One of the best unexpected surprises of my life was discovering The IT Crowd. A British comedy that aired in Britain from 2006 to 2013, The IT Crowd is one of the best comedy series I’ve ever watched, and guaranteed one you have never heard of—and, if you have, it may be for the wrong reasons.

The series stars Chris O’Dowd, Richard Ayode and Katherine Parkinson as a three-person IT department at a large company in London. O’Dowd is Roy, the self-absorbed manchild, Ayode is Moss, the nerdy, brilliant social misfit and Parkinson their boss Jen, the ambitious but ineffective corporate climber who resents being stuck in the basement. While the format of the show is centered around an IT department, the stories rarely have anything to do with work, and mostly are designed to feature the actors, each of whom are brilliant and at the start of soaring careers.

O’Dowd and Ayode are revelations, particularly Ayode, who creates a character that is adorable, brilliant and a comedy masterclass. In Moss, we get an amalgam of every nerdy sidekick character, but Ayode infuses Moss with an innocence and a mischievousness that is positively addictive. I am not kidding when I felt an actual sadness when I knew I had watched the last episode, because I knew it would be the last time I would see this character. Now that is acting gold.

The IT Crowd also features supporting performances from Noel Fielding and Matt Berry, two other masterclass comedians who have gone onto greater things. Fielding, best-known to American audiences as a host of the hugely popular Netflix show The Great British Baking Show, and Berry, an Emmy-nominated star of the best comedy currently on television, What We Do in the Shadows, both add an extra layer of genius to The IT Crowd, frosting on an already perfectly-sweetened cake. Fielding, who is only in 7 episodes, but is memorable in each one, plays Richmond, a mysterious but sensitive goth who seems to be living in the office walls. Berry, who steals each scene he’s in (of course), plays the big boss of the company. Berry doesn’t come into the show until season 2, and makes the show infinitely better upon arrival.

The show ran for four consecutive seasons, from 2006 to 2010, and didn’t resume until 2013, but only returned for one episode.
Despite how perfect the show is in every other way, The IT Crowd has been marred by controversy, thanks to the show’s creator and main writer, Graham Linehan, who has since been discovered to be an anti-transgender bigot. Widely considered to be the reason for the show not being renewed past its fourth season, episode 4 of season 3 used violent transphobia as a joke, and the episode is not available on BritBox for free with the rest of the series as a result. Don’t worry, you’re not missing much by skipping that episode.

NBC, trying to capitalize on the success of the show in Britain, made a pilot of an American version in 2006, starring Joel McHale and Ayode, but new bosses axed it as a series. As of 2017, NBC was still trying to find a way to get it to the airwaves, hoping for another The Office-like American reboot of a popular British series, but here’s hoping that never comes to pass, as I can’t imagine anything coming close to the original (and who wants to give Linehan any more money).

Despite Linehan’s repulsiveness, The IT Crowd is still a show worth seeking out and savoring, a comedy that is hilarious and features memorable performances that elevate a genre and a medium to great heights.

All episodes (but one) are currently available on BritBox.