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Welcome once again to our annual "first look" at the broadcast networks' offerings for the 2007-2008 season. Each day we'll walk you through one of the new series set to premiere this season and go over our initial impressions after viewing the pilot. While it's still a little early for full reviews (some recasting and reshooting will be done on a good chunk of them), we still want to give you a heads up on what you should - and shouldn't - keep on your radar in the coming months.
And as an added bonus this year, each day we'll also take a look at one of the pilots that didn't make the cut. So enough of our rambling, on with the show!
THE I.T. CROWD (NBC)
(TBA at midseason)
The network's description: "Ever wonder what's up with those quirky techies who come to fix the office computer when no one's around? "The IT Crowd" is an offbeat series, based on the critically acclaimed British comedy, that offers a humorous behind-the-scenes peek at the people who truly keep the office humming. Roy (Joel McHale, "The Soup") and Moss (Richard Ayoade, "The IT Crowd" -- U.K.) are the misunderstood masters of their high-tech domain, but they lack the people skills to befriend anyone but each other. Their company's head is Denholm (Rocky Carrol, "Chicago Hope"), who wants the IT department to stay segregated and forever banished to the basement. Executive producers are Moses Port ("Just Shoot Me"), David Guarascio ("Just Shoot Me"), Joe Port (NBC's "The Office"), Joe Wiseman ("The Office"), Graham Linehan ("The IT Crowd" -- UK) and Steve Tao ("Red Doors"). Gail Mancuso ("Scrubs," "30 Rock") directed the pilot. "The IT Crowd" is produced by NBC Universal Television Studio."
What did they leave out: As far as I can tell, the pilot is nearly verbatim from the script of the original U.K. version save for the usual "across the pond" changes (resume instead of CV, amusement park instead of fair, etc.) Additionally, the role of Jen, played by Jessica St. Clair in the screened pilot, is being recast.
The plot in a nutshell: Jen (Jessica St. Clair) thinks her interview with eccentric corporate mogul Denholm (Rocky Carroll) is going well ("I like to start things off with a good, hard stare," he notes), that is until he brings up her technical skills. He mistakenly thinks she'd be great as the new head of their I.T. department. She, on the other hand, only knows how to send e-mail. Nevertheless, Jen plays along only to find out she's literally been banished to the basement to supervise slacker Roy (Joel McHale) and quirky Moss (Richard Ayoade, reprising his role from the U.K. original). None too pleased to have someone running their clubhouse, the boys - in several amusing segments - discover she's as bad with computers as they are with people. Thinking they've got enough rope to hang her with, Roy and Moss try to bust her to Denholm but not before he reminds them that he doesn't take kindly to co-workers who don't work as a team. Left with no choice, the trio come up with a plan - set to "The A-Team" theme song no less - to utilize their strengths: she'll help them make friends with the "normal" people at work and they'll get her up to speed on computers. It all goes well until a party in their department goes horribly, horribly wrong.
What works: The show genuinely captures the pariah status I.T. workers have - from being ignored by the "normal" people until they have a problem to the guys' frustration with moronic people calling for support ("Are you from the past?" Roy asks a despondent caller). At the same time there's a goofy charm to the proceedings, whether to be Moss's panache for always making two cups of tea so that he can drop one in feigned shock, the fun animated interstitials, Denholm's megalomaniacal attitude or the fact the pilot ends with a slide show of pictures from the time Moss and Roy spent the day at an amusement park with a pair of hookers. Plus, any show that has a character wearing a RTFM T-shirt (Google it) and "The A-Team" theme song in the same episode can't be all bad.
What doesn't: That being said, the show feels very sparse. "The Office," "The Simpsons," "Scrubs," etc. have spoiled us when it comes to having a wide array of supporting players at its disposal, making "Crowd's" focus on only Roy, Moss, Denholm and Jen feel barren by comparison. I guess it would be different if all four were magnetic, interesting personalities but they're all not. (St. Clair is by far the weakest link as her high-strung take on Jen borders on shrill.) And considering it's - forgive me - "office"-based humor, it's hard not to wonder where the Tobys, the Stanleys and the Oscars are that could make the show feel richer. All in all, the show definitely has the seeds to become something fun - great backdrop, goofy attitude - but I'm still waiting for the rest of the pieces - well-rounded cast, richer feel - to fall into place.
The bottom line: You could do a lot worse - see below - but you could also do a lot better.