I have just watched the final episode of the sitcom The IT Crowd, and it is a bittersweet feeling to witness a series conclude at just the right moment.
It's that whole thing about always leaving the audience wanting more.
Jen, Roy and Moss (and occasionally Richmond) all run a company's IT department, although for all its impact on storylines, most of the time they might as well be making the company's sandwiches.
I thought the strongest of its four seasons was the first one, because it more featured storylines about working in an office, thanks to the great Chris Morris as the company's eccentric CEO Denholm Reynholm.
In season two though, Matt Berry took over as his womanising replacement Douglas, apparently deciding the play the role as some sort of ongoing tribute to Brian Blessed. With this new character, the series would slowly descend into more coarseness. Douglas was a womaniser. Roy was also a womaniser. The show probably still made me laugh most weeks, but it also stopped being quite so original about it.
Jen: "Why are you doing this?"
Douglas or Roy: "Same reason I do everything Jen - to have sex with a lady."
- S3E6 Calendar Geeks
One thing The IT Crowd never lost though was its enthusiastic sense of joy. It's a sadly messed-up thing to have to point out about any sitcom these days, but the only agenda throughout these five years was simply to muck about and have fun, and in this it positively excelled.
When, during the montage in S2E5 Smoke And Mirrors, Moss broke the fourth wall and shrugged his shoulders at us, the narrative's abandonment of all conviction was completely outweighed by just how perfect a moment it was for this.
Another key ingredient was what they never included - meanness. Whatever the source of this week's lunacy - and writer Graham Linehan was usually very up-front about his influences - no viewer was ever in danger of the script launching an attack on any group they might belong to. Teasing, sure (I loved the vicar who co-opts a funeral for a dramatic evangelistic opportunity in S2E2 Return Of The Golden Child), but The IT Crowd was never nasty. (although they did arguably misjudge that line on occasion)
Other successful techniques that really shouldn't have made this comedy stand out have been simply sharp picture quality and clear sound. I remain at a loss as to why so many other shows routinely muddy these elements in post. Well, I guess when the director is the same guy who also wrote it, he's in a position to make sure that no-one else messes it up.
Its worst moment would have to be the start of season two though, when they decided to just forget about the previous season's cliffhanger. Smart writing that wasn't.
Although as I say I thought the quality of the scripts crept slowly downhill throughout its 25 episode run, it never dipped to below being worth watching. The final episode The Internet Is Coming - a double-lengther handily forming episodes 25 and 26 for syndication - seemed to contain enough good ideas for a whole fifth series, but all packed together into a single programme they ensured that The IT Crowd went out without having to fill any spare run time.
It's also pleasing to see, at last, an episode that is actually about IT, something the show rarely displayed any genuine knowledge of.
I do think it a shame that Denholm never made it back from the dead though. Long-term, the series seemed to be aiming for that. I mean the manner in which he committed suicide just looked so prepared.
Denholm (voice-over): "Dear Douglas. If you're reading this, it's because you've found my father's old service revolver. I did plan on using this gun to take my own life, if it ever came to to it, but as you know in the end, I jumped out of a window."
- S3E1 From Hell
Douglas: "Father's ALIVE?!???"
- (line sadly never said)
So it's official - now The IT Crowd really are yesterday's jam.