“The IT Crowd” Season Three
Tuesdays at 11 p.m.
IFC

3.5 out of 5 Stars

“The IT Crowd” is one of the finest British sitcoms ever to grace YouTube. But in its third season — the first to be broadcast in non-rerun form in the United States — the show’s endearingly nerdy wit is drowned out by laugh tracks and ridiculous gags. Despite these unproductive changes that reek of American influence, the show is still funnier than a lot of American sitcoms.

The show follows two information technology specialists: Roy (Chris O’Dowd, “Roman’s Empire”) and Moss (Richard Ayoade, “The Mighty Boosh”). Their recently appointed boss Jen (Katherine Parkinson, “Fear, Stress and Anger”) knows nothing about computers.

While the first season focused on Jen’s integration into the computing office and Roy and Moss’s respective inabilities to acquire social skills (Roy is a veritable pervert and Moss is simply oblivious to the entire non-technological world), the second and third seasons are moving this quirky trio outside of their basement office. In the third season’s premiere, for instance, the plot centers on a builder doing work on Jen’s apartment. Roy is nearly sure he saw the worker peeing in people’s sinks on a show called “Builders From Hell.”

Roy, Moss and Jen are the main characters for a reason: They’re hilarious, and the scenes that center on them are by far the funniest in the show. But while there are still a fair number of these scenes, they’ve been cut back considerably in favor of extraneous subplots involving old revolvers and strange dream sequences. Focusing on non-central characters like the builder or the company boss, Douglas Renholm — played by a noticeably Jack Black-esque and similarly one-dimensional Matt Berry (“The Golf War”) — essentially takes the “IT” out of “The IT Crowd.”

In addition, a lot of the best jokes are marred by an annoying new overuse of laugh tracks. It never completely ruins the moment, though, and there are still moments that induce some serious, rocking-back-and-forth laughter. But it definitely stops the show from reaching the level of humor it so effortlessly maintained in its first season.

Keeping these criticisms in mind, the “The IT Crowd” is still entertaining. The first season set such a high bar that the foibles of season three feel even more egregious than they actually are. Ayoade, though relatively unknown, is still one of the best comedic actors on television and he delivers his lines with the timing of a true professional. O’Dowd is still a rotten scoundrel with a golden heart. And Parkinson can still throw quite a tirade. The writers are secure in these characters’ identities, but they frequently falter when introducing new blood to the cast (which they seem insistent on doing).

As a warning to “IT Crowd” newcomers, the show is definitely continuing its policy of self-referencing at every opportunity, and those who try to jump in now may find some of the jokes derived from earlier seasons completely nonsensical. To remedy this problem (and greatly improve one’s quality of life) it is recommended that anybody who wants to watch “The IT Crowd” find the first season on YouTube before delving into the new episodes. With only six-episode seasons, it takes no more than a long, laughter-filled afternoon.

For those same newcomers, the show will be a quite enjoyable, albeit perplexing, diversion. But for those who have been following the “Crowd” for some time now, the third season may come as a bit of a letdown — still funny, but in a bittersweet sort of way.

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