wasn’t playing him. Don’t bother trying to re-create the character; the character was written for that actor alone. Instead, find a comic actor who has something going for him, and work with him to create a new character who has a similar purpose. Think Latka or Newman…a walk-on who commands attention, then buggers off.

Same principle applies for every other character. Find funny actors, build new characters around their strengths.

4. The first series was a false start.

The characters in the first series were too adversarial. They were always at each other’s throats, sometimes literally, and the second series was a reaction to that. I always wanted the main characters to be friends. Please don’t wait six or seven episodes to have the characters start being nice to each other.

5. Stay true to the general principles of the show.

My original intention was that the show should be about the way in which men who have very specialized, highly-skilled jobs tend to become either arrogantly superior (Roy) or disconnected from the real world (Moss). Also, I wanted to write a comedy about the way technology is changing our lives and how some people have trouble catching up (Jen). I think this is strong and you can use it as a guide when choosing storylines.

Another theme is that of the civilizing influence of women on a male environment. Again, that’s a keeper.

Finally, the show is intended to be funny above all else, and the model is ‘Seinfeld, so no hugging, no learning. No ‘warmth’, except in that casual everyday way that friends are warm to each other, (something that ‘Seinfeld’ captured so well). Once again, no hugging, no learning.

6. Just to reiterate…

No hugging, no learning.

Try not to have any hugging or learning.

Avoid hugging, and equally, learning.

Neither a hugger nor a learner be.

Hug ye not, and neither learn ye.

Thou shalt not…oh, you get the idea.

90 comments

  1. Interesting stuff. But regarding point 1: really, how difficult would it be to just say the characters got moved to a different office? Realistically, the entire company could change building and it wouldn’t be incredible. Or is the problem more to do with set or budget constraints?


  2. This is a great checklist for sitcoms in general. While I would love to see “Moss” on American TV, I agree that a carbon-copy of the pilot may not catch on.

    However, all hope is not lost for having surreal/weird elements on an American sitcom. To a degree,”Scrubs” can be surreal at times and even “My Name is Earl,” both shows on NBC (but well before the new regime.)

    Best of luck to you with getting a good US version of “The IT Crowd!”


  3. Budget, Peter.


  4. Great post, and some refreshingly candid insight into the show’s pro’s and con’s. I’d easily go along with a plot to move the characters to a better set, though — Douglas moves them somewhere better to impress Jen? Whatever the reason, people would accept it, I think. Or at the very least knock down Jen’s office wall!

    Red Dwarf moved the main location to Starbug because the writers felt constricted by Red Dwarf itself — and fans were okay with that. Yes, yes, that ultimately led to disaster, but… y’know.

    BTW, I’d heard Joel McHale was to play Roy? I saw this guy on US TV when I was on holiday there — very funny bloke. A good choice. He apparently likes Dr Who — which gets him some geek credit, anyway :)


  5. Sorry but how am I supposed to win the caption competition on this one?

    Seriously, its a real shame to hear that Graham. I think the reasons your comedies have been such a success over here seem to be why they think it won’t work in the US.

    How much involvement do they ask you to have with the US version? It doesn’t seem enough at all.


  6. “The only point in a mainstream U.S. network taking on a show like this would be to reinvent it from the ground up, using my story-lines and characters merely as a jumping-off point, throwing away what’s not useful and keeping everything else.”

    Which is basically what the US “Office” did, and indeed is why it works so well.


  7. You couldn’t be more right, Graham. Having seen the US pilot, it suffered what the pilot episode of the US Office did by too slavishly making a carbon copy of the British version with American accents (with the exception of the exceptional Richard Ayoade.) Thankfully, the US Office was given time to establish its own identity and ideally that would have been the case if NBC had chosen to keep it. Hopefully, this will give them another chance to reinvent the IT wheel later and create something that takes your vision and Americanizes it.

    (And by Americanize, I mean that in a good way such as making it a show like a Seinfeld and not Americanize like… well, all the bad shit we do – invading countries, making crappy sitcoms, and spreading a little bit of light torture.)


  8. Everything may not be lost, as Ben Silverman, the new head of NBC Entertainment, was instrumental in bringing The Office to US screens.


  9. It works both ways – That 70’s Show was remade for the UK and fell quite a bit flat. The original show was pretty funny – at least, IMHO it was. The remake was a carbon copy and had been ‘britishised’ (for want of a better word). Personally, I don’t think localising shows is a good idea. Leave the original for what it is, and do your own thing. Plenty of British shows have transferred to the US and played well. There’s this notion that American audiences just don’t ‘get’ complex humour, or subtlety, or even sarcasm or irony. They do – just not ALL of them. You’re playing into a niche straight away, but that niche is still pretty damn big.

    Wow, look at me, Mr know-it-all-about TV all of a sudden!


  10. IT Crowd on american TV? Roy and Moss using Apple computers, Jen using an iphone, yahoo ads, and a lot of Starbucks coffee.
    NBC? Scripts written by advertising agencies.


  11. I love reading insights like this – it’s very rare to get them from the creator himself.


  12. I did wonder how the success of a US IT Crowd would affect the original. Namely the filming schedule and Mr. Ayoade’s availability for both.

    ( http://link.brightcove.com/services/link/bcpid1155236516/bclid1243622887/bctid1243561276 And here’s a link to Mr. O’Dowd reading from Winnie-the-Pooh )


  13. I think it’s interesting what you said about the “no hugging” and “no learning” kind of Seinfeld style, because I think there is a likability difference between the characters in Seinfeld and the characters in the IT Crowd – the characters in Seinfeld are all relatively unlikeable, and to be frank, I wouldn’t want to be friends with any of them. I think that Moss and Roy and Jen aren’t that way at all, in that they are good people with social awkwardness. I think that Roy going along with the handicapped lie was much sweeter and less uncomfortable than it could have been, for example. I just want to say that I don’t think I’d mind some learning – and feel like we’ve seen a tiny bit of that in the IT Crowd, with how Moss and Roy’s lives have changed since Jen came into their lives. It would be nice to see their characters progress (even just a very small amount) as the series moves forward. I also wouldn’t mind a wee bit of hugging, but I appreciate your wanting to stay true to the comedy and leave out the heart-string-pulling at all costs. I’m a huge fan of the IT Crowd – I recently asked a local video store in Seattle (Scarecrow video carries imports, for anyone in the area) to order V. 2.0 as they hadn’t even realized it had come out yet – and I’m already anxious for the third series to start! Keep up the fantastic work. Oh, and one more thing – to make this post as long as humanly possible – I watched the G.M.’s Darkplace episode that you are in, Graham, very funny! /end ridiculously long post. I will go back to lurking now.


  14. Have you tried forcing an unexpected reboot?


  15. I’m going to cry. Maybe I can turn my computer off and then on again, and all will be fine. When I first heard of the American version I nearly fell out of my chair. Being a long time fan of the original and seeing that Moss carried over just made me so happy that day. Now my sky is gray. Please keep the original going. By the way, the dinner party episode was absolutely wonderful. My wife and I so love your show as we can both relate to it. (Did I forget to mention I work in IT?)


  16. Interesting point you make about the US not liking surreal too much – there’s certainly some reason why British comedy rarely transfers in the US and even successful ports like The Office are very different to their original UK versions.

    It’s extra interesting when you consider the fact that Lost and Prison Break, two of the most successful shows in the US at the moment, get more and more surreal/ludicrous as each week goes by.


  17. If I were a network executive, I’d be asking what, after stripping away the jokes, the sureality, some of the characters, would I be paying for? A treatment on three people in an office?

    Essentially, I’d think that the viewership in Britain isn’t broad enough to indicate that the series would get enough of a US following to go into reruns, which is where the profit is, isn’t it?

    But I’m not a network executive, so what do I know?


  18. Great ideas!

    Regarding the budget constraints of moving out of the basement… Could you write around that?

    Too obvious, perhaps, but maybe they get moved to “better” offices, much to the annoyance of Roy and Moss, but they end up being identical. (Too corny?)

    Maybe a new room could be opened up in the basement. Another department? (Could lead to a nemesis for Moss and Roy, a la Father Ted’s MacDuff?)

    Maybe a meeting room could be opened down there, with a stern warning given to the IT Crowd not to be “weird” when people are going past?

    Ok, so my ideas are probably really bad, but I’m sure there’s a way to crack it without needing a new set… maybe.

    Note: While looking up MacDuff’s name on the excellent Craggy Isle Examiner website, I remembered something which has always bugged me about the Todd Unctious episode. If you could explain it at some point I would be extremely happy: Todd says he can’t write his name down (presumably a lie – but why? because he wants to torture Ted?). He lets Mrs. Doyle guess his name for over an hour, and she miraculously guesses it… Or does she? In short: Is Todd Unctious his real name? (Or just a pseudonym he liked the sound of?)

    Anyone else?


  19. “Too obvious, perhaps, but maybe they get moved to “better” offices, much to the annoyance of Roy and Moss, but they end up being identical. (Too corny?)”
    That’s actually sort of tempting. But I think it’s too late. I’ll just work around my self-imposed problems now. (Todd is telling the truth on both the writing problem and his name, by the way.)

    “If I were a network executive, I’d be asking what, after stripping away the jokes, the surreality, some of the characters, would I be paying for? A treatment on three people in an office?”
    Well, they’ve already paid for it, so the question is, how do they make it work? It obviously doesn’t work as a straight copy, so some imagination and creativity is needed. That’s all I’m saying.


  20. Graham, after reading that post it just shows what a comedy genious you are.


  21. I hope it’s a good thing, being a genious.


  22. or genius even..


  23. definitely is, i agree with your thoughts on america most likely not being able to do the IT crowd well. the only sitcoms theyve ever done well for me is Frasier, and Friends.

    And by the way, the idea by Johnny W – “Maybe a new room could be opened up in the basement. Another department? (Could lead to a nemesis for Moss and Roy, a la Father Ted’s MacDuff?)”, sounds great :D although i dont *really* get how that could work seeing as there would only be one IT dept..


  24. Whaaaaat? Just ‘Frasier’ and ‘Friends’? Not ‘Taxi’ or ‘Cheers’, ‘Seinfeld’, ‘The Simpsons’? ‘South Park’? Not ‘Larry Sanders’? ‘Barney Miller’? ‘Mary Tyler Moore Show’? ‘King of The Hill’? ‘Soap’? ‘Bilko’? Lewwwwwis, come on…do you live in a country where you’re only allowed to watch shows that begin with the letter ‘F’?

    Let me make this clear. I’m not saying America would not be able to do it well. I’m saying they need to rethink it so that it fits in more with the American sitcom tradition.


  25. hahaha, ok maybe abit of an exaggeration from me, but to be honest i do have a problem with alot of american sitcoms, mainly because they are so.. “cheesy”, like you said in your post, constant “warmth” and “learning”. Plus the audience just seems so false, they laugh so hard at things that im just sitting there like.. riiiiight. Thats the thing brit sitcoms do well, the audience participation is more like how we find the joke, not how we are “supposed” to find the joke.
    (But yeah sorry i was being abit limited in my sitcom list there.. :D)


  26. Well, ‘No hugging, no learning’ comes from the ‘Seinfeld’ playbook, so you really should watch that if you haven’t already.


  27. Interesting commentary, I can see it being reapplied to some many other bad copies. I had the misfortune of seeing the American Red Dwarf pilot a few years ago and a lot of your grievances could be be applied to that aswell. The American Office first season was canceled in Australia as it was so bad, been little more than a bad copy. The pilot’s scene where Mike Scott does the fake firing of Pam was a classic example of doing it all wrong (they rushed the scene I felt and didn’t understand the pain of just letting the camera hang around).

    Your observations of Americans and American TV is also sound, as a Paddy who lived in the states for two years they just view things a little different. Sarcasm doesn’t go down well (I found to my cost). It is only in recent time with “The Daily Show” that Americans are exposed to straight out sarcasm and satire on a regular basis. The Simpsons do a lot of the wacky Zany prop gags and non sequitur moments but is is tolerated/enjoyed because it is a cartoon.

    Maybe you could comment on growing up in Ireland and television that was available in the 80s. RTE wasn’t that great for comedy, it had some (Leave it to Mrs O’Brian must have been the Ted template) but I do think we were exposed to a more varied experience. We were watching American, British, Australian and Irish shows, no-one else was doing that. They are all quite different and it must be fun to cherry pick what works.


  28. “We were watching American, British, Australian and Irish shows, no-one else was doing that. They are all quite different and it must be fun to cherry pick what works.”

    Well, i couldn’t have said it better than that. Exactly.


  29. Isn’t Arrested Development pretty surreal for an american sitcom? People painted blue so that they can be camoflaged in front of blue things, the Dad hiding out in the attic, the son fancying the cousin, the hair transplant that rejects the body…Though I suppose this proves your point as it didn’t get the highest ratings and was eventually axed. What a shame.


  30. I’ve always felt it is a bit misguided the way UK shows get rejigged for US audiences. I have learned about US culture from their shows, sure I don’t always get the references and sometimes they are laughing harder or being shocked by something that doesn’t really amuse or excite me. But it doesn’t stop me watching, so long as there are good jokes, stories and characters. I think it should be the same the other way round, it may take time but they could get an appreciation for our humour. I daresay some already do. I often hear that Americans quite like us.


  31. As an American who has been stealing your show shamelessly off the BitTorrent rounds, I have to say, I am not the least bit sad there won’t be an American version. While I understand it is “food off your family,” as we say here, I really never thought US TV could do the show justice. Certainly not after seeing what the last round of Brit adaptations here have been like.

    Honestly, I have never understood why “we” Americans need our own version of everything anyway. It is not as though people all over the anglophonic world don’t watch our shows, generally unaltered. Aside from a handful of cable stations, and BBC America, nobody seems to think we can stand other peoples’ programming.

    *shrug*


  32. Sorry, just one more thought on the “Will they/Won’t they” meme.

    You know, I would be happy if there were simply more cultural artifacts that left that out. I always thought “The X-Files” stood out in this regard and completely jumped the shark as soon as Mulder and Scully hooked up. You *best* case scenario is Sam and Dianne or David and Addie, where you lose a huge part of the show once you finally resolve it. Sure, YOU will likely have made enough money to leave your kids pretty well off at that point, but it leaves the fans with a bad taste in their mouth.


  33. Isn’t Arrested Development pretty surreal for an american sitcom?

    And, aside from a small, fanatical following, not widely received.


  34. Maybe you could keep the same set but subtly change the entry/exits to take them out of the basement and get a few more pop-ins? A bit like how Richmond’s office seemed to morph from a supercomputer/airing cupboard to a tea room in the second series (or was that my imagination?)


  35. As long as they’ve got funny actors and talented writers and little or no network interference it should be okay (oh, and they’d better not make everyone gorgeous).

    Oh, and I just had to comment on Cooper (a mini-rant just above me, go on, look, I’ll wait here) using the phrase “completely jumped the shark” – wonderful!

    Finally, can we have subtitles in LOLcat on any future DVDs please?


  36. Thanks Graham. I really enjoy blogs(from you and others) where a little of the reasoning behind creative decisions is revealed. It’s also refreshing to hear where you think you went wrong as well as where you went right.
    Add in a Star Wars trumpet solo and your site is bookmarked permanently.


  37. That was a really interesting read there, Graham! I like reading after-thoughts with writers.

    With Point 1 and location, this is more just telling you a personal experience but in one office I worked in, due to the expansion of other departments, we got a few “others” moved downstairs to us.

    There was no room left upstairs for them so they were shunted down to us because management decided they could squeeze in another 2 desks. This increased a lot of annoying traffic for us and really interrupted out little world. My department has only 5 people and we were isolated and loved it!


  38. Very interesting read anyway. I’m writing a sitcom pilot so its good to see points 5 and 6 which is something I’ve tried to stick to.

    I can see your point about the basement in the US version. If they plan on doing 24 or so episodes a series then they need all the options they can get.

    Going to one of your recordings really made me appreciate the constraints you are under. You are limited with the number of sets you can fit in the studio plus you don’t want too much filmed footage as you’ve got a studio audience there. And you’ve still got dark hair, I’m going grey thinking about it!


  39. I think the show could work in any country as long as the characters and jokes are tailored to that culture. Just like The Office. The Office could take place in any country in the world as I’m sure there’s an office like that everywhere. Maybe a goth Richmond wouldn’t play in the US, but he could be a D&D player, a larper or some crazy throw back to the 50’s or something.


  40. Night Court, Soap, Family Guy, Scrubs, Malcolm and the Middle, and the Simpsons were/are well received, popular “surreal” sitcoms here in the US. Less popular but still well received comedies were Andy Richter Controls the Universe, The Tick, Working, Arrested Development, and Wonderfalls, which all have a big cult following and have made money on DVD. American cable is full of successful shows that are definitely unconventional, more so than network television at this point.

    The other defense of a surreal sitcom: nothing else is working. The Office, My Name Is Earl, Scrubs, etc, while critically received, do not do well in the ratings. At this point, I think networks are considering trying anything to get comedy going on TV (see this year’s “Cavemen”, based on a popular insurance commercial). I think an American sitcom could work with a more surreal tone, but you are correct that they should find their own surreal tone.

    The other wildcard in the conversation is the fact that television and film writers in the US are about to go on strike. If there are existing scripts for an American IT Crowd, the network will probably have little choice but to film them to cover for the lack of content that is about to hit the airwaves. Plus, Joel McHale, the star of the US IT Crowd, is developing a rapidly growing fan base here, so he could be a big draw. I don’t know if it will happen, but I am definitely hopeful. I had to spend a lot of money to get a region free DVD player to show my friends the IT Crowd, so anything to keep me from hauling that around would be great.


  41. Great post. A friend and I were trying to sift through the differences in American and British sitcoms just the other day. It was indeed an excellent read, and you make some smart points.

    I know this isn’t the point, but, dammit! Do we always have to cater to the lowest common denominator in American television? The US is the home of the most homogeneous sitcom viewing of almost anywhere. If you only have basic programming, your only foreign choices are about 5 British sitcoms (all on PBS) that were all made prior to 1975 (with the one exception of cutting-edge “Keeping Up Appearances” from the 80s) and the occasional low-budget Canadian police drama. Of course we don’t understand surreal! We’re never exposed to it!

    America needs television that stretches us. Arrested Development (the best sitcom in forever in the US) did try and was a leap in the right direction. Sure, it was canned, but hopefully it made us a little more open and flexible in the process. I hate to hear about tailoring things to American tastes. We need to grow. Help us grow!

    I know, I know. Baby needs shoes.


  42. “Get them out of that basement”

    I can think of only one sitcom that did well in one room only and that was the Smoking Room. Would that format sell well in the US?

    Been giving the Sarah Silverman show a go and that’s fairly surreal. She has sex with, and I quote, ‘Black God’. Can’t get much more surreal than that.


  43. Innovation doesn’t always equal quality, Eala. And I don’t think you realise how much of an inspiration American comedy is over here. ‘The Office’ wouldn’t have existed without ‘Larry Sanders’, ‘Father Ted’ was me and Arthur attempting to do a sort of live-action ‘Simpsons’…

    Besides, I’m not saying ‘Tailor it to American tastes.’ I’m saying ‘Tailor it to American strengths.’ Very different.


  44. And this is why Graham Linehan remains one of my favourite writers. I enjoyed this post immensely.
    I wasn’t sure what to think when I first heard they were doing an American version of the IT Crowd, but was quite interested to see how it’d turn out, if they’d change it completely or try and keep close to the original.


  45. It should be noted that actually, now is a pretty good time for 1/2 hour comedy on television in America. They are few and far between, sure, but the Office’s ratings have been great this season (check out http://www.officetally.com/the-office-nielsen-ratings). My Name is Earl also does well – I’ve never actually watched it but I’ve heard it’s pretty good. 30 Rock is a critic favorite and also, might I say, an incredibly hilarious show. Like anywhere else, including the UK, the US has good sitcoms, and it has bad sitcoms. However, there just aren’t that many sitcoms around, period, and I suspect many of the first-run sitcoms that started this season won’t last a second (Carpoolers? Really). First reality TV took over the airwaves, now hour-long dramas or comedy-dramas have been taking up a lot of prime-time, with the popularity of big ensemble multiple-storyline shows like Lost and Heroes. So, I was excited to hear about the American version of the IT Crowd. If the American version of the Office proves anything (and the IT Crowd also has evidence of this) it’s that a rocky beginning does not mean a show is doomed to be terrible forever, and that a remake can find its own groove once it has the balls to do so.


  46. I see what you mean, Graham, but bear with me for a possibly shaky follow-up point.

    I do understand how American comedy has influenced work in other countries. There are great American comedies, no ’bout a doubt it. What I am saying is that your average American is not exposed to foreign influences the way that audiences in other countries are. We don’t have the same benefit of being inspired by great (or even not-so-great)comedies from abroad–at least on network (a.k.a. free) television. Even the best of American comedies are not on network television (like Larry Sanders, Sarah Silverman, etc.).

    An earlier post that you quoted said “We were watching American, British, Australian and Irish shows, no-one else was doing that. They are all quite different and it must be fun to cherry pick what works.” That’s the ideal–while you’re a kid, and things stick in the back of your head to germinate into something fabulous later on.


  47. Why do you have to find out the projects status on the internet? Im shocked and disgusted on your behalf.Is that how writers are treated in america?

    Roll on series 3 and 4 ….as roy would say, “move on”!Slap on shoulder…


  48. would you like a pen?


  49. Yes, *The Andy Richter Show* was and still is a favourite of mine. Definitely pulled off the surreality but for that reason was cancelled or dropped. Still worth a look if you can download the episodes from somewhere.

    I also add my backing to Arrested Development (suffered a similar fate) and The Sarah Silverman Show.


  50. Sorry, I forgot to add that fans of The Office should not fail to check out our edgy Canadian staples, Ken Finkleman’s “The Newsroom” and the more sitcom-y “Made in Canada”. Seriously. You’ll like them.


  51. [...] Notes on The U.S. IT Crowd – Why, That?s Delightful!Anyway, this brings me to my main reason for writing this post. It’s a long shot, but should anyone from NBC find the project lying around in a drawer before the option is up and decide to give it another go, I thought I’d do a quick checklist of things they might try in order to give any future version a snowball’s chance in hell of finding an audience. [...]


  52. @ Catharine – Big yes on “The Newsroom” from a fan in California.


  53. I watched the American version of The Office and originally thought how bad it was in comparison, but then it grew on me, either I got over my UK TV is better than US TV prejudices or perhaps they just became more comfortable in their characters and developed their own US comedic style as opposed to just trying to mimic the UK original.

    And is it just me, or do most cover versions suck the big one and demonstrate a certain lack of innovative and original thought?

    I think the IT folk could be moved up to the top floor (real world budget permitting) as the new boss wants to keep his precious IT staff close, but it fact it was just a way to keep Jen closer to his middle wicket.

    My American girlfriend loves watching The IT Crowd and although she doesn’t get all the cultural references, she totally gets the humor and laughs her tits off.

    American’s might appreciate the complex character that is Saxondale.

    I’d love to know the thinking behind, and why the following line makes me chortle so “Meet me at the station”


  54. It’s actually “Nearly at the station.”


  55. Ahh, now I gets it!

    In the pimp my cellphone skit, does Roy say it has 150 PPI screen? I assume he meant to say DPI.

    Perhaps I need a hearing test!


  56. Many UK shows have been remade stateside to tremendous success; Steptoe and Son, Man About the House, and by far most successfully, both in commercial and artistic terms, Til Death Us Do Part (the US remake of which, All in the Family, is, of course, widely considered to this day to be one of the most “important” shows to ever air on US TV).

    And now, of course, The Office has been remade to tremendous commercial and critical success (which, I’m imagining, contributed to The IT Crowd being optioned).

    It seems the main thing to consider is simply that a series of American television runs nearly four times as long as the average British series. Even more farcical sitcoms benefit tremendously from a grounding in some semblance of “reality,” and/or an internal logic more readily related to the “real world,” and they need some sort of character development, to sustain 12 hours of programming (as opposed to 3). There’s also more incentive to make most of the characters likable or at least sympathetic, as most folks, and I’d bet this as true in the UK as in the US, are not as likely to tune in every Wednesday evening for six months to see a complete, sociopathic bastard as they are a bastard with some modicum of charm and redeeming qualities (even if not immediately evident).

    And, of course, there’s the fact that every American series is embarked upon with the hope – however unlikely this outcome is – that it will run for five seasons, and reach the coveted “100 Episode” mark; which used to be the milestone that pretty much assured being sold into syndication (being sold to be shown on local stations as reruns). Shows like Fawlty Towers, or Alan Partridge are clearly designed to last just as long as they do. They weren’t created with the intention or hope of running indefinitely. Every American network series is, for better or for worse. Brit shows are paced radically differently, and are taking place within a reality which makes sense for 6 episodes.


  57. Graham great post. I am an America and my whole family loves the IT crowd. We have been searching youtube for any show with any of the IT Crowd actors in it. The question I have is why do British sitcoms only have six to eight episodes in a series? It seems like you just get used to watching new episodes and it over.


  58. If you really want to get them out of the basement, then get them out of the basement.

    if you need a plausible excuse, two immediately come to my mind… and I’m sure you can think of an excuse if you need to. I suspect you could make a series out of the move.

    I’m afraid quite frankly to give you ideas for legal reasons (I remember JMS pleading with people not to offer plot ideas since then they aren’t legally his).

    Which begs the question, what would happen if suggestion arrived here?


  59. Nini:

    In the pimp my cellphone skit, does Roy say it has 150 PPI screen? I assume he meant to say DPI.

    Perhaps I need a hearing test!

    No, Roy got it right. DPI is a measurement for printers. Pixels Per Inch (as opposed to dots, or discrete color elements, because pixels are generally 3 (sometimes 4) color elements representing a…. blah blah blah. You know this.

    Either way, pixel density is typically noted in PPI.


  60. Darling, You realize American tv execs ruin (many of the) British shows they borrow. Don’t you? I cover the whole sad affair in my entry (Once British: The American TV Tragedy, Oct. 13, 2007). There’ve been more misses than hits (OK, some have been megahits and are tied to American culture 4ever). The misses have included Dr. Who & Coupling, and they’ll ruin Life on Mars, too.


  61. Hmm, not sure about G’s rule 1 about moving the guys out of the basement… Look back at Father Ted ( all kneel and give praise) 85% of that show ( note use of suspiciously precise stats)was set in the living room ( I’m Scottish, that’s what we call what you English call the lounge) and consisted of some combination of Ted, Dougal Jack and Mrs (Name Missing) Doyle saying or doing something funny. I mean, the parochial house was bloody isolated and that didn’t stop G and A dreaaming up walk in plot devices.
    I really don’t think sitcoms need to be opened out which I think is G’s real point here. Look back at Fawlty Towers, 89% of that show ( again, with the stats) took place in one of three sets ( four if you count the kitchen)- in sit-com its not about location its about the script.


  62. I disagree Alistair, Fawlty Towers had walk in customers and the parochial house had parishioners who were also isolated on Craggy Island. The trouble with the basement is no one is likely to pass by and as far as my experience with IT departments goes, no one goes in to see them, just call them when the computer goes wrong. One time my computer was going really slowly so I called IT, it turned out I’d slightly pulled a cable out with my foot. I like to stretch my legs alright! I dunno, maybe they could get matey with nerds from a nearby office who come to visit them at lunchtime.

    I’m from Stoke-on-Trent, we call it the front room!


  63. [...] here for more This entry was posted on Thursday, October 18th, 2007 at 10:03 am and is filed under [...]


  64. Yay!!!!! Thanks so much Graham, you’ve made my day! Todd was telling the truth (the one thing I didn’t expect!). Still, he was an incredibly odd guy for making Mrs. Doyle guess :)

    Regarding the idea of moving to different, but identical, offices, thanks so much saying you thought it tempting! In my mind I imagined Moss and Roy complaining and moping and, naturally, Jen being very excited… but of course it’s all a let down.

    Moss and Roy reluctantly agree to make the new office “home”, whereas Jen complains that it’s “bloody identical”, and is doubly let down when she discovers the only reason the department was moved was so that she was closer to Douglas’ office (isn’t Matt Berry brilliant? – his in-character adlibs on the Darkplace DVD extras are priceless).

    In the next episode, Jen might spend her time trying to convince the “trendy” types into visiting their new office, seeing as they’re now a lot closer, but the trendy types made sarcastic comments about Roy and Moss. After initially laughing along with a few comments, and feeling the resulting guilt, one of the trendies (can’t think of a better word) goes a bit too far and Jen goes ballistic sticking up for Roy and Moss, alienating herself once again.

    (That’s something we never saw in Father Ted, I think, Ted actually sticking up for Dougal. Might be a nice sentiment in the IT Crowd and a good way to end a series… maybe?)


  65. Hmmm… now that I think of it… did that last scenario already happen in the first series? Doh! (If it did.)


  66. Yes, Johnny W, technically, in the first episode, although Jen didn’t stick up for them, she just tried to ingratiate them to the rest of the building, and failed, alienating herself (I think she referred to it as something like “it’s ok for you two, you’re used to being social piranhas”).


  67. For getting them out of the office, an American consultant was telling us this little story while visiting my place of work.

    “Allegedly” many IT departments in US buildings were based on lower floors and basements. Until September 11. Then, as if by magic, the senior managers de-camped to the basement while the Tech Guys were suddenly given spectacular views from the upper floors….


  68. I’m a US fan of the show and I absolutely don’t understand how British TV works. Can some explain the six episode season to me?


  69. Very simple. The show is written by me alone, and six is all I can do. Any more and I’d be stretching myself very thin.


  70. Well I’ll take quality over quantity then…
    Good article.
    Is there anyone else out there who liked “The Loop”?
    All I can think of now as a US version of IT is Big Bang Theory in a corporate office. They have the perty girl next door to handle the “norms” so it’s pretty much set up except in an office; geek-speak, sarcasm, just not enough surrealism.


  71. [...] sprites!) But now that the US version has been scrapped, the original show’s creator ponders what he would change if he could do it over. Very [...]


  72. Tell you what Graham, if the department does get moved, I just hope the Jim Woodring posters can be brought along!


  73. Has anyone seen this:

    http://www.theitroom.com/

    Looks like a crazy look at the world of the it department. Minus the laughs.


  74. Graham — completely off the point above but I was coincidentally thinking of Father Ted the other night, then found your blog (and this thread still has live comments…)

    You see, I was in bed the other night, thinking about Ireland, the catholic church and the lack of priests, (which is strange for a child of the sacrilegious Hot Press brotherhood) and I thought if ever there was to be a follow up to Father Ted, the new priest replacing Ted could be Nigerian or a Filipino…

    …all the other characters could be reassembled and play around this new character.

    The thought made me laugh there and then, which is the
    right start I suppose!

    Guess it wouldn’t be Father Ted, unless it was short for Father Tedenie Olateru-Olagbegi of Nigeria or Father Eduardo Panlilio from Manila.

    Definitely no hugging or learning.


  75. [...] das Konzept des Originals erarbeitet hat, gibt hier ein kurzes Statement zum iTeam und reflektiert hier im Zusammenhang mit der Meldung, dass es vermutlich keine US-Variante geben wird darüber, was man [...]


  76. First of all, let me say I adore “The IT Crowd” and as well the first series of “Black Books”. (Yes, I love the other series as well.) But I must say you have American humor all wrong.

    As an American it burns me to no end when non-Americans try to pigeon hole American humor into one neat little box. You can’t do that. American humor is all over the map because we have people from all over the map with different brands of humor.

    What is hilarious in New York would disgust a Georgian. What would make a Georgian roll around laughing would make a Californian’s eyes roll.

    For every “Friends” you have “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia”. For every typical sitcom of “According to Jim” you have the twisted dark comedy of “Rescue Me”. For every straight comedy of “Two and Half Men” you have the surrealist humor of “30 Rock” and “Scrubs”. For every high brow episode of “Fraiser” you have the low brow of “South Park”. And I wouldn’t even know how you were catergorize the humor of the Adult Swim shows like Sealab 2020, The Venture Brothers, Aqua Teen Hunger Force, Assy McGee, Metalocaylpse and Saul of the Mole Men.

    You can’t say this is strictly American humor or this is not strictly American humor because that type does not exist.

    Here are a few youtube clips to give you an idea;


  77. You need to read the post again. I’m talking about “mainstream US sitcoms”. Not shows on FX or cartoons at 2.30 in the morning. Also, no offense, but if you consider ‘Scrubs’ an example of surrealism, you sort of prove my point.


  78. Is it true that they’ve decided to run the US version of the show as part of the fall line up this year?


  79. I would also like to know the status on the US version…
    Being from the US, I have mixed emotions on how well an americanized version will do… luckily for me as a child I was able to sneak a lot of peeks at benny hill and evolved with a warped sense of humor…err humour so even I will probably be more partial to the Brit… With that being said, I would still like to see it and judge it after seeing it…
    Oh and lastly before I forget… Are there any plans of at the very least for a region 1/ntsc release of the seasons 1 & 2 boxed set?
    What the hell… while Im at it… how long (just an approx.) until season 3 airs? I was lucky at first and had found about this show after season 1 had already aired and didnt have to wait very long for season 2… I know, Im an impatient American that wants it all and wants it now, but its really all your fault for writing a great show : P


  80. I really love this show, but i dont really want an “american version”…, they have enough shows, some are good or bad.. depends, sorry my english is very bad
    Im a mexican fan, and for me there is only a version of IT Crowd. The first. I agree with the idea of Roy and Jen togheter, it would be nice to see some evolution in the relatioship betwen the characteres.
    Congratulations for this show!!


  81. I live in the U.S. and work in IT. I don’t want a U.S. version. I want and enjoy the original show and cast. If it aint broke, don’t fix it. Is there going to be a season 3? PLease say there will be.


  82. D. Smiff, enjoy it while you can, your days are numbered as long as that crumb Bill Gates continues to get his way. Of course, the same can be said for IT professionals the world over, because those who believe they’re getting a leg over because of his strategy are fools. History teaches that the path we’re on “globally” will double back in it’s continuing rocket path to the bottom.

    That aside, I agree with you re: adaptations. I’m an American, and I wish that the networks would just purchase broadcasting rights and include such shows in their line-ups. I wanted to scream when I read about plans to adapt Father Ted for US tv.. I can’t imagine how painful that would be to watch.

    I’m also fed up with being told that the rationale is that Americans can’t or won’t “get” British, or Irish tv series.. says who? The same US network execs who never have gotten us? My friends and I grew up watching Python, then later Fawlty Towers, A Bit of Fry and Laurie, French and Saunders and many other series. My daughter and her friends grew up watching (along with their parents) Brit-coms, they spout as many lines from Father Ted as we did from Python. She attended a protest last month here in Michigan, and ran into other kids who were using “Careful Now” and “Down w/That Sort of Thing” on signs. She loved it.. thing of it is, it surprised her as well. We’re conditioned to believe that there’s something unique or special about you if you “get it”.


  83. Hmm, ever thinking about 4.0 – the story is right here. A takeover by a large American multinational, involving the odd trip to outside locations and a walk in role for Bill Gates.

    And of course, the injection of why everybody laughs at Americans.


  84. [...] if you can’t wait that long, Linehan’s blog has some notes he sent to the (aborted) US version of The IT Crowd about what needs to change, and you can see how this has influenced later UK series (It’s from [...]


  85. [...] I’m not sure, exactly it doesn’t work…I’d be curious as to thoughts…the creator summed it up really well (love the useless stuff you can find on the interwebs) with a lot of discussion about how to remake [...]


  86. [...] own framework for the IT Crowd on his blog – writing around the time a US pilot was being made. http://whythatsdelightful.wordpress.com/2007/10/18/notes-on-the-us-it-crowd/ It’s worth a read. (I told you about the commission [...]


  87. [...] an old post by Graham Linehan, the writer/creator, on the US version [...]


  88. [...] The pilot was never shown and the programme never developed. Apparently it’s back in the offing again, let’s hope they take heed of Graham Linehan’s advice. [...]


  89. [...] Finally, we have the 2007 American remake of The IT Crowd. Like the Red Dwarf pilot, the U.S. producers decided to retain one of the principle cast members — Richard Ayoade as Moss — and keep much of the script of the original series. Indeed, for series creator Graham Linehan the lack of an attempt to ‘translate’ the series for the U.S. context was the reason for its failure. According to Linehan, “The IT Crowd is a very British show in the sense that it comes from a tradition of surreal sitcom that doesn’t really have an equivalent in America. The only point in a mainstream U.S. network taking on a show like this would be to reinvent it from the ground up.”10 [...]


  90. […] of surreal sitcom that doesn’t unequivocally have an homogeneous in America,” Linehan wrote in his blog in 2007. “The usually indicate in a mainstream US network holding on a uncover like this would be to […]



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