A lot of great things have come from adapting British television shows for America.
“The Office”, “House of Cards”, and “American Idol” all started off as shows in the UK (although obviously “American Idol” had a different name when it debuted in Britain, and it’s pretty clear that sometimes, a good idea that works well for British audiences will stand the chance of becoming a mega hit in the United States.
Sadly, there have been some duds along the way as well. Such is the case with “The IT Crowd”, a quirky British sitcom about a group of nerds who work in the IT department of a major company.
There have, to date, been two attempts to make “The IT Crowd” work for America, and neither have made it past the pilot stage.
The most recent example even brought in Richard Ayoade, who plays the character of Moss in the British show – he reprises his role in the pilot for the American “The IT Crowd”, but even this isn’t enough to make the show actually watchable.
Now, NBC, ever optimistic that this show can become a big hit in America, is trying again. They’ve even managed to rope in Graham Linehan, the creator and writer of the original British version of the show, in order to try and give this new version of “The IT Crowd” something that might actually be worthwhile.
NBC’s plans are probably not going to work.
While “The IT Crowd” has won a fairly noteworthy fandom in America, it’s important to note that the show is still fairly niche. Something about Linehan’s often quite harsh humor doesn’t click with Americans in the same way that it does with Brits, and the core humor of the show would need to be sanitized a lot before regular viewers would really go for it.
Unfortunately, in trying to strip away the more socially uncomfortable jokes (which revolve around things like pretending to be disabled or throwing hot coffee on a homeless woman), “The IT Crowd” would lose its sense of identity.
Sure, Graham Linehan is going to be involved with this latest attempt, but it’s very likely that his particular flavor of comedy won’t sit well with the majority of American viewers.
Besides, America already has a shiny, glossy sitcom about the lives of nerdy outsiders. “The Big Bang Theory”, while not telling exactly the same story as “The IT Crowd”, feels similar enough in subject matter that most people will simply think of Linehan’s show as a late-to-the-party derivative.
NBC should be commended for trying yet again to make “The IT Crowd” work in America, but this particular sitcom is probably better off staying as a quirky import, rather than trying to become a homegrown sensation.