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The IT Crowd: Friendface

The One With…

Everyone signing up to a community site…and living to regret it.

I Love Willies

The in-studio wide-shot whip-pans as Moss and Roy both join Friendface in a matter of second, a genuinely inventive bit of film grammar that perfectly captures the insane speed of the story’s progression. Oh, and it’s funny.

The visual of three colleagues all tapping away in the same room. “I love this. I feel so social.”

“That was a classic Moss line”. A great edge-of-the-fourth-waller. (But see below.)

Moss donning cardigan and pipe so as to appear husband-like – “Hey, if I’m pretending to be married, I’m pretending to the sexually active” – and naming the children Zenith and Quasar. Giving Moss a persona to play is always good fun.

“Who is this joker? No offence.”

Douglas tapping a cuckolded husband on the shoulder: “See her? I’m shagging her.” (Redeeming his clunky, out-of-nowhere appearance.)

The conclusion to the bar scene, with Moss getting “some of” his coats, “taking it outside” with Roy and then running away…only for Jen to do the same moments later. I’m a sucker for any event that shows Jen to be absolutely the same as Moss and Roy. There’s a reason they belong together.

You’ve Got Shit On Your Head

There’s something far too familiar and predictable about this episode. Far too ‘Big Book Of Sitcom Stories’. We immediately guess that Jen’s going to lie to her friends, that Moss will go over the top in the husband role, that Roy’s fiction and Jen’s will clash in front of everyone.

Now, The IT Crowd has always played on the tropes of predictable humour. Often the things you see coming are funny precisely because you do see them coming. However the ho-hum twists and turns of the story – leagues away from the best the show has to offer – owe more to the kind of conventions The IT Crowd generally subverts. So much of what goes on feels so…pedestrian compared to what we’ve come to expect.

Which would matter less if the gags were top-notch. But many of the jokes, too, don’t reach beyond the basics. Jen applying make-up while bemoaning women who wear too much, Moss’s mother and misunderstanding of ‘seeded’, Roy’s reaction to the Cuke advertising…you’ve seen all these gags before. (And done better. The early Cuke set-up seems built for Linehan’s trademark ‘cut to’, and instead stumbles with a too-slow reveal – from single can to packed fridge – giving us plenty of time to expect it’s arrival.)

In an episode short on classic gags, the “That was a classic Moss line” gag – for all its delightful self-awareness – feels like it’s taunting me. There are classic Moss lines in the show, it says, and you’re not allowed to see them.

The two jokers coda should work…but somehow doesn’t quite.

What Graham Says

From the man’s very own blog: “Was never quite happy with the script, to be honest, and as a result it was rewritten to death and under-rehearsed (The Joker/Matt punchline, for example, was conceived and shot about an hour before the studio audience filed in). That said, I thought the cast did a great job rescuing it…they saved my arse on the ‘I think you still have feelings for this young man’ scene.”

Absolutely. When the material is thinner than usual, you come to realise just how vital a great cast is to making any comedy work. All three leads (oh, okay then, four) turn some surprisingly unremarkable – can you be surprisingly unremarkable? – lines into much more than they are. A special mention, then for Katherine Parkinson draining her wine glass and re-ordering, and Roy’s reponse to being asked if he’s worried his date will go mad, “I’m very worried about that!”

Still, Linehan also deserves a point or two as director – some of the visuals (the classic melodrama stylings of the climax scenes, the aforementioned whip-pans) also rise above what’s on the page.

Linehan also responded to concerns over Jen’s (rather amusing) line “That’d be an absolute fucker”: “The F word just sort of kept sneaking through, and there was a reason for using every one, and it always seemed like a valid reason. But to be honest, if I could do this series again, I would find a way of removing all of them, with the exception of Matt’s one to the multi-faith tour. In fact, that’s my new rule. From now on, only one ‘fuck’ allowed per series. If that.”

I think that’s a good call. It seems strange that the show has become so much more ‘adult’ (for want of a better term in a world where saying fuck and making date rape jokes is also the province of the average 13 year old boy) than it originally seemed, and I’m not convinced this evolution benefits the programme.

Still, while I concur on the swearing, story elements in several episodes – including The Speech and Men Without Women – also, I feel, need addressing. I’m not sure you can dismiss concerns over the fumbled handling of certain emotive issues simply by saying that “it’s a silly show and not meant to be taken seriously”. If you can’t handle volatile subject matter, and I honestly don’t think this show can, leave it alone.

Bodie, Doyle, Tiger, The Jewellery Man

Claudia Harrison as Delina lists the realistically-large career successes of herself and Jen’s old pals in a scene that feels more like Friends than The IT Crowd. (Where’s the comic exaggeration in being head of marketing for Dennis Publishing?!) Years before, Harrison actually played Emily’s bridesmaid in Friends.

Lewis Macleod, the voice of the Friendface ad, has a shitload of voice credits – including one for The Peter Serafinowicz Show.

Have You Tried Turning It Off And On Again?


There’s a holding page up on the real-life Friendface site, complete with bizarre text (“economic meal and sentiments”?) that seems like it may relate to the forthcoming series three DVD.

Roy is seen playing with a Tenori-on.

Don’t Google The Question

“Message for me!”

Well, if you’ve got a flat episode, put it out fifth. It’s the right thing to do. It’s odd that a story based on something that should work brilliantly stumbles so predictably. Linehan is absolutely built to capture the all-consuming nature of community websites, but while it’s certainly captured, nowhere near enough of it is especially funny. There’s certainly a recognisable quality to everything that goes on – the way these sites lead to embarrassing moments with relatives (Moss’s mother’s mood is posted as “sensual”), time-consuming, self-perpetuating messaging, and the digging up of old friends and awkward exes – but recognition only gets you so far.

I generally like IT Crowd episodes that pull story strands from a single core idea, so Friendface should have been ideal. God knows the world of poetry-writing, net-stalking exes and hours lost to ‘blah’ messaging is enough to make the skin crawl with identification. Yet by the end I was painfully aware of just how little this episode had transported me. How little I laughed, how rarely I was surprised. A shame.

It’s not all bad, of course. The opening cartoon is big on style, clumsy on script – and not a patch on the video piracy and emergency services ads of previous years – but is partially redeemed by the reminder that you can now forget about the infection metaphor, “Germ Analogy Over”, plus the likeable animation. Roy’s to-camera Cuke advert – “Heaven in a can” – is one you’ll see coming, but the rotted teeth are a neat touch.

So although by no means an abject failure, it’s all a little tired, and certainly the weakest episode of the series.

2 Stars

About this entry


>Roy is seen playing with a Tenori-on.

I wondered what that thing was. Can somebody buy me one?

Phil Reed's picture

By Phil Reed
December 21, 2008 @ 4:13 pm

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Quick aside, as I haven’t watched the episode yet, but is there a reason for the garbled ‘text’ at the top of the Friendface site? It appears to read the as the reverse of the text below it, though, which is disappointing as I wanted to get my Perplexcity on…

By Ross
December 21, 2008 @ 4:15 pm

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This was the weakest episode of the Series so far, in my view, yet it still contained plenty of laughs, indicating just how far this show has progressed since the hit-and-miss days of the 1st season.

Moss’ idea of how Jen’s husband might act is brilliant.

By Ben
December 22, 2008 @ 1:11 am

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hi just wounding will there be a real friendface to go on and do stuff like what happen on the it crowed

By Martin
December 22, 2008 @ 2:05 am

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Ok I just downloaded a clip of Moss’ “Message for me!!” and made it the text message tone on my phone. Exactly how much of a geek does this make me? :P

Muz's picture

By Muz
December 22, 2008 @ 1:48 pm

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> Exactly how much of a geek does this make me? :P

In the present company? No higher than a 7.

Andrew's picture

By Andrew
December 22, 2008 @ 2:58 pm

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I thought it was probably the poorest episode this series as well, although I loved the stuff with Moss and Jen at the party.

Have to disagree with Andrew about Douglas’ “I’m shagging her” line; too unsubtle and it felt rushed, as though Linehan hasn’t thought exactly how best to tie that scenario up and so just had him blurt it out to lead us to the (literal) punchline. I think it would have worked better if the two men had been watching the girl and Douglas had tried to make “man to man” banter about her becoming more and more inappropriate before the reveal. But that’s just me.

Zagrebo's picture

By Zagrebo
December 22, 2008 @ 4:45 pm

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While this did feel like we already knew almost everything that was coming (it had to be one of the leads that was shagging that bloke’s wife, and it wasn’t exactly going to be Moss and Roy, though I remember thinking ‘it won’t be Douglas because he’s obviously not in this episode’ WRONG.) I still thought it was great. More than 2 stars for sure, but less than 4.

I loved the scene where they’re just typing, mainly because, even though it shouldn’t have, it felt a bit bold to include it. Good ‘classic Moss line’ er line. They can do that kind of gag here in episode 5 of the 3rd series. Jen’s ‘absolute fucker’ line slayed me. That scene reminded me of conversations I have on a daily basis. I hate anyone who’s had an ounce of success. Even if it’s not as much as I’ve had (granted, not a lot), just the idea of anyone gaining anything or moving up any kind of ladder makes me want to cram their head into a CD jewel case, piece of plastic bollocks.

Btw, the fact that the cast ‘saved’ this episodes goes to show how great they are now. We NEED at least one more series after this, and a Christmas special of some kind (though they’d have to broadcast the actual series just a tad further away from Christmas to achieve that methinks…)

By performingmonkey
December 22, 2008 @ 5:23 pm

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and a Christmas special of some kind

Yes! But just the one, like Father Ted.

Zagrebo's picture

By Zagrebo
December 22, 2008 @ 9:08 pm

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I really loved this episode! If I had to put them in order, I’d say this was my second favourite of the series after “The Speech”. The reveal of “The Joker” was excellent, and reminded me of the reveal of “The Magician”.

Some of my fave bits:

“I AM eating my apple, mum! She packed me an apple for lunch, and it’s the issue of the day.”
The wine chug and voice.
“A woman in the living room, a chef in the kitchen, a prostitute in the bedroom.”
“It’s as tough as a cow’s back”
“Who is this joker? No offense” (and the hand over mouth afterwards as Roy considers what he said)
“I will just get some of my coats.”

By Simon
December 22, 2008 @ 9:58 pm

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The Scrabble line early on. You know why.

Marleen's picture

By Marleen
December 22, 2008 @ 10:39 pm

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First thoughts on an end of series appraisal:

1) The Speech
2) Are We Not Men
3) From Hell
4) Friendface
5) Calendar Geeks
6) Breakin’ 2: Electric Bonerpants

Phil Reed's picture

By Phil Reed
December 27, 2008 @ 9:00 pm

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