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The IT Crowd: the geeks are taking over

It's surely some kind of confluence of nerd ley-lines -- a sitcom about geeks that you can download for free! Bless those dorks at Channel 4

Geeks are clearly the target audience du jour for the UK's sitcom producers, with the recent BBC 2 debut of 'The Office in space' sci-fi series Hyperdrive and the heavily trailed The IT Crowd on Channel 4.

We've had a sneak peek at the first episode of The IT Crowd, but before we get to what we think, here's why we're bothering you about a TV programme: the first two eps are available for download from Channel 4's Web site, a full English week before the old-fashioned broadcast. Which is A Good Thing.

Unlike, sadly, the show itself. It's set in a dingy basement where two IT people work, and it's directed by Graham Linehan, who was behind the glorious Father Ted. We can't remember what we thought of the first episode of that, but if it was, "God, this isn't funny," then The IT Crowd might be onto something. Father Ted had a wonderful, experienced cast to sell its essential wackiness, though. The IT Crowd doesn't.

We can't tell who it's aimed at: there aren't enough in-jokes to attract nerds, and we can spot a nerdy in-joke from a mile off. At one point, Chris 'Brass Eye' Morris, with a Scottish accent and comedy moustache, talks into his mouse, thinking he's got a sophisticated voice-activation system set up -- just like Scottie in Star Trek IV (the one with the whales). But most of the time, people are just picking up phones and saying, "Have you tried turning it off and on again?" So is it aimed at people who may have come into contact with IT people in the past? And surely guys with an odd taste in ties and 'RTFM' t-shirts are a bit of a sitting duck, satire-wise?

It might well improve once the characters are established though, and we can only salute Channel 4 for making the show available online. You can download it from the mini-site (registration required) from tomorrow, Friday 27 January. Until then, someone should really tell Channel 4's announcers not to introduce the show as 'The it Crowd'. Grrr. -NH