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Techie TV comedy to premiere online in U.K.

New sitcom "The IT Crowd," focusing on hapless tech workers, is meant to be "a celebration of geekdom in all its guises."

Threatening to do for techies what "The Office" did for middle managers, a sitcom based on a dysfunctional IT department debuts next month in Britain.

"The IT Crowd" is due to air on the U.K.'s Channel Four on Feb. 3. However, in a potential nod toward the techies whom the show lampoons, the first two episodes will be premiered online a week before the TV broadcast. (To access the show online, viewers will need to register at the Channel Four Web site.)

The show deals with Roy, Moss and Jen, who make up the IT department of Reynholm Industries. While their supposedly social betters work upstairs in fantastic surroundings, the hapless techies are forced to endure a dark basement.

The show's writer and director, Graham Linehan, was also behind the award-winning comedy series "Father Ted." He has also written for the satirical comedy show "Brass Eye," "The Harry Enfield Show" and "The Fast Show."

Linehan said he based the two geeks, Roy and Moss, on himself in years gone by: "Roy is certainly me before I got married. And Moss is me maybe when I was about 16. But they're the same age, which is what makes them funny."

Real IT workers will hopefully realize that the show is actually a celebration of techies rather than a cynical attack, Linehan said. "I think they'll get that it's done with real affection. I'm certainly not out to offend anyone, and if anything, it's a celebration of geekdom in all its guises. The IT office is very like my office. Computer bits lying around, comics and CDs, a total disaster."

In the first episode, unloved, ignored, socially awkward Roy and Moss have their world shattered by the arrival of a new "relationship manager," Jen, a young woman who, according to the program's makers, knows as much about computers as the average 17th-century farmer. However, it isn't long before Roy and Moss see that a female presence in their team can have its benefits.

Chris O'Dowd, who plays Roy, described his character as being someone with a higher opinion of himself than he really should have--"a slightly bullying and yet really fearful, arrogant and ignorant fool.

"He works as a character when you see him with Moss. They totally work as a couple. You can imagine that they met on the first day of university...when everybody else was in the bar, they were in the computer lab," explained O'Dowd.

Andrew Donohue of ZDNet UK reported from London. Check back next week for ZDNet UK's review of the first episode of "The IT Crowd."