Sunday, 15 May 2011

Review - The Inbetweeners, Series 1, 2 And 3

Summary; Stupid teenage boys do stupid teenage boy things. And manage to be absolutely hilarious whilst doing it.

The Inbetweeners Series 1 - 3 follows the often misguided footsteps of Will, Simon, Neil and Jay, as they try to navigate their way through sixth-form, with their hormones running riot.

None of our heroes are exceptional, all are distinctly average. Will is constantly trying to raise their social standing, Simon is a hopeless romantic who is obsessed with schoolmate Carli, Neil is sometimes so slow it's more like owning a pet than having a friend, and Jay is a borderline sex-pest constantly bragging about imaginary sexual experiences.

In a nutshell, sixth-former Will McKenzie, a posh boy with delusions of high intelligence, is sent to a bawdy comprehensive where he becomes mates with three social misfits who make even Will look like a scholar - Simon Cooper, Jay Cartwright and Neil Sutherland. From there, they attempt to lose their virginity, get into parties, be part of the cool gang, and hook Simon up with sexy Carli D'Amato. (Note; none of these things ever actually happen. Instead, Will accidentally assaults a disabled girl, Jay gets caught wanking in an old ladies' home, a drunk Neil tries to get off with his Biology teacher at the prom and Simon... it's a toss up between puking on Carli's little brother or parading down the school fashion show catwalk dressed in an S&M costume with his testicles hanging out of his Speedo. It Makes Sense In Context).

The Inbetweeners is in part a a glorious sticking up of two fingers at male adolescence, and in part a piss take of more self-important teen shows with the likes of Skins. (Not that I'm dissing Skins). It proves that your teenage years probably aren't going to be the best of your life, and that whilst plenty of teenagers may boast about taking drugs and getting laid at every party, they're more likely to be begging for drinks in pubs and asking someone else to roll up their spliff joints for them.

Jay, Simon, Will and Neil are all archetypes of the teenage boy - the sex pest, the romantic, the up-himself wannabe genius with no notion of social skills, and the complete and utter idiot - and herein is the secret of The Inbetweeners's popularity with both kids and adults; nearly every viewer will be able to remember or recognize someone like that from school. All school kids have known someone who's lied about sleeping with every resident of the Playboy Mansion, and we've all known a guy who insisted they were in love with someone who they'd barely met and who treats them like crap.

Not only does Inbetweeners perfectly replicate the attitudes of a typical British teenager, as well as accurately observed dialogue - a rare feat from television, but "bell-end" and "clunge" are used frequently and hilariously on the show -  it's also able to laugh at them unashamedly. Inbetweeners reminds viewers of when they used to find keeping up with adulthood terrifying, when they thought that school was the be and end all of life, and gives them an opportunity to laugh at the person they were as a teenager through the medium of our four school boys that are embarrassingly similar to the kids they were once upon a time.

Still, that isn't the only reason Inbetweeners is so acclaimed and popular. Quite frankly, it's just fucking funny. All four actors - Simon Bird, Joe Thomas, James Buckley and Blake Harrison - slide into their roles perfectly, and breathe life into the nob jokes that infuse every second of the show. Their work has even been recognized by the awards shows - no mean feat for a teen comedy - with Simon Bird winning a Bafta for Male Comedy Newcomer, and James Buckley up for another Bafta this year. Terrific comic turns come too from Greg Davies's cynical headmaster, who hates everything including and especially his sixth-formers, and Will's "she's so fit I reckon she could be a prostitute" Mum, who's always happy to embarrass Will even further. Even Simon and Will's respective "love interests" Carli and Charlotte have their moments. (I use the quotation marks because, as love interests go, there's little development and interaction. Simon and Will's respective feelings for the girls are more of a joke-motor for the other characters - it turns out to be a surprisingly refreshing change from the typical angst-ridden romance that's common in teen shows).

Yet, despite all the "briefcase wankers" and cringe comedy, Inbetweeners does have an emotional side. As well as each season finale, when the boys manage to pull together and show that they are genuine friends, it also touches on teenage fear and insecurity through the medium of the (very) occasionally sympathetic Jay Cartwright.  At its heart, Inbetweeners is a sitcom about friendship, and about the ragtag bunch of loser friends that make it possible for you to survive adolescence, and it's perhaps for this reason - even more than the familiar cringe comedy - that resonates Inbetweeners so with viewers.

(Like other acclaimed British shows Skins and Being Human, The Inbetweeners is up for a stateside remake from... you guessed it, MTV. So it looks like they haven't been deterred enough from the failure of their version of Skins to stay away from British teen television. I am cautiously optimistic about this version; original show-writers Damon Beesley and Iain Morris are still scripting the adaptation and it's apparently going to be original episodes, rather than expies of the British episodes a la Skins. Still, it's disappointing that instead of making a remake, they can't, say, broadcast the original show in America? Anyway, I'll probably still tune in for the show, if only to see whether it turns out to be an Office or a Skins. And besides, whatever goes wrong, at least it'll piss the Parents Television Council off.)

5/5. One of the funniest British sitcoms of the 21st century.

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