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"Upstart Crow" and "The IT Crowd" Make Their GPB Debuts

David Mitchell stars as William Shakespeare in "Upstart Crow."

After another painfully long drought, the heavens are opening once again to nourish the withered funny bones of the faithful with dependable classics and a couple of soon-to-be classics sprinkled in for good measure.

Britcoms are back.

And GPB will be adding two new series to the line-up beginning Saturday, March 31st.

 

Upstart Crow

First up from creator Ben Elton (The Young Ones, Blackadder), the Tudor comedy Upstart Crow imagines William Shakespeare at the beginning of his career in 1592. Commuting between the home he shares with his family in Stratford-upon-Avon and the inn in London where he writes, Will (David Mitchell) finds inspiration in some very surprising places. For example, after reluctantly agreeing to keep an eye on the lovesick nephew of his nemesis Robert Greene (Mark Heap) while struggling to complete Romeo and Juliet in the series premiere, Will and his servant Bottom (Rob Rouse) attempt to steer the youth’s attention away from the common girl Greene disapproves of, towards the daughter of Will’s London landlord, aspiring actress Kate (Gemma Whelan). The result is completely predictable to the audience, no doubt familiar with the finished play, and hilariously tragic.

 

Upstart Crow is notable for the ease with which it presents a subject often regarded as posh and inaccessible. The fact that the series has attracted guest stars that include Emma Thompson as Queen Elizabeth and Shakespearian legend Sir Kenneth Branagh is a testament to its clever mingling of high and low brow. A third series has been commissioned by the BBC and is now in production. The first series of Upstart Crow premieres Saturday, March 31 at 10 pm.  

 

"The IT Crowd" stars Richard Ayoade, Chris O'Dowd, and Katherine Parkinson.
The IT Crowd

Rounding out the britcom block at 10:30, workplace comedy The IT Crowd follows the often surreal hijinks of fictional Reynholm Industries’ IT support staff. The series has gained cult status since its premiere in 2006 and ran for four series, which approaches Simpsons-level longevity by British television standards.

As the series opens, enthusiastic and determined businesswoman Jen Barber (Katherine Parkinson) is hired as the new head of the underappreciated IT department of Reynholm Industries. Her basement-dwelling staff, which consists of prototypical geek Maurice Moss (Richard Ayoade) and cynical slacker Roy Trenneman (Chris O’Dowd), bristles at this new appointment after it becomes apparent that Jen knows absolutely nothing about computers, or how to pronounce the word computer. Jen, nevertheless, attempts to make herself useful as the department’s “Relationship Manager,” acting as a liaison between her socially inept employees and the rest of the company.

Those familiar with creator Graham Linehan’s work, which includes the sitcoms Father Ted and Black Books, will instantly recognize Linehan’s hand guiding his often morally ambiguous but mostly well-meaning lead characters as they’re presented with a small, contained fire and somehow end up surrounded by smoldering ruins. Linehan is a master craftsman of the absurd, so much so that fans of the show are hoping that his direct involvement in the production of a third American remake, announced in January of this year, will finally make it to air after two other failed pilots were scrapped in 2007 and 2014. Keep your fingers crossed. In the meantime, don’t miss the GPB premiere of the original IT Crowd following Upstart Crow at 10:30 pm.

Let us know in the comments what you think about our new line-up.

Kirk Cooper

Kirk Cooper is an Atlanta native and lifelong viewer of Georgia Public Broadcasting, particularly GPB’s Saturday night britcoms, which filled the social life-shaped hole in her teenage years. She received her degree in Communications (Film/Video) from Georgia State University and has been a member of GPB’s External Affairs... more