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MTV's 'The Inbetweeners' Review: Laugh, Cringe, Repeat

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Aug 21, 2012 | 7:03am EDT

The InbetweenersHow 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.

Follow Marc on Twitter @MarcSnetiker

[Photo Credit: MTV]

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