Techie TV comedy premieres online

Threatening to do for techies what The Office did for middle managers, a sitcom based around a dysfunctional IT department is being launched next month

The IT Crowd is due to air on the UK's Channel Four on 3 February. However, in a potential nod towards the techies that the show lampoons, the first two episodes will be premiered online a week before the TV broadcast.

The show is based around Roy, Moss and Jen who make up the IT department of Reynholm Industries. While their supposedly social betters work upstairs in fantastic surroundings, the hapless techies are forced to endure a dark basement.

The show's writer and director Graham Linehan was also behind the award-winning comedy series Father Ted. He has also has written for the satirical comedy show Brass Eye, The Harry Enfield Show, and The Fast Show (for which he created Ted and Ralph).

According to Linehan the two geeks, Roy and Moss, are based upon himself in years gone by. "Roy is certainly me before I got married. And Moss is me maybe when I was about 16. But they're the same age, which is what makes them funny."

Linehan added that he believes that real IT workers will hopefully realise the show is actually a celebration of techies rather than a cynical attack. "I think they'll get that it's done with real affection. I'm certainly not out to offend anyone, and if anything it's a celebration of Geekdom in all its guises. The IT office is very like my office. Computer bits lying around, comics and CDs, a total disaster."

In the first episode, unloved, ignored, socially-awkward Roy and Moss have their world shattered by the arrival of a new 'relationship manager', Jen, a young woman who, according to the programme's makers, knows as much about computers as your average 17th-century farmer. However, it isn't long before Roy and Moss realise that a female presence in their team can have its benefits.

Chris O'Dowd, who plays Roy, described his character as being someone with a higher opinion of himself than he really should have — "a slightly bullying and yet really fearful, arrogant and ignorant fool.

"He works as a character when you see him with Moss. They totally work as a couple. You can imagine that they met on the first day of University... when everybody else was in the bar, they were in the computer lab," explained O'Dowd.

Check back for ZDNet UK's review of the first episode of the IT Crowd next week. To access the show online, viewers will need to register at the Channel Four Web site.