It’s a new term, but the boys are pretty much in the same position. Posh Will (Bird) feels out of place at an ordinary school, Simon (Thomas) relentlessly pines after his childhood sweetheart, mouthy Jay (Buckley) is a sex-obsessed compulsive liar and dim-wit Neil (Harrison) is happy to go with the flow. Frustrated at their social standing, Will suggests that they try to re-invent themselves, during a school field trip, his birthday, the Duke Of Edinburgh awards, work experience and a night out in London…
Though the first series largely flew under the pop culture radar, following strong DVD sales, a Bafta nomination (!) and plenty enthusiastic word of mouth, viewers flocked like top lezza models to one of Jay’s self-aggrandising fantasies. Happily, season two keeps the high standard up, with the same morish recipe that blended the sex-questing of American Pie with the sense of humour and setting of a younger, fizzier Peep Show. Seamlessly continuing where we left off, it’s more like a Part II than a separate series, instantly reassuring you that last time was no one-off flash-in-the-pan…
Whilst you might’ve had concerns that season one covered all the relevant high school milestones worth noting, co-creators Damon Beesley and Iain Morris prove there’s plenty mileage left without stretching the concept. A school trip, work experience, that first nightclub … again they’re captured with a flawless attention to detail while simultaneously mined for maximum comic hilarity.
The argument could be made that the show still goes beyond the realms of plausible believability on occasion in search of laughs, but the punchy banter is so quick-fire you’ll soon be laughing at something else. Case in point: Will shitting himself in an exam is a step too far, but the clever nicknames he acquires afterwards (Vladimir Poo-tin, Take Shat, Bumlog Millionaire, Wayne Poo-ney) easily make up for it. Simon getting wanked off at an under-age disco might seem a bit much, but the gang’s reactions (“It’s getting a bit weird now”… “I don’t like it when he makes eye contact”) are comedy gold.
But yet, while these giggle-provoking, gross-out punchlines inevitably exist as the stand-out talking points (such as Jay caught attempting to join the “Dead Hand Gang”), the show’s best bits are always where the boys are just sitting about talking. Lazing about in the common room, packed into a toilet cubicle, on the school bus, wherever. Thankfully, the dialogue hasn’t lost any of its snappy, catchy appeal, with Beesley and Morris gifting us more one-liners and creative insults that are so genius you make a mental note at the time to recycle them later as your own.
Like series one, the gang bounce off each other naturally with back-and-forth patter which is both impressively genuine (this is exactly how teen boys talk) and frequently worthy of laughing out loud. Again it’s Will’s call-things-as-they-are dry wit that will amuse the more discerning high-brow viewers, while compulsive gobshite Jay gets all the best lines (commenting on Neil’s crappy new red Nova: “It’s like a tractor beam for fanny!”). By now, it also goes without saying that the cast all disappear into their roles so naturally that, at times, you forget they’re even acting.
Importantly though, while many youngsters felt welcomed by the poppy Brit soundtrack and stayed because of the crowd-pleasing toilet gags, The Inbetweeners‘ real strength (and reason for watching) remains the accuracy with which it paints teenage existence in British suburbia. Though we’d all like to believe our formatives years where akin to those depicted in glamorous, glossy American teen dramas (where the uncool are still cool and played by model-types in their mid-30s), they weren’t. They were like the ones showcased here; often boring, constantly embarrassing and always revolving (to some extent or another) around girls.
Pinball-ing from one ridicule-inviting cock-up to another while in the hormone-fuelled search of nookie, the sharp observations continue to strike chords and provoke nostalgia. Particularly on the money when it comes to understanding young guys, Beesley and Morris know the mindset from experience. Getting served in a bar is a major result, normal behaviour goes out the window whenever getting laid is concerned, and it’s only a matter of time before any conversation snowballs towards sex, girls or masturbation. You and your mates weren’t the Abercrombie studs lavished in the likes of The OC and One Tree Hill, you were this lot. Be honest.
After all, at high school everyone knew a Jay (the loud, attention-seeker) or a Neil (the gormless twit who goes with the flow), so half the fun is in picking out who from your friends would be who. Giving the former a behaviour-altering girlfriend in the season finale is another subtle masterstroke which, along with Simon’s long-awaited near-miss with Carly (Emily Head), provides more of those surprisingly poignant moments which really capture the teen experience. Underneath all the wank talk, spunk jokes and false bravado, being young is often hard (insert your own Jay-esque filth-pun here). But wouldn’t you give anything to go back…
Still guilty of going over-the-top in search of laughs on occasion, but The Inbetweeners is one of the funniest and truest TV shows around.