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Studio: Entertainment One
Rated: Not Rated
Running Time: 432 minutes
- Audio Commentaries
- Video Diaries
- Outtakes, bloopers, and deleted scenes
It’s Superbad by way of Peep Show.
Simon Bird, James Buckley, Blake Harrison, and Joe Thomas.
The Inbetweeners does just about anything make you laugh and rarely fails.
TV has never been kind to teenagers. Regulated to cliché cliques and boring life lessons, TV teens play it safe. Teenagers screw up, their parents bail them out, and all’s well that ends well. It’s apparently what viewers want; American audiences generally shun realistic depictions of high school. It takes the queen’s subjects to shake things up.
No, we’re not talking about Degrassi. We’re talking about England’s own The Inbetweeners, a comedy about growing up disliked, ignored, sexless, and dumb. There’s no redemption for the inbetweeners. These foul mouthed, selfish teens do most anything to further their own standings on their high school’s caste, and their willingness to engage in anti-social behavior makes the show hilarious and upsetting.
Series one opens on Will McKenzie’s (Bird) first day of public school. Briefcase in hand, he walks through school as his classmates associate him with the other newcomming freaks and give him the nickname “Briefcase” or “Wanker.” Either one is acceptable.
Determined to steer clear of social suicide that comes along with knowing “Big Dave,” Will branches out and meets Simon (Thomas), a shy-to-a-fault classmate, whom Will sees as cool for some reason. Simon and his two mates, Jay (Buckley) and Neil (Harrison), outwardly reject Will, but considering the way they treat each other, the new guy ignores their insults and invitations to leave with ease.
The show doesn’t follow much of a continuing plot. Each six episode season shows the boys growing more cynical and, perhaps, devious. Episodes start wholesome enough, with Will being asked to perform some duty for the school, at the begrudged behest of teacher Mr. Gilbert (Greg Davies). His friends, either tagging along out of self-interest or dragged in by Will’s sad optimism or wallet, make a mess of things because they can’t “spend ten minutes on the internet without having a wank.” The episode ends with Will’s dry and regretful commentary, wrapping things up in way that leaves the group’s individual members broken, embarrassed, and worse off than when they started.
The show plays out like that, testing their tenuous relationship with after school special clichés. Episode one opens with a new kid plot. Will looks for where he fits in. He admits that his choice is not ideal, but he shoehorns his way into Simon’s group anyway. Will narrates their adventures, which, for the most part, revolve around their trying to get laid. There’s an episode where Simon gets car, an episode where Will gets his first girlfriend, and another about trying drugs and alcohol. For viewers, they may remember these plots from episodes of The Wonder Years, The Brady Bunch, or Saved by the Bell, except The Inbetweeners subvert expectations by punishing the leads with vicious humiliation.
By all accounts, The Inbetweeners mouths off at just about everybody. The show’s shameless approach to adolescence makes up the humor. Rather than getting drunk and sick and having their fathers scold them, forcing them to promise to never to do it again; they get drunk, confess their feelings to a secret love, and promptly vomit in her little brother’s face. The Inbetweeners takes no prisoners in its pursuit to humiliate the main players.
The banter gives the show its speed and rhythm. Each exchange is funny, quick, and original. As they run with any joke about new friends, their mothers, or a recent humiliation, the group’s dynamics reveal themselves. Like David Cross’ The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret, The Inbetweeners develops its characters through deprecation. They explain each other’s shortcomings, and those shortcomings affirm themselves through the group’s many failures.
The show doesn’t offer cinematic qualities, like that of recent American sitcoms. It takes a classic form, adapts to it, and tears it apart. For all intents and purposes, The Inbetweeners looks and acts like any other TV show, except for the fearless lengths its young cast goes to in hopes of entertaining. It’s worth it. The Inbetweeners is one of the most consistently funny shows on TV.
It’s hard to tell why these four are friends, since they treat each other with such contempt, playing cruel pranks on and harassing one another. Yet, their banter, which consists of witty retorts and some hilarious quips about each other’s mothers, creates their chemistry and carries the show. They grab emotional resonance in small pockets, keeping us invested in the characters. Much like everyone’s insult-fueled high school friendships, they don’t need a reason to stay together. At the end of the day, none of them are better than the other, and because they are stuck in between social standings, they stick together.
Now, the show is reason enough to get this three-disc package. Episode to episode, the show is knock out. But there are some goodies worth checking out, if you have the time. Each disc comes complete with a wealth of commentaries, documentaries, and retrospectives, bridging the gap between the fake Inbetweeners and the real ones.
The Making-Ofs consist of a couple of clips from the season, looking back at memorable moments. In disc one, they discuss the time Bird got a pivotal frisbee caught in a tree. Not particularly interesting, but their mentioning of the casting and the breakdown of the characters is worth the time of series’ fans.
The video diaries follow a looser structure. Armed with small camcorders, the lead cast members cause trouble around the set and make fun of their co-workers. Nothing too special here, either. It’s fun getting a sense of who these actors are, but we don’t get that rare peak behind something interesting one hopes for in these special features.
Finally, there’s the commentary, which works as a great way to see the chemistry of the foursome fly. As they go through the episodes, they rarely get around to discussing the episodes as a whole, choosing to expound on some in-jokes and exchanges in the episode. Commentaries work best when the actors, directors, whoever point out some gags they love, which we might have missed. The Inbetweeners is no different. Bird, Buckley, Harrison, and Thomas are hilarious, adding great candor to a hilarious show. The commentary is a must for fans. Casual viewers might want to check out one or two.
Out of a Possible 5 Stars