OK, I’m about to come clean here (and yes, the schoolboys in The Inbetweeners would turn that opening line into a puerile gag). The Inbetweeners (screened on UK Channel 4 from 2008) is just really, really funny. You probably shouldn’t laugh at all if you are a responsible adult (and particularly while watching it with two adolescent sons!). It is extravagantly rude, in a ‘tee hee, tits and bums’ type teenage (toddler?) way, though that doesn’t begin to cover it, as the smutty jokes are extremely ‘close to the bone’ (tee hee, again). If you are easily offended – and even if you aren’t! – be warned, this is fairly explicit stuff. But the series’ redeeming quality, and what stops it from being out right offensive, is that all the ‘nudge nudge, wink wink’ humour, in true British style, is safely anchored in the realms of fantasy. We may see the odd naked teenage boy – usually in a position ripe for ridicule, and yet always with an ‘innocent’ back story – but we never see them gratuitously indulge in the sex they all bang on about, incessantly.
Much of the innuendo stems from the boastful bravura of Jay (James Buckley), who has seen it and done it (and them!) all – except erm, no he hasn’t. He’s a brilliant counterpoint to Will (Simon Bird) – the bespectacled ‘posh’ boy from a private school, who has come down in the world and now attends Rudge Park Comprehensive ie an open door high school that caters to the common hordes. Or that’s what Will believes, though the only type of ‘common’ he admits to is common sense – bestowed with a transparent air of superiority. Will perpetually attempts to bring the other boys down to Earth – though never up to his level of social supremacy. Yet, he never quite gets it (Gets ‘it’? Knowarramean??).
This is the redeeming quality of the show – the boys are innocents abroad, obsessed with girls (though not misogynistic – theirs is a pubescent form of worship, and the girls always, always outdo the boys). How can Will be so sweet when he is an out and out snob and says things like ‘I had to make the most of my new, pointless, sh**ty, manual job’ –his voiceover description of his work experience placement at a garage. ‘It’s not that I’m better than this, it’s just that I’m much cleverer than you need to be to work here’ – he says to the mechanics who work there. Duh!! Which nicely sets Will up for a fall (eg ‘we need two tins of tartan paint and bubbles for a spirit level’) – as happens in every episode. ‘You have to get up pretty early to fool me’ says Will. Aww - bless his cotton socks.
Simon (Joe Thomas) is probably easiest to relate to – good natured and unselfconsciously attractive, he could probably hang out with the cool kids but instead settles for Will, Jay, oh and Neil (Blake Harrison), who is just plain gormless ie dead daft. You can probably tell already that it’s not that easy to write about The Inbetweeners with a straight face, so maybe I should try to be informative and strait laced, and here are some facts.
The eponymous movie –‘The Inbetweeners’, screened from mid August, 2011 in the UK, and within a month it had grossed over £40 million at the box office. Clearly this capitalized on the fact the TV series has been a big, big hit –garnering nominations from BAFTA (The British TV Awards), and winning "Best New British Television Comedy)" in 2008 and "Best Male Comedy Newcomer" (Simon Bird) at The British Comedy Awards.
When I sit in between my two sons and watch The Inbetweeners – the elder one disparaging the puerile nature of the storyline with its assumption that all teenagers are girl mad, and based on the premise that boys who have a private education (albeit interrupted) are the ‘clever’ ones and the poor kids the dummies – and with the younger one just laughing his (ahem) off, I do feel I am stuck somewhere in the middle. Isn’t it all a bit facile, stereotypical, doesn’t it rely on knee jerk, easy laughs? But I’m usually so busy laughing (easily) that it’s just too much bother to analyse why it’s so hilarious. The acting is flawless, the writing very slick, and all the boys are just loveable, if not **able. You want to hug them, then bang their heads together, and you always have their back. This total identification with the main characters in a TV show is surely a guarantee of success, and The Inbetweeners has had more than its share of that. And then some.
Often compared to fellow teen soap 'Skins', this show is a hit because the main characters are just adorably daft, intent on scoring with the far more mature girls they mix with, and failing every time. They're just not 'cool' - and though they do not have cutting edge (self administered) near death experiences involving anorexia,drugs and just all round dodgy behaviour, still The Inbetweeners does not shy away from controversial issues (paed***ilia anyone)? It's shocking, and yet sweet as candy. So work that one out!