First Aired: 3rd February 2006
Chris O’Dowd Roy Trennerman
Richard Ayoade Maurice Moss
Katherine Parkinson Jennifer Barber
Chris Morris Denholm Renholm
Plot: Jen is starting work at Renholm industries under the eye of madman Denholm Renholm and is put in charge of the IT department, based on a lie on her CV.
Her new department is essentially two staff in the basement, lazy and antisocial Roy and uber-nerd Moss, who are unhappy about their lot in life. Jen is enchanted by the upper floors and equally horrified when sent down to the basement. The pair are horrified about a manager installed above them and it becomes pretty clear that she has no idea at all about computers, or in fact being in charge. They take this to Denholm, but soon back-pedal when they learn that Denholm is sacking people whocan’t work as a team.
Realising they have to work together or they are all out of a job. After diffusing a beating (apparently a regular occurrence) Jen realises that she can help the dept become better liked within the company by arranging a party. This goes really well, right up until Moss tells the wrong drunk in Amsterdam story and the group goes back to being low men on the totem pole and Jen has resigned herself to being one of them now.
Notes: It’s hard to avoid stereotypes in comed, from the easy laughs and high audience identification, it ends up being one of the more common used things. So seeing this program stocked with the stock-characters as the clueless boss, incompetent middle manager, disgruntled staff and anoraks as the IT department, it wasn’t a program that I expected a lot from. However since this came from the mind that brought us Father Ted, I needn’t have worried.
Yes, two thirds of the main cast are the stereotypes of IT staff, we have the guy who knows too much of how the computers work and is clueless about everything else and the guy on the other end of the phone, all uninterested and sarcastic. I’ve both spoken to that guy and in my less finer moments,been that guy.(They are not limited to IT departments) so there is truth to a lot of how these guys act. The genius here is that they are so exaggerated that it becomes funny for it’s bizarre nature and not the cheap laughs I expected. Lines like “The beatings are happening on a bi-weekly basis.” points out how ridiculous this whole thing is. From the dichotomy of the glamorous staff and unisex toilets of the top floor to the barely functioning basement with it’s half on doors and unlockable toilet door. It paints the office of Renholm Industries as a hell you spend 8 hours a day in. Katherine Parkinson and Chris O’Dowd are funny throughout, but it’s the casting of Chris Morris as Renholm that raises the bar here. There is no subtlety, or nuance here, it’s just madness as he delivers almost undeliverable dialogue with a performance that would need to be more restrained just to be considered mad. But neither of these three is the find of the program. Richard Ayoade’s Moss is an amazing comedy creation. Child-like and odd, he wanders through the program almost as if he should be on another one, but I couldn’t imagine what program that would be. You can’t imagine the course of events that led him to be friends with Roy, or even how he got that job. But in this mad mix of people, in this tortured group, he fits in perfectly.
Although it is a pilot and you see the origins of the program, it doesn’t feel new, it feels like it’s been going for a couple of years, it’s that polished. Polished, but more than a little crazy.
Does it work? Certainly, workplace comedy can be boring, but not when it’s done like this.
Does much need fixing? Nothing at all, it’s all in place from the get go.
Does it stand up? It reeks of it’s time, so it’s very much a your mileage with vary with that.
Do I want to watch the next one? Yes, but will wait a while for that.
Did I enjoy it? Very much so.
Overall: 4 out of 5 A solid bit of strange comedy with a stellar cast and excellent scripting.