When The Inbetweeners aired on British television I cunningly managed to miss every single episode, so when I recently received the first two series as a gift from a family member I was finally able to rectify this oversight on my part. When I was given the set both my brother-in-law and my father warned me that "[You] find it a little hard to get into at first. [You] ask, why should I watch something with these horrible people?" But that, "It's worth it, because it's brilliant, revolting but brilliant."
Now I usually take television advice from my father with a pinch of salt; it's not that he has bad taste (he did watch the Survivors remake, but even he admitted how awful that was - and I still recall the incredibly amusing comments he made while we watched the Doctor Who special The Voyage of the Damned - a story redeemed only by "friend of this blog", the awesome Clive Rowe) it's just that he prefers quite a lot of different shows to the kind I like. My main genres are the US Sitcom and the non-procedural police show - his are Science Fiction and gross out British comedy (Mongrels for example). My brother-in-law on the other hand was introduced to The Wire and The Shield by myself and my brother; since then he's embarked on a journey of all that is great in television - I intend to lend him The Sopranos next.
So I wasn't exactly sure what I'd make of The Inbetweeners; but the general consensus seemed to be 'Stick with it, it's really good once you get used to it'. And that's good enough to make the show worthy of a watch, especially when it was a gift.
So what exactly is The Inbetweeners - well if you've been living in a bubble for the past couple of years (a bubble that hasn't been popped by George and Susan of course), it's a half hour situation comedy centered around four friends in their last few years of school. The principle/narrator is Will (Simon Bird) a public school boy transferred to Rudge Park Comprehensive school after his parent's divorce resulted in his mother not having sufficient funds. Will integrates himself with a trio of young lads; Simon (Joe Thomas) a relatively normal, if unpopular, young man; Neil (Blake Harrison) best described as a cross between a boy and large slightly slow puppy and Jay (Joe Thomas) resident pervert and world class overcompensator.
They form a somewhat unpopular, lower rung, clique - not the absolute bottom of the school pecking order (that would be the Freaks and Geeks of coruse), but certainly a long distance away from being near the popular kids. Nowhere to fit in, sort of in between everyone else (oh, I see what they did there - very clever, I guess). And what follows is two series full of hopes being dashed, unpleasant situations, unwelcome advances from a suspect teacher, vomit, pee and teenage fumblings towards the opposite sex. It's simultaneously hilarious and cringe worthy - just like all of the great British comedies.
Performances are solid throughout, but of particular note in the cast is the completely apathetic and child hating Mr Gilbert (Greg Davies) the lovely Belinda Stewart-Wilson as Will's mum Polly and the school bully Mark Donnovan (Henry Lloyd-Hughes). It's also worth saying that Blake Harrison's performance as Neil is consistently outstanding, he brings a naive charm and pleasant attitude to the role that makes him both fun and likable - even when he's admitting to ejaculating all over the interior of Simon's car.
So The Inbetweeners is another great British sitcom; it's charming and unpleasant, fun and painful, nostalgic and fresh. It captures the essence of the teenage wasteland and takes a pretty shrewd look at the British youth. It might be a little easy to shrug off many of the events in the show as being outlandish and unlikely, but a lot of what happens in it reminds me of my latter day school years and the quite frankly outrageous things we did at times - and just like the teenage injuries that have left scars on myself, The Inbetweeners will have lasting impact.