RUSSELL TOVEY, has never come across a pen-pushing pedant in the workplace, so he had to dig deep to find an example for his new ITV1 comedy series The Job Lot.

His co-stars in BBC3’s hit series Him & Her, for instance, were wonderful, as were his fellow actors in supernatural drama Being Human. So he had to cast his net wider when it came to relating to the frustration felt by his character Karl in The Job Lot over the sour, faultfinding habits of his colleague Angela (played by Jo Enright.

“I haven’t come across an ‘Angela’ in the workplace, but in life, yes,” says Tovey. “I had someone when I was trying to sell a house. She was an absolute nightmare, exactly like Angela.

“She was passive aggressive. She was like, ‘have my freeholder’s hat on and this is all I’m going to do’. She was a witch but she had done everything by the book. It was just like, ‘Arrgh’.”

It’s likely that viewers of The Job Lot will also feel like screaming “Arrgh” – at Karl’s ineptitude. Set in a busy West Midlands Jobcentre, the series observes the daily lives of the centre’s workers and their interactions with the jobseekers.

According to Tovey, hapless Karl is someone who “complains about not winning The X Factor but never applied in the first place”, and spends his days sneaking out custard creams from his drawer, listening to his boss Trish’s personal woes while trying (ironically) to convince others to take up work.

He’s a graduate with a superiority complex yet, despite his profession, could do with some career advice of his own.

With this in mind, as well as the work-based setting, comparisons with BBC2’s hit comedy The Office seem likely – something Tovey admits he’d welcome. “It would be amazing if the show got compared to The Office,” he says.

“The Office is massively iconic but we’re looking at that, referencing that kind of world and going forward with our own unique take on the office environment.

“The Jobcentre is a very different world to the office because you have the recurring characters of people seeking work.”

Karl may be cheesed off by his co-workers and dissatisfied with his professional life, but in real life Tovey is anything but.

From lazy, loved-up Steve in Him & Her, werewolf whizzkid George Sands in Being Human, grieving son Henry in Sherlock and laddish Budgie in Gavin and Stacey, he’s enjoyed a stream of good TV roles in recent years.

Despite his own successes, Tovey is acutely aware of the troubles unemployed people face and is eager not to add to them.

“The Job Lot is very truthful,” he says. “It has some really nice takes on a jobseeker.

They’re not just going, ‘Oh my life is rubbish’, they’re actually just getting on with it.

“It had to be completely respectful. It’s making more fun of the people who work there and the writers did so much research and were terrified, because it comes back to them if anyone watching found it patronising or rude to those struggling to find work or money.”

  • The Job Lot continues on ITV1 on Monday at 9.30pm.