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The IT Crowd: The Speech

The One With…

Jen’s informative presentation of The Internet, and Douglas’ new flame…who I believe is from Iran.

I Love Willies

Douglas getting lost in film titles as he tries to describe his role at Renholm Industries, leading to a helpful summary of himself as “The Bourne Identity, Taxi Driver, Jaws.”

Douglas’ “caricature” of April. (On a related note, I admire the great restraint demonstrated by Graham when Douglas later alters the drawing…I’m sure everybody watching was expecting a certain something—or three certain somethings—to be added to the figure, and I’m glad that we got the sweeter, more child-like addition of facial hair instead.)

Actually, you know what, let’s just take the entire Douglas interview as read, because I think it’s one of my favorite scenes ever. “That’s right, we’re going to Hull!”

Jen’s towering new desk gives us a brilliant sight-gag…and it’s so much better that we only notice the height discrepancy when the boys sit down.

“Moss, do you trust me?” “No.” “Do you trust me?!” “No.” “If you trust me, then offer to write that speech.” “I. Don’t. Trust. You.”

“It’s not you, it’s me. No, actually it’s not me. It is you.”

The Douglas story is wonderful, if maybe slightly flawed, and—in a surprising reversal—the IT story supplies the moments of rest. Not everybody was happy with this reversal of balance (read on) but I thought it was an interesting experiment that worked very well.

You’ve Got Shit On Your Head

It’s tough for me to say, as most of the stuff that I feel goes on too long actually has a great resolution. Roy’s attempts at smiling, for example, are kind of corny, but Jen’s commentary and her wrap-up (“Tell you what, Roy…keep at it. That’s your homework.”), make it work for me.

Ditto the presentation at the end. When Moss says, disappointed, “This really isn’t that funny,” I agree, until the Douglas story comes crashing through the wall and the panic breaks out and saves it. It’s okay that Moss and Roy are disappointed, but the viewers at home should have something to keep them laughing without having to cut over to Douglas in the lab.

Moss’ not-clever Bill-Gates-owns-a-lot-of-gates line doesn’t work for me really. I understand it’s not supposed to be clever, but it’s not not-clever enough to really even be worth its own presence. It should have been a great moment of Moss thinking he’s much funnier than he really is, but instead it falls flat and lies there.

I’m actually having trouble finding too much fault with this episode, in terms of specific moments. I guess Jen enthusiastically throwing away the index card before reading robotically from the next doesn’t work as well as it might, as it didn’t get much of a reaction from the audience…but I still think it’s a good joke.

Oh, and why is the drinking bird nodding backward? My prime issue with the episode is that the drinking bird is nodding backward.

What Graham Says

Four words: “One of my favourites…”

Guess what, Graham? It might be one of mine, too. Certainly it’s rivaling Are We Not Men for my favorite of the series, and I expect the Douglas-heavy stuff will invite many rewatchings for fans of the character, such as myself. Is it one of my overall favorites? Can it stand alongside Fifty-Fifty for The Dinner Party? That might be a bit hasty…but we’ll know in time.

He also mentions that Roy’s blog was written out of the episode. I’m pretty confident we’ll get something about it later on, though.

Boss Battles

Strangely enough, considering the sheer bulk of Douglas material in this episode, none of our three heroes have any substantial encounter with him at all…he does manage to crash through the wall during Jen’s presentation (with exactly the same level of grace as one half of this week’s story crashing into the other), but Douglas has his own, essentially unrelated, issue to deal with.

This departure from his “normal” role in the series has led to a bit of a split among fans, it seems. A good number of people believe that Douglas’ stuff only works well when it’s related in some way to the basement dwellers, while I, personally, am very happy to see him breaking away as a character, and finding other things to do. Yes, yes, the name of the show is The IT Crowd so it’s not out of line to expect that the show should focus around…um…the IT crowd…but it’s not as though our main characters don’t get enough screen-time here anyway.

And maybe this is somewhat necessary. Ever since last season’s Return of the Golden Child, Douglas has felt exactly like what he was: a character that stormed in from nowhere. Linehan is doing what needs to be done; he’s fleshing him out so that he no longer feels like a strange creature who dropped inexplicably from space. (Alongside the music of The Ordinary Boys.)

I’m not suggesting that The Speech will manage to endear Douglas to everybody, or even that it should…but it’s evidence that Graham is trying to integrate him into the larger world of the show as well, and that he will eventually want us to care about what happens to Douglas as much as we care about the things that happen to Moss, Roy or Jen.

Also, as a bit of a side-note…it occurred to me watching this that every single line I’ve ever heard Matt Berry utter has had at least some comic value. That’s not the kind of actor you come across every day, and Linehan is right to expand his role.

Richmond Watch

Richmond remains unseen, but we are given a reason for his absence: scurvy. A good joke, but not entirely unbelievable, as it is commonly linked to malnutrition. (Did anyone really suspect that Richmond ate well?)

One somewhat-related qualm: in several places online I encountered excitement over the fact that this episode would reveal why we haven’t seen Richmond for a while. (I assume Graham must have dropped this tidbit on his blog at some point.) But why should Richmond’s absence even register? He pops up erratically, and if he’s not on-screen the characters don’t stand around asking, “Where’s Poochie?” We, and they, should just assume he’s in the server room. Why does his absence suddenly need accounting-for?

Bodie, Doyle, Tiger, The Jewellery Man

Lucy Montgomery is this episode’s most visible guest-face, and you might remember her from such top-notch programs as Headcases and Tittybangbang…though she’s got a few IT connections thanks to small parts in The Mighty Boosh and AD/BC: A Rock Opera.

Tom Binns returns as Nolan, and Graham Linehan makes his annual appearance in a panic scene dressed as Clark Kent.

Have You Tried Turning It Off And On Again?

Douglas is turned on and then off again.

Don’t Google The Question

How much does the internet weigh? There are varying reports, but if the number of Google hits one receives for typing that question (84,100,000) means anything, Jen was far from the first to assume it might have some actual, measurable mass.

I watched the episode on YouTube (don’t worry, Graham, I’m buying the DVDs!) so I’m not sure how visible it was on TV, but Roy’s blog reveals his surname. People care about that stuff, you know, though I’m more interested now in how Roy portrays himself online…is his smoking-jacket-wearing martini-clutching header graphic meant to be ironic, or does he actually try to pass himself off this way? Is the title of his blog humorous, or desperate? For most people the blog answers a lingering question…for me it just raises several far more interesting ones.

Anyway, back to the episode: the weight Douglas is suddenly given was bound to rub people the wrong way, but I thought there were more than enough solid laughs and character moments to justify it. (It’s only fair that I mention that I’m in the minority on this issue ‘round these parts.)

April revealing her masculine past to Douglas was an excellent way of skirting the same old “she’s a man but he doesn’t know it” joke we’ve seen a thousand times before, and it actually made Douglas seem…well…kind of sweet. The way he shrugged it off and didn’t allow his interest to waver was actually kind of nice. In fact, it made me feel somewhat guilty for assuming he’d storm off, disgusted. The montage of the two of them having fun together was hilarious, and also sort of adorable. I was happy for Douglas, and I thought we had a really interesting reveal of his character in the process.

Then we learn that he misheard her, or wasn’t paying full attention, and what do you know, he’s the same old Douglas we thought he was. What I do like, though, is that he seems to make at least a half-hearted effort to stay with April; he doesn’t break up with her until at least the next day, which is certainly an achievement for a man who becomes sick of a women the moment he ejaculates.

Still, though, either of the alternate possibilities for this story (he’s comfortable with her having been a man, he’ll sleep with anything with a vagina) would have been more interesting than his just not paying attention.

Of course, that’s interesting I said, not funny. For the type of comedy The IT Crowd is, I actually think Graham made the right choice. Douglas got a surprise at the end of his story, and so did we. We thought we were seeing some depth of character, when, in reality, we were being fooled. There was nothing new to learn about Douglas; Linehan took us for suckers. And I, personally, thought it was hilarious.

If this were a novel, I’d be disappointed with the mishearing. But it’s a half-hour weekly sitcom that does a great job of making me laugh…and so I came away satisfied, and at least a little glad that Graham Linehan took the time to mislead me.

Maybe some others wanted more of the IT story. Given the choice, I’d probably have taken less of it. It was funny enough, but this week the grand champion was Matt Berry, getting beaten up by a girl. And that’s just the way I like it.

4 Stars

About this entry


> Douglas is turned on and then off again.


Thanks for the review Phil! And I agree with you, the episode was very good :)

Marleen's picture

By Marleen
December 13, 2008 @ 9:45 pm

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Glad you made the point about Matt Berry making every line funny - I doubt that anyone else could make the line ‘one of my little hobbies is caricatures’ quite so hilarious. The rest of the cast are excellent, but I don’t see how anyone could begrudge Douglas a prominent role in the show.

By Paul Christopher
December 14, 2008 @ 6:26 pm

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I think the main problem with giving him a larger role isn’t the character himself (who is very funny) but the simple fact he is located elsewhere in the building, requiring extra threads within the story. Threads which may not be related to the actual IT folk. (When they are related, like in past series, that’s fair enough.)

I prefer it where they stick to a couple of threads. It feels less disjointed and allows them to spend more time on expanding story ideas rather than having a few small ones running concurrently.

Look at the Moss/Bullies thread in the first episode by way of example. Imagine what extra meat they could have gotten out of that thread.

Besides I like that ‘them and us’ dynamic with the IT guys/gal in their own little cosy (well, ok, more like scummy) cave.

To be fair, this episode dealt with the multiple threads much better. It wasn’t my favourite but it had me chuckling most of the way through. And we’ve had the best of both worlds this series anyway so it’s not a big deal.

By ChrisM
December 14, 2008 @ 9:51 pm

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Best episode of the series so far I thought. Jen and Moss/Roy didn’t seem to have a lot of interaction in the first three.


By the way, what’s happened to Snafu Anthology, Phil Reed?

By Ridley
December 16, 2008 @ 11:18 pm

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>By the way, what’s happened to Snafu Anthology, Phil Reed?

I’ve been in touch with the editor (you’re not the first person to ask me about this!) and it seems they ran into some difficulties with their web host. As far as specifics, I didn’t ask…but she told me the magazine is still on track and the website will be up and active again once they get the problem sorted out.

I have to assume that all the demand for The Ghost of John Hoare crashed the server.

Phil Reed's picture

By Phil Reed
December 18, 2008 @ 2:09 am

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Have they tried turning it off and on again?

I was trying to find out if issue 2 was out ;)

By Ridley
December 18, 2008 @ 11:35 pm

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