Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

The IT Crowd: “Moss And The German”/“The Dinner Party”

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“Moss and the German” (season two, episode three; originally aired 9/7/2007)

(Available on Netflix and Hulu.)

“The Work Outing” may be a perennial favorite of IT Crowd devotees, but if you were to show an IT Crowd newcomer a “typical” episode, “Moss And The German” would be the more appropriate pick. Sure, it might be weird to call an episode featuring a cello enthusiast slash cannibal “typical,” but taken at a structural level, “Moss And The German” looks more like your average IT Crowd episode than any other. It uses the series’ favorite kinds of callbacks, takes on tropes, and constant story turns, and has a slight but amusing B-plot with Jen joining the company’s increasingly desperate smoking section. And rather than isolating each of the leads in their own storyline as “The Work Outing” does, “Moss And The German” also puts the characters’ relationship to each other front and center.

To that end, the episode kicks off with Best Friends Forever Moss and Roy trying to enjoy their movie night despite Roy’s microscopic apartment and the DVD industry’s increasingly dire piracy warnings. As has become a pattern at this point in the series, the episode isn’t shy about which tropes it’s going to be taking on this week, and so Moss immediately realizes he and Roy are “an old married couple” and goes straight into a panic. “You’re my wife, Roy! You’re my wife!” he yells, shaking Roy by the collar and setting off all the insecure alarms in his head (“if anything, I’m the husband”). Jen suggests they see other people, and next thing you know, Moss is having the world’s most civilized conversation with Johann the Cannibal. Moss’ matter-of-fact persona works beautifully in this storyline, since much of the comedy comes from his accepting Johann’s cannibalism as a “gray area” with nothing more than a few blinks and a shrug. Richard Ayoade and Phillip Rham also have a particularly fun chemistry, especially as they parse through their misunderstandings to get to the truth and just laugh it off (Johann: “So, you don’t want to be eaten?” Moss: “Oh, no thank you, it’s not for me.”). This isn’t to say it’s all successful. Clunkers like “he was a fine young cannibal” and “I knew something was askew—whoever heard of German food?” are reminders that cannibal jokes can get super hacky super fast. Luckily, though, Moss and his German manage to sidestep the worst of them by just being polite about the whole thing. When Moss says in bemusement, “meeting new people is a lot more complicated than I’d originally thought,” it’d be easy to forget he didn’t just mess up at a salsa class if it weren’t for Jen’s openmouthed horror. Then there’s the final bait and switch with the police busting into Johann’s apartment—not for his cannibalistic tendencies, but for Roy’s pirated DVD. It’s an effective, hilarious way to bookend the episode, especially as a warning that nothing is off-limits as a callback.

When I went back to re-watch “Moss And The German,” I was ready for the cannibal and Jen’s Soviet detour. This time, though, I realized I had forgotten all about Roy’s part, which is strange given that he’s the glue that holds Moss’ storyline together. His desperate attempt to finish Tarantino’s latest (a South Korean zombie thriller, naturally) before he gets the ending ruined for him brings him everywhere but Jen’s Soviet adventures. As someone whose television is home to an unstable pair of rabbit ears, I related all too well to Roy’s frantic pursuit of a decent DVD setup (though maybe more so to his trying to sit through Douglas’ constant guessing than offering to be Johann’s next meal). It’s a clever take on just how crazy spoilers can make people, or even just the idea of spoilers. “Now I’m going to spend the whole film wondering what the twist is,” he yelps, furious. Roy doesn’t need to hear what the twist actual to know his perfect viewing experience has been compromised, like watching Game Of ThronesRed Wedding episode 10 minutes after it first aired.

“The Dinner Party” (season two, episode four; originally aired 9/14/2007)

(Available on Netflix and Hulu.)

“The Dinner Party” is messier than “Moss And The Germans,” but it gets a ton of mileage just from cramming all the main characters (minus Douglas) in the same room for almost the entire episode. It’s not quite a bottle episode, since the beginning has Jen and her new boyfriend cooing at each other all over the IT department, and the end brings us briefly to both Paula the Model’s gamer loft and the train station that ends Jen’s episode-long relationship. Once it gets settled in Jen’s apartment, though, “The Dinner Party” ends up looking more like a play.


There’s the first act, with Jen desperately trying to make the IT guys act even a little bit sane to disastrous results. Much of this is drawn in rather broad strokes, but little moments keep it afloat, like Moss immediately sitting at the dinner table because he doesn’t understand small talk, or that great sequence where Jen commands them to “look normal” and they all fold in on themselves like drooping flamingos.

Then it moves on to pairing everyone off. The jokes fly fast and thick in this one, but a couple threads fall through the cracks. Jen, for instance, gets lost in the shuffle as the unhappy hostess, as does her charming boyfriend, Peter File. So when it comes to light that “Peter File” sounds an awful lot like the British pronunciation of pedophile, it’s funny, but hard to care too much about, since the episode’s already spent so much time getting us involved in the guys’ dating attempts. Roy’s thread is also disappointing, as it stays squarely on one note. It’s been well established that Roy is a bit of an oblivious jerk towards women, but him trying to figure out just how miraculous Paula the former model’s reconstructive face surgery was gets old long before he gets to her apartment. Also, that scene suddenly makes the episode’s intention murky. Is he right to get offended that a scarred woman wouldn’t find him attractive? I know my answer, but I’m not sure the episode had one.


But otherwise, what really helps the dinner scene along is the fact that Jen’s friends are just as unbalanced as the IT department. Moss, the most childlike person in just about any room, ends up fending off the advances of a sloppy, drunk divorcee (Sarah Hadland of Miranda). It’s not surprising when Moss and Margaret start bickering like they’re actually an unhappy couple, but Hadlund and Ayoade commit to the bit enough that their spitting venom at each other is still a lot of fun. (Margaret: “Well maybe if you paid a little more attention—” Moss: “Tell me, Margaret! Tell us all! How could we possibly pay any more attention to you?!”) But it’s Richmond who gets the most out of the dinner party. It helps that his blind date is Catherine Shepherd’s Jessica, a pitch perfect parody of neurotic, would-be cool women who end up fast-talking their way into unspeakably awkward situations (no, you’re relating too much to an unflattering character!). “Look at us! ‘Having a conversation,’” she says nervously, keeping her air quotes at the ready. “Yikes! ‘Getting to knowww you, getting to know alllll about youuuuu’…oh gosh. ‘Eating!’ Fish! Hello, you’re about to be eaten! Oh dear.” Noel Fielding, who does his best work when he reins in Richmond’s affects and acts as a drier observer, says it all with a single wary reaction shot. But you can’t help but root for these crazy kids. After all, who could resist a man who lives in a basement wall, tells her she has “a beautiful skull,” and can rest in ceiling corners like the spiders he’d totally eat?

Stray observations:

  • Poll of the week: Are there more, less, or an equal amount of gay panicky jokes in this show than others? Because at this point, yikes.
  • Yup, “it’s cold, and everyone looks oppressed” pretty much sums up any smoking section.
  • Ayoade’s face-first flop on the couch in “Moss And The Germans” is a thing of beauty.
  • Jen and Peter File’s meet-cute “tumbling about like a pair of kittens” amongst the spilled groceries is pretty great, but still not as much as spot-on as Roy’s reaction: “Buying the same sort of cheese. Wow. You made a 20-minute story out of it. Have you thought about adapting it into a film?”
  • Roy on using a cannibal for his television: “The world has changed! If two grown men can’t make a pervert happy for a few minutes in order to watch a film about zombies, then maybe we should all just move to Iran.”
  • Jen, leaving the Soviet Smoking Area for good: “I am too tired for revolution. And we’ve walked fucking miles.”
  • Douglas’ first reaction to Roy’s Tarantino film: “Wow. I didn’t know there was a South Korea.”
  • Moss, on Margaret: “She’s very divorceable. As soon as you meet her, you can't wait to take her to court and divorce her.”
  • Roy, today and always: “People. What a bunch of bastards.”