It’s never easy being a teenager; navigating the rough waters of adolescence while avoiding the tidal waves of crippling embarrassment. The strength of this nautical metaphor notwithstanding, high school can be a devastating voyage. This is not specific to American schools, but instead a universal truth. The British series The Inbetweeners speaks to this universality. The series made such an impression with fans that not only is it getting the big screen treatment — the film opens this weekend in limited release — it has also recently enjoyed an Americanized version on television.
But will we enjoy it? Appropriating British television and repackaging it for American audiences is certainly nothing new. NBC’s The Office can definitely attest to that. But the TV remake of The Inbetweeners seems a less wise endeavor not long for this world. Do yourself a favor; watch the original series, the first two seasons of which are available on Netflix’s Watch Instantly service. It should become quite apparent that while the film, with the same full cast, should work, the American version of the show faces an arguably insurmountable challenge.
The Inbetweeners follows the exploits of four boys suffering the torments and perpetual indignities of a British comprehensive school. Will, our protagonist and narrator, is a highly intelligent, socially awkward student transferring from a private school; the perfect recipe for being completely ostracized. Will is slowly folded into a friend circle that includes the lovesick Simon, amiably dull Neil, and the hilariously profane Jay. The quartet engages in a number of adventures that often see their impish designs for sexual gratification devolving into total disaster.
But wait — American teenagers like sex, so why would this not translate? The thing is that much of the comedy in this show comes not so much from what the boys get up to, but how they react to it. In particular, Will, despite his young age, often reacts with a sort of straight-laced cynicism that typifies British humor in general. He bottles things up until they boil over and he engages in ill-advised tirades. Not appropriately dealing with emotions has been a staple of British comedy for years, and has its roots in their cultural mores. American teens are also capable of flying off the handle, sure, but the snide stoicism leading up to those moments ring false from the young American actor portraying him in the new version. Michael Cera was able to pull this off on Arrested Development, but the difference between that show and The Inbetweeners is that the latter does not take place in so absurd a universe. Will’s demeanor is the only thing about The Inbetweeners that feels even slightly removed from the experience of the average high school kid. It’s an odd balance to strike, and one that is absent from Joey Pollari’s performance in the U.S. adaptation.
There also must be acknowledged the vastly different censorship standards that exist between American and British television. A trademark of The Inbetweeners is its colorful array of vulgarity that comes spilling from the mouths of its leads. It’s not simply a matter of the sonorously spiteful nature of British slang, but the way in which these kids string together their expletives that gives their crudity a musical quality. There are things said on The Inbetweeners that, while uproariously funny, would never fly on the much more oppressively regulated American airwaves. When watching the American version, you’ll notice several key invectives are bleeped; something doomed to wear out its welcome sooner rather than later.
Is it worth watching the pilot, even the first few episodes of the MTV Inbetweeners? Sure, if only to note the differences. But yet again, this is a case of unnecessary remake occurring when a simple port of the original series would have sufficed. What has happened in the translation is that much of the identity of the British Inbetweeners has been stripped down into something that woefully resembles painfully conventional high school TV fare, something in which we on this side of the pond have been drowning for years.
Spend an afternoon or two investigating the original series on Netflix. It won’t take long for the British progenitor to convince you of the coming collapse of its American offspring.
[Photo Credits: E4, MTV]
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How many times were you mortified in high school? That's the point of it anyway, isn't it? While most people try to forget about that feeling of nauseous embarrassment, there are some who would choose to happily relive it — and if that's the case for you, then I heartily recommend The Inbetweeners as the most hilariously accurate depiction of everything that sucks about high school.
I cringed at least five times during last night's premiere of The Inbetweeners, MTV's newest foray into high school hijinks (another Americanized transplant based on a successful British sitcom). The first scrunchy-faced reaction came when preppy new kid Will (Joey Pollari) throws a football at a handicapped kid; the second, when a jock snaps a choice iPhone photo of a pants-less Will in a door-less bathroom stall; the third, when pathologically-exaggerating Jay (Zack Pearlman, a breakout) publicly calls attention to Simon's (Bubba Lewis) aroused lap in the lunchroom; the fourth, when Simon vomits from drinking an awful combination of Windex and vodka; the fifth, when Simon vomits again — on an eight-year-old's head; and finally, my sixth and biggest feeling of mortifying embarrassment came at the end of the episode when Will sat in class, finally feeling like he could possibly fit in at his new school (he left the old one after being bullied), only to have the vice principal announce over the school's P.A. system that Will's mom had filed a lawsuit against the (non-existent) kids who bullied him. The vice principal pleads to the school to be nice to him, "even though his body isn't maturing as fast as others' might be." Cue my cringe.
Saying that I recoiled so frequently may sound like a knock on MTV's newest comedy, but it's actually the greatest of compliments for a show that follows a group of four high school friends who are neither cool nor popular, but are somewhere in between. High school shows (especially in the age of The CW and ABC Family) tend to skirt around the little details, focusing on major drama and character stereotypes — but The Inbetweeners excels because it doesn't shy away from the minutaie. Its characters are refreshingly nuanced (notably the kind-hearted hottie Carly, played by Alex Frnka), which lets the viewer take in all the tiny moments of total teenage humiliation, the same moments that everyone had in high school at one point or another.
I may have been heinously embarrassed for Will and his assembly of misfits — the idiotic Neil (Mark L. Young), the lovesick but romantically-challenged Simon, and hopeless show-off Jay (who blatantly operates as a clone of Jonah Hill in Superbad, and yet it works, especially when he's making up wild stories about attending imaginary drug raves, conquering girls and being "up to the nuts in guts."). But I also found myself laughing consistently throughout the entire thing. Ever wonder what happens after the underage kids successfully get their alcohol? One of the pilot's highlights came when the clueless crew obtains vodka but has no idea what to do with it ("Maybe we're supposed to mix it with something," muses Neil).
Plain and simple, this is MTV's best comedy since the days of Daria, and really firms the network as the best in the business for reaching the high school crowd. Nobody does high school like MTV. The chemistry between the main four characters is immediately apparent, but because they're such doofuses, there's a level of sweet schadenfreude that comes from watching them suffer through the perils of suburban educations. For anyone who may not have hung with the cool crowd in school, but who wasn't necessarily an A.V. club kid either, The Inbetweeners should bring back fond memories of toeing the line between social success and social purgatory. That is, as long as you're okay with reliving some not-so-fond memories of high school, too.
The Inbetweeners airs on Monday nights on MTV.
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[Photo Credit: MTV]
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Unless you sat at the popular table in high school, you know what it feels like to struggle at the bottom of the popularity totem. Despite what those silly adults think, being a kid isn't easy — which is something The Inbetweeners trailer makes a special point of proving. In an attempt to rectify the wrongs they made with the edgy UK teen hit Skins, MTV has decided to take another stab at a trans-Atlantic remake by introducing the show The Inbetweeners to U.S. audiences (hey, we've got nerds too!).
Meet Will, Jay, Neil, and Simon — four boys who are desperately trying to fight their way out of loserdom and become part of the cool crowd at Grove High. If only things were so simple. But as they struggle with their "in-between" social status, they manage to leave their mark in the most embarrassing (and hilarious) ways possible (think Superbad meets American Pie). No one said growing up was going to be easy; they only promised it would be memorable.
The cast stars Joey Pollari, Zack Pearlman, Mark L. Young, and Bubba Lewis as the four main characters, with Alex Frnka playing one of the love interests and Brett Gelman portraying a school official that strongly dislikes the boys.
Check out the trailer below and recall the joys (and horrors) of adolescence:
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The American adaptation of The Inbetweeners premieres Monday, August 20 at 10:30 PM on MTV.
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The Inbetweeners Trailer
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The popular show, starring James Buckley and Simon Bird as a group of awkward teenagers, became a hit film in the U.K. last year (11) and now movie bosses in the U.S. are planning to create an American version.
Iain Morris, co-creator of the U.K. show, has been hired to write and direct a movie inspired by the 2011 original for an American audience. It is believed the film will follow a similar plot to the first film, about four friends taking a post-graduation vacation, but will feature a new cast and different characters.
An American TV version is also planned for this year (12), starring Joey Pollari, Bubba Lewis, Zack Pearlman and Mark L. Young.
The show will debut on MTV in August (12) and the movie is slated for release in September (12), according to Deadline.com.
MTV apparently has this habit of taking beloved British teen television shows (Skins and now The Inbetweeners) and making them American (seems to be an expensive habit). We’ve seen the preview for Skins and now we’ve found the cast for The Inbetweeners. Now, in all honesty, I think its unproductive to decry this as a blemish to the show, because as we have seen, you can successfully transfer a show across the pond and we haven’t seen the full acting range of this group of guys. The four leading dudes are Joey Pollari, Bubba Lewis, Zack Pearlman and Mark L. Young who have all starred in things you might have seen but probably don’t recognize.
The show follows the four group of guys who are neither popular or uncool enough to be noticed for being uncool (thus, The Inbetweeners). The British show is beloved and let’s keep out heads about this people. We have the British version. It has been made and cannot be taken from us. If this American version is bad, then so what? It’ll be off the air soon enough and we’ll go back to the original (and who knows, it might drive more people to the original). But, and this is the hard part, it could be just as good! You never know!