British television has always understood teenage years better than that of any other nation. Skins was pretty much revolutionary in looking at teenage life in Britain and examining the trials and tribulations of being young. It was all very well that we had a reasonably serious show that looked at teenage life but, aside from obvious elements of comedy within Skins, the extremely profitable niche of a comedy show based around the average British teenager was left empty. The Inbetweeners started in 2008 and immediately became an instant hit. My question is, does it deserve this success? And if so why?
The Inbetweeners is the story of Will McKenzie (Simon Bird) a posh, former private school pupil who has had to leave his former life because of his parents divorce. He relocates to Rudge Park Comprehensive where he meets Simon (Joe Thomas) a generally nice and normal guy who is obsessively in love with his next door neighbour; Carli (Emily Head), Jay (James Buckley) a sex obsessed, compulsive liar who constantly makes up stories about his exploits, and Neil (Blake Harrison) a slow and remarkably dim-witted boy who is easily the most sexually experienced of the group. The series involved situations of school bullying, broken family life, indifferent school staff and largely failed sexual encounters.
I’ve often heard it said that Skins is how we want to see our teenage years but The Inbetweeners is how it actually is. After re-watching the entire series I’ve come to the same conclusion. The Inbetweeners is essentially what most of our teenage years were like. We’ve all know people like these, hell we’ve all had friends like these. We’ve all known someone so steeped in bravado that they resort to lying about sex. We’ve all know the guy whose a bit thick but still hopelessly optimistic. We’ve all known the nerd whose just a little too arrogant. It may even be the case that we are one of these people, most viewers identify with one character more than the others. Personally I’m probably a bastardized version of Will, intelligent but perhaps a little too smug about it. The series itself does deal with the same type of issues that Skins deals with. A great deal of emphasis is placed on the groups attempts to lose their virginities and their attempts to woo women, a skill at which they are utterly incompetent. While these issues do come up constantly, they aren’t the focus of the series and so don’t expect the sort of empathy seen in Skins. Instead, incidents like these are played up mainly for humour; although there are a handful of emotional and sympathetic moments in which we do empathise with the group.
The acting is great; the main four guys are very talented comedic actors and the writers certainly make the best use of them. The characters tend to be as strong as their actors although Simon has his irritating moments. His constant moaning over Carli is a bit grating and the way he treats his parents, while very realistic of the average teenage/parent relationship and often funny, makes him come across as a moaning turd; although that is probably the point. Arguably the most important thing about The Inbetweeners is the impact on teen culture. The word ‘Clunge’ entered the public conscious almost immediately and ‘Bus Wankers’ soon followed. Who hasn’t either heard or used these words before? It’s one of those cultural breakouts, like when Friends was at its height and everybody had their hair in the style of Jennifer Aniston’s character.
You know, Marcel
By far the biggest strengths of The Inbetweeners are the characters and the humour. The characters, as mentioned before, are real teenage characters. They share our sense of humour, our fears and, for the most part, our social skills. The series is beyond funny. Thinking about it, there are three main types of comedy in The Inbetweeners:
1) Typical teenage sex humour, including ‘Your Mum’ jokes
2) Body humour eg vomit, ejaculation, poop, pee etc
3) Cringe humour
It is the last of these that is the most impressive. The Inbetweeners is full of cringe-inducing moments. There’s a famous episode where the students perform in a fashion show and Simon’s left testicle is exposed throughout his entire routine. Another episode involves Will attempting to impress an attractive young Irish student with a poor impression of Master Yoda. This is where The Inbetweeners excels. We are all guilty of cringy moments during our teenage years and the entire series is built on these. With funny charcters and storylines, The Inbetweeners is a well written look at teenage life in comtemporary Britain and is arguably the best tv show of its kind.
The Inbetweeners is outrageously funny, highly identifiable and deserves all the praise in the world.
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