Joel McHale has made a career out of mocking bad TV and appearing in hilarious sitcoms. As the acerbic host of E’s brilliant television review show The Soup, he has spent 10 years cutting Kardashians down to size. As Jeff Winger in Community – the comedy recently picked up for a sixth series by Yahoo! – he stars in one of the most loved cult hits of recent years.
But sometimes he crosses the line. Back in 2007, McHale appeared in the unbroadcast pilot for an American version of British nerd-fest The IT Crowd. Joel played Roy (Chris O’Dowd in the original) and while a full series was picked up, new NBC chairman Ben Silverman promptly cancelled it on coming to power.
When the pilot leaked on YouTube in 2012, fans of the original were… not kind. Speaking to RadioTimes.com, McHale explained what it was like to take criticism, after dishing it out for so long.
“Boy do I still take s**t from British viewers, like, Joel! How dare you? What the f**k were you thinking? I was like, I wanted a job, alright? That happens a lot on Twitter, I’d say a couple of times a week.”
“I could never follow someone like Chris O’Dowd, who is insanely talented and a very nice guy, I hear. But Richard Ayoade was going to be in it, one of the smartest and funniest people on the planet. I count myself very lucky just to work with him for the few weeks that I did, and thank God we’re still friends. He’s directed an episode of Community and I’m genuinely fond of him in a grand way.”
One of the main criticisms of the pilot was how closely it followed the original show, creating an eerie simulacrum that looked almost identical but with American accents. A similar charge was levelled at the first series of the American version of The Office, before it became its own show over the course of 200 episodes. Would a similar transformation have occurred for the US IT Crowd?
“There is no way to predict that. I could say it probably would have gone on to be the most successful show in the history of television and the world, possibly, and I think we would have discovered a new life form, perhaps on Mars or Saturn, who would have picked up the show and it would become an intergalactic hit bringing people and aliens together for the first time.”
That’s quite the pitch. Maybe Yahoo! picked up the wrong show.