The IT Crowd: Friendface
The One With…
Everyone signing up to a community site…and living to regret it.
I Love Willies
The in-studio wide-shot whip-pans as Moss and Roy both join Friendface in a matter of second, a genuinely inventive bit of film grammar that perfectly captures the insane speed of the story’s progression. Oh, and it’s funny.
The visual of three colleagues all tapping away in the same room. “I love this. I feel so social.”
“That was a classic Moss line”. A great edge-of-the-fourth-waller. (But see below.)
Moss donning cardigan and pipe so as to appear husband-like – “Hey, if I’m pretending to be married, I’m pretending to the sexually active” – and naming the children Zenith and Quasar. Giving Moss a persona to play is always good fun.
“Who is this joker? No offence.”
Douglas tapping a cuckolded husband on the shoulder: “See her? I’m shagging her.” (Redeeming his clunky, out-of-nowhere appearance.)
The conclusion to the bar scene, with Moss getting “some of” his coats, “taking it outside” with Roy and then running away…only for Jen to do the same moments later. I’m a sucker for any event that shows Jen to be absolutely the same as Moss and Roy. There’s a reason they belong together.
You’ve Got Shit On Your Head
There’s something far too familiar and predictable about this episode. Far too ‘Big Book Of Sitcom Stories’. We immediately guess that Jen’s going to lie to her friends, that Moss will go over the top in the husband role, that Roy’s fiction and Jen’s will clash in front of everyone.
Now, The IT Crowd has always played on the tropes of predictable humour. Often the things you see coming are funny precisely because you do see them coming. However the ho-hum twists and turns of the story – leagues away from the best the show has to offer – owe more to the kind of conventions The IT Crowd generally subverts. So much of what goes on feels so…pedestrian compared to what we’ve come to expect.
Which would matter less if the gags were top-notch. But many of the jokes, too, don’t reach beyond the basics. Jen applying make-up while bemoaning women who wear too much, Moss’s mother and misunderstanding of ‘seeded’, Roy’s reaction to the Cuke advertising…you’ve seen all these gags before. (And done better. The early Cuke set-up seems built for Linehan’s trademark ‘cut to’, and instead stumbles with a too-slow reveal – from single can to packed fridge – giving us plenty of time to expect it’s arrival.)
In an episode short on classic gags, the “That was a classic Moss line” gag – for all its delightful self-awareness – feels like it’s taunting me. There are classic Moss lines in the show, it says, and you’re not allowed to see them.
The two jokers coda should work…but somehow doesn’t quite.
What Graham Says
From the man’s very own blog: “Was never quite happy with the script, to be honest, and as a result it was rewritten to death and under-rehearsed (The Joker/Matt punchline, for example, was conceived and shot about an hour before the studio audience filed in). That said, I thought the cast did a great job rescuing it…they saved my arse on the ‘I think you still have feelings for this young man’ scene.”
Absolutely. When the material is thinner than usual, you come to realise just how vital a great cast is to making any comedy work. All three leads (oh, okay then, four) turn some surprisingly unremarkable – can you be surprisingly unremarkable? – lines into much more than they are. A special mention, then for Katherine Parkinson draining her wine glass and re-ordering, and Roy’s reponse to being asked if he’s worried his date will go mad, “I’m very worried about that!”
Still, Linehan also deserves a point or two as director – some of the visuals (the classic melodrama stylings of the climax scenes, the aforementioned whip-pans) also rise above what’s on the page.
Linehan also responded to concerns over Jen’s (rather amusing) line “That’d be an absolute fucker”: “The F word just sort of kept sneaking through, and there was a reason for using every one, and it always seemed like a valid reason. But to be honest, if I could do this series again, I would find a way of removing all of them, with the exception of Matt’s one to the multi-faith tour. In fact, that’s my new rule. From now on, only one ‘fuck’ allowed per series. If that.”
I think that’s a good call. It seems strange that the show has become so much more ‘adult’ (for want of a better term in a world where saying fuck and making date rape jokes is also the province of the average 13 year old boy) than it originally seemed, and I’m not convinced this evolution benefits the programme.
Still, while I concur on the swearing, story elements in several episodes – including The Speech and Men Without Women – also, I feel, need addressing. I’m not sure you can dismiss concerns over the fumbled handling of certain emotive issues simply by saying that “it’s a silly show and not meant to be taken seriously”. If you can’t handle volatile subject matter, and I honestly don’t think this show can, leave it alone.
Bodie, Doyle, Tiger, The Jewellery Man
Claudia Harrison as Delina lists the realistically-large career successes of herself and Jen’s old pals in a scene that feels more like Friends than The IT Crowd. (Where’s the comic exaggeration in being head of marketing for Dennis Publishing?!) Years before, Harrison actually played Emily’s bridesmaid in Friends.
Lewis Macleod, the voice of the Friendface ad, has a shitload of voice credits – including one for The Peter Serafinowicz Show.
Have You Tried Turning It Off And On Again?
There’s a holding page up on the real-life Friendface site, complete with bizarre text (“economic meal and sentiments”?) that seems like it may relate to the forthcoming series three DVD.
Roy is seen playing with a Tenori-on.
Don’t Google The Question
“Message for me!”
Well, if you’ve got a flat episode, put it out fifth. It’s the right thing to do. It’s odd that a story based on something that should work brilliantly stumbles so predictably. Linehan is absolutely built to capture the all-consuming nature of community websites, but while it’s certainly captured, nowhere near enough of it is especially funny. There’s certainly a recognisable quality to everything that goes on – the way these sites lead to embarrassing moments with relatives (Moss’s mother’s mood is posted as “sensual”), time-consuming, self-perpetuating messaging, and the digging up of old friends and awkward exes – but recognition only gets you so far.
I generally like IT Crowd episodes that pull story strands from a single core idea, so Friendface should have been ideal. God knows the world of poetry-writing, net-stalking exes and hours lost to ‘blah’ messaging is enough to make the skin crawl with identification. Yet by the end I was painfully aware of just how little this episode had transported me. How little I laughed, how rarely I was surprised. A shame.
It’s not all bad, of course. The opening cartoon is big on style, clumsy on script – and not a patch on the video piracy and emergency services ads of previous years – but is partially redeemed by the reminder that you can now forget about the infection metaphor, “Germ Analogy Over”, plus the likeable animation. Roy’s to-camera Cuke advert – “Heaven in a can” – is one you’ll see coming, but the rotted teeth are a neat touch.
So although by no means an abject failure, it’s all a little tired, and certainly the weakest episode of the series.