British television is nothing if not prolific, especially when it comes to short-lived comedy series, so there’s no good excuse for bringing the sitcom The Inbetweeners, inexplicable winner of BAFTA’s Best New Comedy award in 2008, to American shores. BBC America must be pushing for a demographic that the latest Gordon Ramsay show and Mistresses haven’t provided. Combining the witless humor of a typical episode of Saved by the Bell with the crassness and gross-out gags of the latest American Pie sequel, Inbetweeners manages to be both unfunny and un-redeeming.
The show follows Will (Simon Bird), a sixth-former (translation: 17-years-old) who has just transferred from a private to a public school in suburban England. He shows up on his first day in his posh suit just like Max Fischer in Rushmore, but the similarities end there. Determined to court popularity, he forces himself into an alliance with three similarly gawky boys. The title of the show refers to their age, halfway between children and adults, but also to the quartet’s status: They are neither particularly popular nor are they the lowest in the school’s pecking order.
Because this is a British sitcom, the characters get to say “fuck,” and they all say it a lot. One gets the sense that the show’s writers, Damon Beesley and Iain Morris, are relying on edginess to push the narrative forward instead of traditional methods like character development and genuine humor. When one of Will’s new friends says that a girl is “frothing at the gash,” there’s a chance this line might be funny if a) we knew anything of substance about the girl, or b) knew anything about the boy making the witticism, but we don’t.
There’s no doubt that the things teenage boys say and do can be comedy gold. Not only do they naturally find themselves in sexually humiliating situations, but it’s also natural for them to obsessively verbalize their sexual thoughts. Shows like Freaks and Geeks and the recent British import Skins are two examples of writers brilliantly mining the particular crudeness and vulnerability of the teenage species. Inbetweeners, though, doesn’t rise above its sitcom superficiality, at least in its first two episodes. It’s like watching a group of teenagers you barely know stand around and curse a lot.