Friends, we've screened the pilot of The Inbetweeners, MTV's raunchy, stylish remake of the beloved British teen series. But is it worth your time? Here are some first impressions that might help you decide.
I've never heard of the original. What is The Inbetweeners?
The Inbetweeners was originally a British series about four high school students who fall outside the lines of typical cliques. They're not popular—or losers—but they deal with excruciatingly awkward scenarios, usually of their own making.
I've heard of the original. How is this remake different?
MTV's remake retains the characters and much of the initial story, but jettisons the original's decidedly British sensibility for a broader, more colorful American take. But it's not just different accents: This version looks and feels much more like modern touchstones Awkward., Workaholics, and Freaks & Geeks.
What's it about?
New student Will—who narrates the show—finds himself transferred from a ritzy private school into a rougher public school environment where his preppy dress and snobby attitude renders him friendless and widely disliked. But he quickly falls in with a trio of under-the-radar weirdos, including lovelorn Simon, spacey Neil, and outrageous blowhard Jay. Together, the four of them must navigate awkward high school dilemmas both relatable and reprehensible.
Who's in it?
These characters skew young—only one is old enough to drive—so the actors are mostly unknowns. The only recognizable face to my knowledge is the highly unprofessional school administrator played by Brett Gelman, also known as the bearded sidekick on Eagleheart (and resident weirdo of NBC's Go On.)
Who's behind it?
Executive Producer Brad Copeland is the driving force behind this Americanization and his resumé is undeniably strong: He wrote for Arrested Development, My Name Is Earl, and Grounded For Life. The clean, inventive look of the show is courtesy of Director Taika Waitiki of Flight of the Conchords. Both guys do fantastic work here.
Who's the target audience?
Let's be real: This show is for teenagers and those who enjoy immature teen shenanigans. As shows like Awkward. or Teen Wolf have proven, though, if a teen show is well-written enough then there's no shame in older viewers getting in on the fun as well. As far as brand recognition goes, remakes typically attempt to retain previous fans while also gaining new ones, but this Inbetweeners will probably be more appealing to people who've never seen the original (loyalty to first impressions can ruin the enjoyment of a remake). However, the American spin is just different enough that it feels like a very different show, so if fans of the original are open-minded enough, they may find a lot to like here.
What's awesome about it?
While it's right to be suspicious whenever America remakes foreign shows, we know it CAN be done right (as The Office and Shameless can attest). Fortunately MTV's Inbetweeners is one of the good ones. Not to sound sacrilegious, but I may even prefer this version to the original (which I found funny but not necessarily must-watch). The characters here are far more likeable, strange, and generally more appealing than their British counterparts, and their adventures are more relatable to those of us who grew up in American suburbia. In particular Bubba Lewis is fantastic as Simon, the lovesick king of bad decisions, and has future-star written all over him. Also consistently good is Zack Pearlman, whose slightly chubby bluster is a natural fit for the insecure braggart Jay. I also love this show's sense of humor, which ranges from drawn-out beats of awkwardness (Gelman slowly ripping a poster off the wall while walking away) to its Farrelly Brothers-esque knack for gross-out set pieces (a projectile vomiting joke ripped from the original British version was somehow even funnier here). In short, I laughed. A lot.
Are there any not-awesome parts I should know about?
Much of the pilot is taken verbatim from the original, which was definitely disconcerting (the series promises more original storytelling later), and from the first few episodes I've seen, perhaps too much time is given to Simon's crush on his foxy childhood friend Carly. But these are small quibbles in what's otherwise a mostly fun and breezy show.
Okay, but seriously, should I watch it?
Absolutely. If you can get past the idea that this is an American remake (an insta-crime in many viewers' eyes) AND if you already enjoy shows like Awkward. and particularly Workaholics, you may find yourself as hooked on Inbetweeners as I am. It may be about teens, but the show's writing is surprisingly smart and its jokes are as inventive and spirited as I've seen on any teen show in a while.
Do you have a clip or a trailer I can take a look at?
Yes! But just FYI, I think the show is actually better than this trailer suggests:
Drink of choice for my Inbetweeners viewing party?
Follow along with the characters and pound Goldschläger! Just do a better job of holding your liquor than these guys do.
Inbetweeners debuts Monday, August 20 at 10:30pm on MTV.