Thoughts – The IT Crowd (Unaired US Pilot)
The IT Crowd – Unaired U.S. Pilot
The big difference between the world with YouTube and the world without YouTube is that with YouTube nobody’s failure is safe. If you fail and there’s a camera there it will be seen around the world. So in this age of ‘everything is public’ is it any wonder YouTube has become the new home of failed pilots. Pilot episodes that never got picked up, that will never make to series, that were once resigned to some kind of Television Island of Misfits Toys are now available for the whole world to see. You want to see the misguided attempt to Americanise Spaced, YouTube has it. You want to see what Aquaman the series would have looked like, give YouTube another search. Today I’m going to take a look at another failed pilot, the American remake of The IT Crowd.
With the new Fall TV season having run its course I thought this was an apt time to look at the other side of the coin. While Outlaw and Hellcats were lucky enough to see the light of the world, even if Outlaw wasn’t long for it, what does failure look like? What does a show look like that the TV gods deem ‘not good enough’ to make it on air? Remaking The IT Crowd for American audiences makes sense in principle. The Office is one of the biggest sitcom successes of the second half of the 00’s so why not try to replicate that success by producing carbon copies of EVERY sitcom that was a hit on the other side of the pond.
Unlike the US adaptation of Spaced, which went ahead without the blessing of anybody involved in the original, The IT Crowd (US) brought creator Graham Lineham on board as Executive Producer and even employed Richard Ayoade to reprise his role as Mos. Also encouraging is the fact that the awesome Joel McHale (Community, The Soup) was brought in to play the role of Roy. Jessica St. Clair replaces Jen with a blonder, prettier, less harried, version, while Rocky Carroll steps in as Denholm who now is distinctively more black than the original’s Chris Morris.
The script has essentially been remade word for word here and it makes for an odd viewing experience. Just as watching the first episodes of the two Office’s back to back is unnerving, and watching something like Outrageous Fortune and then Scoundrels leaves your brain muddled, so does watching a line for line reproduction of The IT Crowd. While some of the jokes still work, a lot of the line reading (specifically from McHale and St. Clair) just feels off, like a high school production of last night’s episode of Glee. The words are the same, and in their minds those kids are doing a spot on version of Rachel, but the vibe is completely different.
Again, this comparison has to be made because they chose to do it note for note. If The IT Crowd had merely taken the concept and reinvented it for US audiences it mightn’t feel so odd but they’ve just replaced three of the actors and called it a new show. It’s always weird watching an American version of a British show as if they don’t already speak English in England. “Oh, well, we best do it with our own actors because Americans don’t understand your strange language. It all sounds like gibberish to me.”
There is a fun game to be had in The IT Crowd (US) and that’s with Mos. This Mos has moved from England to work at for the IT department in Reynholm Industry in America, so let’s pretend that he moved from the London office of Reynholm Industries where he’s working in a IT department with another guy named Roy, another woman named Jen and another boss named Denholm. I’d like to imagine that in future episodes Mos would start to pick up on all the connections between his past life in London and his current life in America and wonder if he’d stepped through a crack in the time space continuum.
The IT Crowd (US) actually had a full series ordered, and had even been advertised by NBC but they pulled out at the last minute and The IT Crowd never made it to air. This is a good thing because it meant that McHale could go on to make Community and Mos could go back to continue the original, but it’s a slight shame because this version isn’t that bad. There are still laughs to be had, and while I attribute that mostly to gags that I’ve already laughed at previously, it wasn’t a completely worthless remake, unlike that Spaced nonsense.
Whenever a show is remade for US audiences the one hope is that the creators take the core of the show and spin their own universe around it, rather than just cut and paste the originals characters, jokes and premise while changing words like ‘Manchester’ to ‘Milwaukee’ afraid that Americans will switch off as soon as they hear mention of the outside world. The IT Crowd (US) isn’t the worst translation of a British series, but it does still feel like somebody repeating a catchphrase as if just by saying the same words it’ll be just as funny as the first time they heard it.