Jan 08

The GerMan With The Maus

Do You See + FT5 comments • 573 views

Apparently the US version of the IT Crowd may well be on hold. This is a pity because as much as I had a soft spot for the UK IT Crowd, I always thought it fluffed its concept slightly. Perhaps there was not enough demarcation of characters, it lunged into surreality without mining the rich vein of its own characters and felt it needed more time to develop. Which hopefully it still will, but i wondered how a hothoused, longer run in the US whilst maintaining the key comic central act of Richard Ayeode’s Moss. Graham Linehan, the creator fo the show, also acknowledges a few of these problems, and has some suggestions about how they can be fixed.

One place they clearly have not been fixed however is in the German version: Das iTeam.

This useful compare and contrast video shows the first episode of both IT Crowd, and Das iTeam in a shot to shot comparison. In particular note how the very first joke in the very first episode is completely fluffed in the German version. Also note how the German Roy is wearing EXACTLY THE SAME T-Shirt. Much like the artistic failure that was Gus Van Sant’s Psycho, the Germanified IT Crowd seems to lack something. (ie English subtitles). None of these things are necessarily bad things of course, I am sure the German version spins off in its own particular direction very soon much like the US version of The Office (whose first episodes were very close to the UK version and criticised in a similar way). By the way, Das iTeam has the subtitle die Jungs mit der Maus: the men with the mouse, which is probably some sort of German pun or something. Or at least it would be if only Stewart Lee hadn’t told me years ago that puns didn’t work in Germany.*

[Daily Mail joke alert]

Of course what I am really looking forward to is The Indian version the IT Crowd, about an outsourced IT Team!!!

*Actually thinking about it, the title is actually a pun on the German version of the A-team: Das A Team: die Jungs mit der Van.


  1. 1
    Alix on 25 Jan 2008 #

    On the BBC this morning was a piece about humour in different cultures, about an exhibition at (IIRC) the Hayward, and the tone was generally a slightly offended ‘furriners and their weird humour, how can it be funny if we don’t find it funny? what? different cultures you say? sorry, I can’t hear you’ rather than any attempt to look into what actually constitutes humour in different cultures, an approach which I felt was a bit pathetic and wasteful, but pretty much in keeping with the usual pointlessness of BBC Breakfast. Most annoying of the lot there was an unjustified derision towards the idea that Germans have a sense of humour. It all felt rather jingoistic, what is the beeb coming to?

    I have no idea what this has to do with Das IT Kraut. Sorry.

  2. 2
    Marcello Carlin on 25 Jan 2008 #

    This is what happens when Jonathan Ross is worth 1000 journalists and the BBC has to resort to using nineteen 19-year-old interns to write their scripts.

  3. 3
    destiny clontz on 25 Jan 2008 #

    Ugh, thanks for pointing me to this comparison. Things like the german IT Crowd/Kraut make me ashamed to be German (not that there was a lack of opportunities, or something).
    This is just wrong an ALL levels. Germans don´t accept subtitles because they are used to the fact that all foreign programs are dubbed. There is a real “dubbing industry” and it is mostly done by trained actors. I have to admit that the german Simpsons are actually better than the original (considering the voices, not necessarily the translation).

    I just don´t understand why they decided to do a “new” version of IT Crowd, but this is a desaster.
    It´s clear that they got some translators who don´t know what they are doing. Then the scripts are mangled up by a batch of editors who wouldn´t know whats funny if their job depended on it (and sadly, it doesn´t).
    On top of the car wreck, they get actors to play those thin scripts who are everything, but NOT comedians!.

    It´s just sad and a waste of resources (at least its done by a private broadcaster, so no tax money is wasted on this trash.)

    Regarding puns in German: They DO work, but they have to be good, funny, clever and/or intelligent. But this has nothing of all of this. “IT Kraut” would be hilarious, but most Germans wouldn´t get it because they don´t even KNOW that they are called Krauts.

    Is anybody still reading this rant? I think i go back to weep in the basement.

    Oh, and I love to read your site.

  4. 4
    Pete on 26 Jan 2008 #

    Cheers Destiny, it struck me when I noticed the A-Team, iTeam thing that clearly puns do work. What doesn’t work, as Stewie Lee points out, is the kind of lazy sentence construction which then allows you to surprise someone with the punchline (or as Lee would put it “and then I got off the bus / and that was the teachers”). As Alix says, what we don’t really know is what does work, or what most German humour is which possibly leads to these misunderstanding.

    I don’t think dubbing is necessarily a bad thing, but humour must be doubly hard to do – tie a punchline into a different language and then get the timing right. I can’t think of many subtitled films that I have found riproariously funny, but then low comedy rarely gets translated that way. Glad to hear your Simpson voices are good – I have a love of the sound of foreign Simpsons (even if I don’t understand it) and when I was in Bremen in August the Simpson family balance of voices was really rather impressive. But get out of the basement, there are so few opportunities for humour!!!

  5. 5
    destiny clontz on 26 Jan 2008 #

    Thanks for talking me out of the basement. Otherwise I might have missed the news that IT-Team was cancelled due to desastrous ratings!
    The broadcast decided to kill it after only two shows. They won´t even show the rest of the already produced ones.
    Talk about stupid!
    The guy who plays the old boss, is actually a very expensive actor who was cast by Kubrick in “Eyes wide shut”. I guess they could have bought three more seasons of some CSI offshoot for his fee.

    I also forgot to mention that the german version of “The office” is fairly good. The producers understood why the original worked and hired a perfect cast.

    Dubbing can work but it can as well totally ruin the original. The german dubbing of “Absolutely Fabulous” was absolutely horrible. But how could you possibly translate someone like Eddie?
    I think that a big factor of british humour is the fact that so many words have multiple meanings (“fag” always works, doesn´t it?). German has very few double entendres. We have a word for everything!

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