Judge Paul Pritchard liked going to school and going home. It was just the bit in between he didn't like.
"There's nothing funny about testicles, Cooper, as you'll discover tomorrow in my office."
Having been a huge hit in the UK, where its initial cult status gave way to mainstream success, The Inbetweeners ran for three seasons and culminated with The Inbetweeners Movie, which proved a huge draw at the UK box office.
Now, just in time for the release of the American adaptation of the show, The Inbetweeners: The Complete Series comes to Region 1 DVD.
Facts of the Case
Following the divorce of his parents, Will McKenzie (Simon Bird) is forced to leave his private school and see out the final years of high school at a local comprehensive. Quickly realizing he isn't cool enough to hang out with the school's social elite, and not wanting to become one of the geeks, Will allies himself with Simon Cooper (Joe Thomas), who is tasked with showing him around on his first day. Simon is initially reluctant to befriend Will, primarily due to him having a briefcase, clumpy shoes, and "gay hair."
Through sheer determination, Will strikes up a friendship with Simon, and is soon introduced to Simon's friends, Jay Cartwright (James Buckley), a sex-obsessed compulsive liar, and Neil Sutherland (Blake Harrison), a dimwitted, but well-intentioned simpleton.
Containing all three seasons of the show, The Inbetweeners: The Complete Series follows the boys as they attempt to woo the fairer sex, take a disastrous trip to a local theme park, and get caught "knocking one out" at an old folks home.
Chronicling the (mis)adventures of four boys over the final two years of high school, The Inbetweeners revels in the awkwardness of growing up, as one is finally forced to leave childhood behind and begin making adult decisions. The series is crude, politically incorrect, and, on occasion, utterly repugnant. On the other hand, it is also extremely funny, hugely relatable, and more often than you would expect, heartwarming.
Neil: "My Dad's not gay!"
While each of the four leads is something of a stereotype, making the roles instantly recognizable, what makes them so appealing is their multitude of flaws. These are not the teens of Glee, who are clearly defined as good kids or bad kids; in The Inbetweeners even the most well-intentioned character can make ghastly errors of judgment, or—on occasion—act purely out of malice, even toward a supposed friend. In fact, much of the humor comes from these acts of spitefulness or just pure ignorance; these very flaws ground the characters so well, and writers Damon Beesley and Iain Morris mine these situations to deliver pure comedy gold.
It's been a few years since I left high school, but The Inbetweeners genuinely feels true to my memories of the cliques and social climbing that occurred back in the day. Beesley and Iain Morris are remarkably astute in their observations on school life, and have crafted a selection of characters that inhabit a world instantly familiar to those who have endured high school and embarrassing parents, and exaggerated it just enough so as to maximize the laughs.
Before The Inbetweeners really takes hold (which comes around the final act of Episode One), what is most noticeable about the show is the deluge of foul language it contains. These kids like to swear. A lot. In fact, Will, Neil, Jay, and Simon drop more F-bombs over the course of these eighteen episodes than Bruce Willis has in the entirety of his career. Of course, this verbal diarrhea is not simply for effect; for better or worse, the vocabulary of the show's principal cast mirrors that of adolescent males for whom the joy of cursing is still new. Though less prevalent than the colorful language, the show does on occasion feature incidents and phrases that aren't exactly politically correct. Jokes are made surrounding homosexuality, pedophilia, and a number of other taboo subjects. While it's inevitable that such instances may cause offense for some, the show is very clear on when we should be laughing with the boys, and when we should be laughing at them and their youthful ignorance. Unless you are suffering from a major humor bypass, The Inbetweeners frequently cause fits of uncontrollable laughter. Be it cringe-inducing moments of absolute humiliation, sharp observations, or just a well-written gag, this is one of the few British comedies that consistently hits the mark.
Simon: "You wet the bed when you were ten?"
One of the shows big themes is the sexual frustration that many young men go through, which in turn informs the content of many of their conversations—not to mention their often hilarious actions. In this respect, the show is hugely relatable, especially as it focuses on a group of lads who are neither massively popular nor at the bottom of the social ladder. They are, like the vast majority of people, somewhere in-between (hence the show's title). Every failed romance, every moment of ridicule at the hands of a cooler kid is dissected to bring out the comedy, but it is the honest way these situations play out that makes the show so endearing. There's a beautiful moment in Season 3 opener "The Fashion Show," where Will is presented with the stark realization that the girl of his dreams does not, and never will, see him in a romantic light. As Will's young heart suffers the first of many breaks, he calmly gathers himself to maintain what dignity he has left. Anyone (by which I mean all of us) will instantly relate to the feeling of unrequited love, and genuinely feel for Will. So few comedies are capable of that kind of audience investment, marking The Inbetweeners out as something truly special and inspired.
Jay: "Sometimes I feel the kids here don't pay attention to me. Like I'm so dumb I don't matter. I guess making a few things up at least makes them notice."
It's rare that teenage boys ever express their emotions openly with each other, but in the small moments where they do, The Inbetweeners induces that warm feeling inside that not even a million candy bars could hope to achieve. Jay, the loudest, most crude member of the group is as brazen a chauvinist as you could ever find, but when the show takes the time to go beneath the bravado, we get to meet a frightened, and surprisingly sensitive young man who is just looking for acceptance. Such layers are afforded to each of the four leads, and so although Will may initially appear to be the snobbish nerd, with a penchant for exhibiting his intellectual superiority over others (including adults), his longing to be accepted—particularly by members of the fairer sex—is genuinely touching.
Will: "I am the worst person in the world."
The young cast complements the writing of Morris and Beesley with performances that really bring their characters to life. Their comic timing is remarkable for such young actors, and their handling of more sensitive issues shows a level of maturity few of their peers could aspire to.
In addition to the brilliantly written teenage characters, the adult characters that populate the show are written purely for comedic effect. Will's mom (Belinda Stewart-Wilson), whose good looks see her lusted after by his mates, is completely unaware of how much she embarrasses her son, whilst Neil's dad (Alex Macqueen) is impossible not to laugh at. Special praise should also be reserved for Greg Davies' Mr. Gilbert, the tactless head of year who does his utmost to remind his pupils just how much he detests them on a regular basis.
The show is presented in standard definition 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen, with a Dolby 2.0 Stereo mix.
The Inbetweeners: The Complete Series comes with a very good selection of extras. Thirteen episodes have an optional commentary track, courtesy of the cast and writers. Disc One, which contains season one, also includes "The Making of The Inbetweeners," "Meet the Cast," "Video Diaries," and a selection of deleted scenes and outtakes. Disc Two features a full set of extras to complement the show's second season, and kicks off with a "Behind the Scenes" featurette. There's also a featurette on the "Field Trip" episode, "Video Diaries," deleted scenes, outtakes, and an interview with "Mr. Gilbert," the boys least-favorite teacher. The final disc contains a "Behind the Scenes" featurette, "Video Diaries," deleted scenes, outtakes, and the Series Three prequel.
Though the behind-the-scenes featurettes are fairly standard fare, the audio commentaries are excellent, blending insightful contributions from the writers with more humorous offerings from the actors. Maintaining this quality are the video diaries, which see each of the boys given a video camera to record their lives on-set.
The most consistently funny British comedy since The Office, The Inbetweeners deserves to be spoken of in the same breath as the great sitcoms. If the series doesn't quite deliver the big sendoff the characters deserve, fans can at least take solace in The Inbetweeners Movie, the big-screen spinoff that sees the boys head off for one final lads' holiday before going their separate ways as life at University beckons.
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Studio: E1 Entertainment
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