Telly Checked*: The IT Crowd & Sherlock

Posted on July 28, 2010 by

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Time to wring your clammy little hands together in joy, for this instalment of TC* is a double-feature- The IT Crowd, and Sherlock.

The IT Crowd

The IT Crowd is something special. It stands firm against adversity, against criticism, and against the modern style of sitcoms. To whit, while most television comedy you see now is much closer to the American ideal of a sitcom (i.e. Seinfeld- My Family), The IT Crowd sticks true to the old British formula, and in doing so manages to seem fresh and innovative.

Now in its fourth series (With a fifth on the way), The IT Crowd has really grown into itself. When it started off back in 2006, it got by on its inherent charm, and good writing. Though the characters were somewhat one-dimensional, and running jokes came close to being over-done. It could have ended up being just another sitcom that stagnated and never went anywhere (Like pretty much every sitcom ITV have ever tried to make) but over the following series it matured and expanded, finding its niche. The writing went from ‘good’ to ‘excellent’ and the characters grew as people, becoming relatable and involving.

It’s hard to describe some of the ways in which the series has improved over time, though. It’s not a drama, so there’s little continuity besides occasional call-backs to previous episodes (which this new series is full of) and as a sitcom, status quo is god (not the band). Individual character have all gotten more focus (except Richmond, played by Noel Feilding, who seems to have been written out after series 2, which is a shame*) particularly Matt Berry’s character Douglas Reynolm, who’s fantastically hammy acting could rival Brian Blessed’s.

*Okay, he got a cameo at the end of series 4, which aired after I wrote this, but it doesn’t look like he’ll be returning again.

The fourth series has been by far the funniest yet, with slick comedy, a new tendency to self-reference, and moving the IT team out of their basement a lot more, to experience more of the ever-so-slightly surreal world around them. There are subtle jokes that are left to mature for whole episodes before the punchline, and the geek chic levels are through the roof. All of the characters (even Moss, sort of) has had some sort of relationship, breaking the ‘Roy can never get a date’ cliché that has been settling in over previous seasons despite many female viewers pointing out that they’d love to go out with Roy, and Moss has been given new ways to show his freakish intelligence, which was becoming more an informed ability as he never really got to do anything in previous series besides re-acting.

This has been the best series so far, and proof that not all great sitcoms should only last 2 series (Spaced, Hyperdrive, The Office, Fawlty Towers). If you’ve been missing it, god knows how, watch it all on 4OD, because it is, without question, one of the best sitcoms to have aired in years. 

SHERLOCK

I will admit, that when I first heard the BBC was doing an adaption of Sherlock Holmes, I figured it was a cheap attempt by them to cash-in on the success of Guy Ritchie’s excellent 2009 film. However, this is most definitely not the case.

Holmes is a public domain character, meaning that no one owns the rights to him or the stories he’s in, which means if they wanted to, ITV could run a version of directly opposite the BBC and the Beeb wouldn’t be able to do anything about it. They wont, though, because ITV already has (Well, had) the best adaptions of Holmes stories in existence, with their 1980’s series starring Jeremy Brett.

The BBC knew that to make a straight adaption of the stories would be a waste of time, and instead opted to modernise them. This isn’t the first time it’s been done, though. Many early Holmes adaptions tweaked things closer to the modern day, although admittedly never this much.

Sherlock is set in present-day London, and as such is full of texting and laptops and cars. The setting update works wonders for the material, too. Expanding upon what could be done with it by allowing for modern technologies, forensics and sciences.

The new Holmes (Played ably by Benedict Cumberbatch) flat-out describes himself as a high functioning sociopath (A common fan theory regarding the original character) who may, or may not (because of BBC rules) be a drug addict. He’s the worlds only ‘consulting detective’ and invented ‘the science of deduction’. He’s the man the police go to when they’re desperately in over their heads- driven by a compulsion to solves puzzles and to prove himself right.

The new Watson (Played equally ably by Martin Freeman) is an ex-army doctor, invalided back home from Afghanistan after being shot. The more things change, the more they stay the same… He’s depressed, lonely and most importantly, he desperately misses the action. When Holmes enters his life (Watson ends up becoming his flatmate after sharing an investigation) all of his needs are satisfied .

Sherlock is written by the man who single-handedly saved Doctor Who from becoming a campy, poorly written mess of angst and Daleks, Stephen Moffat, and his DW cohort Mark Gatiss (Who also plays an excellent and unexpected Mycroft). Together they have recrafted the old material into something fresh, witty and exciting. The dialogue between characters, particularly Holmes and Watson, is joyously charming and hilarious and expository, and watching the two characters interact is breathtaking. Moffat’s Holmes feels very much like watching 11th Doctor Matt Smith, and indeed the whole show feels like Doctor Who without the Sci-Fi, which is, let me stress, not a bad thing. Moffat’s style of dialogue, his humour and his plotting are all strongly evident throughout.

One of the many nice touches is that it allows the viewers to see things as Holmes does, text frequently appears in screen to describe clues he notices, deductions he makes, and even text messages on people’s phones, an excellent visual flair that adds to the unique feel of the show.

One thing I did notice that grated somewhat, is that the score is noticeably similar to Hans Zimmers from the 2009 film, using the same period instruments to make the same period sounds, and for an otherwise modern take, period 1880’s music feels a tad out of place.

Overall, A study in Pink was an excellent start, and I look forward eagerly to future instalments. Sherlock looks set to be as brilliant as series 5 of Doctor Who was, so if you have yet to watch the first episode, do so now in the BBC iPlayer.

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Posted in: TV