by Nancy McDonald

British television shows are either hit or miss with me. I am a hardcore fan of The Office (David Brent is far superior to Michael Scott), but I can’t seem to get into the cult classic Absolutely Fabulous. My sister introduced me to a little British sitcom called The I.T. Crowd early last year and, I must admit, I wasn’t thrilled with the first season.  The concept is simple enough. Three people work in the I.T. department for Reynholm Industries (a corporation that does….something, but it’s never revealed what exactly). These people are Roy (Bridesmaids‘s Chris O’Dowd), a socially-inept fellow who likes to answer the phone with, “Hello, I.T., have you tried turning it off and on again?”; Maurice Moss (Richard Ayoade), who is a genius when it comes to computers and a little slow when it comes to damn near everything else; and Jen (Katherine Parkinson), who serves as their relationship manager with all of the other departments.

The first season made me laugh a few times, but ultimately it left me feeling like I had quite literally missed the joke. Was I supposed to laugh at Jen’s attempts to try on a pair of shoes three sizes too small? Or how about when Roy gets trapped underneath a desk (that’s right, I said trapped underneath a desk)? According to the laugh track, yes, I was supposed to be laughing. I took a leap of comedic faith by giving the second season a go (all four seasons currently avaialbe on DVD are just six episodes long), but I’m glad I did. The writing got much better and the actors clearly became more comfortable with their characters. By the end of the fourth season (a fifth season and final season is reportedly being filmed this year), I was a full-fledged I.T. Crowd fan. Now I can even re-watch that first season and find it– dare I say– hilarious at times. Here are my top five episodes:

1) “Jen the Fredo ” – (Season 4:Episode 1)

This is, without a doubt in my mind, my all-time favorite episode of this show. I suppose this is because it holds sentimental value for me. When I first watched this, I had just gone through a break-up (a sucky one at that), and it just so happens that the lovely Roy is also going through a break-up in this episode. His misery is on full display here, from his drinking wine at work to photoshopping his ex out of pictures they had taken together. The climax of the episode is a role-playing game a la Dungeons and Dragons in which Moss, pretending to be an elfin version of Roy’s former girlfriend, finally grants Roy bittersweet closure. This episode made me laugh when I needed it most, thus it claims the top spot.

Roy: I realize I haven’t been the easiest person to be around the last few weeks, but I really feel like I’ve turned the corner now. I really do. So if we could all just carry on like normal (breaks into uncontrollable crying, then swiftly recovers) I feel like I’ve come out the other side of it now. So everything’s going to be okay from here on out, MY HEART HURTS!

Jen: You do seem better than yesterday.

2) Are We Not Men? (Season 3:Episode 2)

Moss discovers a website that nerdy men, such as himself and Roy, can turn to in order to sound like “real men,” particularly when it comes to sports. Phrases such as “Did you see that ludicrous display last night?” are supposed to help them appear more manly. They test this out at a local pub with some other men who are watching a football game and it works like a gangbusters. Things get somewhat out of hand, though, when this group of men begins inviting them to play poker, attend sporting events and rob stores. But, honestly, what’s manlier than that?

Moss (watching a football game): Hooray, he’s kicked the ball. Now the ball’s over there. That man has the ball. That’s an interesting development. Maybe he’ll kick the ball. He has indeed. (The crowd cheers) Apparently that deserves a round of applause.

3) Friendface (Season 3:Episode 5)

Facebook is clearly spoofed in this episode in which Jen gets sucked into a social media site called Friendface. While she is playing catch up with old friends, Roy is tracked down on the site by a woman he briefly dated who took a cosmetic cue from a certain comic book villain.

Roy: Oh no, it’s all coming back to me now. She used to slap it on with a trowel.

Jen: Why don’t women have the confidence to know that less is more?

Roy: Then, when she started crying, it all ran down her face. It was like breaking up with the Joker

4) The Work Outing (Season 2:Episode 1)

The three misfits join a coworker from a different department and they attend a musical called, “Gay!” Roy is mistaken for a disabled man who had his wheelchair stolen, Moss is mistaken for a theatre bartender, and Jen is mistaken for a man.  Also, for British sitcom nerds, you might recognize Ash Atalla (producer of The Office and The I.T. Crowd) as the wheelchair-bound man who hits on Roy.

Jen: (after Roy has put doubts into her head about her date’s sexuality) It’s a date. I’m sure it is. Why else would he have asked me out?

Moss: Well, don’t take this the wrong way, but could he have thought you were a man?”

5) The Dinner Party (Season 2:Episode 4)

The boys are invited over to Jen’s for a dinner party in order to pair up some of her single friends with her  romantically-challenged coworkers. As it turns out, Jen’s friends are just as hopeless as her coworkers. Oh, and Jen is dating a man named Peter File. Say his name out loud. What does that sound like to you?

Roy: (Jen has just described how she met her new boyfriend) Buying the same kind of cheese. You made a 20 minute story out of it. Have you thought about adapting it into a film?

Click on the links to download the episodes or full seasons of the I.T. Crowd from iTunes, or hop on over to your local Slackers to order you DVD copies!