IT laughs at itself

British TV spoofs IT administrator stereotypes

A British TV show has taken the best and worst of IT administrator stereotypes and packed them into a clever, side-splitting comedy.

The IT Crowd features Jen, who has been appointed as a supervisor in her company's IT department but knows nothing about computers. When asked during her job interview what she knows about IT, she says, "You know, e-mail. Sending e-mail. Receiving e-mail. Deleting e-mail. Um, I could go on."

But Jen's social skills are sorely needed to raise the profiles of Moss and Roy, two hopelessly geeky IT administrators banished to a dingy basement office strewn with hardware detritus. Roy arrogantly advises computer-challenged employees who call him with a problem to turn their computers off and on again, which usually allows him to go back to reading his comic books.

Coworker Moss is a stiff-spined nerd with thick glasses, whose deft technical knowledge but nonexistent social skills landed him a desk next to Roy's. When Jen makes the mistake in one episode of asking Moss a techie query, Moss's answer is humorously dubbed over with the sound of static as Jen blankly stares.

And then there's Richmond the Goth, whose Marilyn Manson-like attire sent his career path askew. He is now in charge of a mysterious bank of blinking lights that presumably power their building's network.

The show's creators have sprinkled surprising hints of cool for street-geek cred, such as the stickers on the IT office's door from the online rights advocacy group Electronic Frontier Foundation and the passive-aggressive slogans on Roy's technology-themed T-shirts. The IT Crowd pounds on nerd stereotypes--Roy stumbles and bleeds in several episodes, while Moss's odd rigidness renders him impotent in normal conversation--but their high comic moments melt any degrading perceptions of their jobs.

The show's successful six-episode run last fall has led Britain's Channel 4, a publicly owned nonprofit station, to commission another season.

Those shows are likely to air in 2007 in the United Kingdom.

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