Now that The Watch has had its opening weekend, we can all agree that Richard Ayoade is by and far the best part of that movie. As I mentioned, we almost got our chance to meet this quirky Welshman back in 2007, when NBC decided to remake Richard’s show The IT Crowd for American audiences much the way that they had copied over Coupling (which bombed) and The Office (which still stuns us with its early success). The series didn’t get picked up, but Crushable reader Eric Marshall tipped us off to the pilot! You can watch it online at DailyMotion… and I can see why it allegedly “didn’t quite spark” with NBC chairman Ben Silverman.
It doesn’t help than in these UK-to-U.S. adaptations, the studios invariably copy the pilot shot-for-shot and joke-for-joke. Sure, it worked for The Office when the general plot was that the asshole boss had to fire someone but was too much of a pussy to do it, because you could tailor that to the characters who were markedly different from their British forebears. But in the American IT Crowd pilot, the cadence and atmosphere match up so closely that it feels fake, like a bunch of Yanks mocking their neighbors across the pond. This video helpfully illustrates just how unoriginal the latter pilot is:
Even worse, the bright idea to bring over Ayoade as the oddball Moss but then insert Joel McHale as Roy and Jessica St. Clair as Jen — yep, without even changing their names – makes the pilot feel even more off. I’m not saying that the jokes falling flat are McHale’s fault. He simply doesn’t possess the same rage that so infused Chris O’Dowd‘s performance as Roy! Even when Jen muscled her way into taking over the IT department, he never seemed more than vaguely peeved. We’ve seen him more worked up over Kardashian clips on The Soup. Also because of that association, he never quite seemed like he’d be caught wearing a T-shirt and no deodorant. We’re just used to him as a classy, always-suited-up fella.
They didn’t even change the title credits! To be fair, it was just a pilot and they didn’t know it was going to be picked up… But there’s something unsettling about how you could insert a lanky guy and a blond girl and it didn’t really matter who you actually chose. At least when The Office and Coupling came over the pond, they cast actors who weren’t twins to the originals.
But now all is well! Because just a few years after this pilot failed, McHale joined Community; Ayoade is here now; and O’Dowd stole our hearts in Bridesmaids, and then skeeved us out on Girls. Happy endings for everyone.