The Inbetweeners is almost completely unlike anything else I typically watch.
And yet? It’s got kind of a special place in my heart. It’s a short series, focusing on the shenanigans (yup, that’s the word I’m going with) of four teenaged boys in a public school in Britain. (Except there it’s called a comprehensive school–at least, I think that’s what it would be termed. See a discussion of all things British education here.) Any mother of boys, girlfriend of boys, friend of boys, anyone who has ever dealt with teenage boys full stop, will recognize all four of these kids. Of course they’re obnoxious. Of course they are overly fascinated by their bodies, girls’ bodies, bodily functions, etc. But they’re also so clueless and so helpless that you almost just want to hug them. And then slap them upside the head. Hard.
It’s the start of a new school year, and Will’s mother has pulled him out of a school where he was experiencing bullying so he can start fresh at a new school. Although most students don’t want anything to do with him, his posh accent, or his obvious nerdiness, he nonetheless does find his own small group of compatriots, including Simon, perpetually high-strung and helplessly in love with the gorgeous classmate who lives next door and considers him a “mate”; Jay, a blowhard with an easily crushed soul; and Neil, the dim but cheerful doofus.
Oh, and I forgot until I browsed some videos at YouTube, one of the most hilarious characters of the series is one of their teachers, Mr. Gilbert, who is very angry, very mean, and very hilarious. This should give you some idea of what the whole series is like:
Viewers who are easily shocked by hearing and seeing, on a screen, what teenage boys think about ALL THE TIME, as well as way too many bodily fluids of all kinds, may not find much to love here. But if you’ve got a strong stomach, an even stronger sense of the absurd, and a willingness to pity these boys in a motherly kind of way rather than wanting to smack them (hard), you might get more than a few laughs. But mainly: I’ve never felt so glad to NOT be a teenage boy as I was after watching this series. Sadly, what I’ll do when I’m raising teenage boys, I have no idea. Be afraid, I would guess. I’m going to be very afraid.
Years aired: 2008-2010.
Episodes and seasons: 18 25-minute episodes over three seasons.
Primary Stars: Simon Bird as Will McKenzie; James Buckley as Jay Cartwright; Blake Harrison as Neil Sutherland; Joe Thomas as Simon Cooper; Greg Davies as the ultimate wanker school authority figure Mr. Gilbert.
Creator and primary writers: Damon Beesley and Iain Morris.
Setting: London (suburban).
First aired on: E4.
Fun trivia: A short-lived American version was filmed for MTV, and flopped.
All out of The Inbetweeners? Watch this next, luv:
Skins. You should know that “Skins” is like the scary meaner older sibling to this show, with its characters displaying many more hardcore problems like drug addiction, anorexia, and domestic disharmony. But still, it’s a teen-focused drama that also offers some funny bits (the star of the first few seasons, Nicholas Hough, is particularly good at being funny even when you’re most hating him for being a totally slick little bastard), so it might work. “Skins” is to “The Inbetweeners” as the movie Kids (remember “Kids”? God was that a depressing movie) is to American Pie, basically.
Men Behaving Badly. It’s the “Inbetweeners,” only starring two men (roommates), and instead of being teenagers who occasionally display sweet and insecure moments, they’re totally obnoxious grown men. Stars Doc Martin’s Martin Clunes in an early role. In other news: “Men Behaving Badly” recently turned 25 years old, and its stars have been very busy elsewhere in Brit TV land.
Flight of the Conchords. Take two clueless-seeming boys from New Zealand who want to find success as a folk-music duo, insert them into New York City, wait for hilarity to ensue. Jemaine Clement as Jemaine and Bret McKenzie as Bret seem to be simply a little bit older “Inbetweeners”: never quite sure how to win fame, professional success, and women, but also willing to try pretty much anything in the pursuit of all of those things. Although an HBO show, not a British production, the New Zealand sensibility behind this duo and their thinly fictionalized search for fame and fortune could out-Brit anything actually produced in Great Britain.
And now for something completely different: Moone Boy. Okay, let’s be honest here. I’m just going to start putting the very wonderful show “Moone Boy” at the end of all these articles, because I think everyone should watch it now. It’s applicable here because it stars David Rawle as young Martin Moone, stuck in 1990s smallish-town Ireland with his imaginary best friend Sean Murphy (played by Chris O’Dowd), about to go through puberty as well. But there’s a sweetness to Martin (and Sean) and his entire hilarious family that will make you love everyone, even teenaged boys, again. I know that sounds like a tall order. But “Moone Boy” fulfills it.
Still wondering what else to watch next? There’s some interesting suggestions at this Reddit thread, including some lengthy discussion on why “Skins” does or does not fit the bill as a “watch-alike” for “The Inbetweeners.”