Despite total lack of class, British comedy a major hit

Everyone knows that British accents make everything classier. Imagine if the kids in “American Pie” (1999) were British. Classy, right? Well, no, not really.

Meet “The Inbetweeners,” a bildungsroman from across the pond that follows the exploits of a group of teenage misfits in high school as they seek popularity, women and nothing much else, really.

“The Inbetweeners” is told from the perspective of Will MacKenzie (Simon Bird), a privileged loser who is forced to change schools after his parents’ divorce. Will quickly falls in with the only people at his new school who will give him the time of day, namely Simon Cooper (Joe Thomas), Neil Sutherland (Blake Harrison) and Jay Cartwright (James Buckley).

Will is annoying, socially awkward, mean, unappreciative, whiny and not even all that funny. Luckily, audiences are supposed to dislike Will, meaning that first-time actor Simon Bird did an amazing job with the role. The story usually centers on Simon, the most normal of the group and, consequently, the least interesting comically. The real meat of the show lies with Jay, the hopeless, lying pervert, and Will, the stupid — possibly clinically so — one of the bunch, who also happens to be poor as dirt and whose father is probably gay.

With these bare bones — misfit teen boys at school — creators Damon Beesley and Iain Morris are able to go pretty far. The 12 episodes that make up the first two seasons of the show (the second season just premiered in the United States) are arguably some of the finest in British television over the past few years, which is saying a lot.

The show, which originally aired on Channel 4 in the United Kingdom and is now being shown on BBC America, is sure to reach cult status in the United States. Emphasis on the “cult” part, because “The Inbetweeners” isn’t for everyone — not by a long shot.

“The Inbetweeners” definitely has a target audience of 15- to 35-year-olds, give or take a few years. And viewers on the lower end of this range may find some opposition from their parents, who, if they’re doing their jobs correctly, will be horrified by the show’s language.

Things work differently in the United Kingdom than they do in America, so the content of TV shows can be fairly appalling (from a Puritanical standpoint). Each episode is about one of the four boys trying to get with a girl, tangentially at least, and the language rings true to that of 16-year-old boys. American viewers who are unfamiliar with British slang will make many trips to Google.com and Urbandictionary.com to find out, for example, what a “bell-end” is, among a myriad of other beautifully filthy phrases.

“The Inbetweeners” is Judd Apatow and Paul Feig’s cult hit “Freaks and Geeks” (1999-2000) with more wank-related humor and better accents. As dirty as the show gets, its heart is still in the right place.

Nothing is sacred in Beesly and Morris’ ode to the awkwardness of adolescence: vomiting (on children), diarrhea, nocturnal emissions, hair removal, animal cruelty, casual sexuality, friend’s parents (Neil’s is presumably gay; Will’s is hot), drunk driving, compulsive lying and underage drinking, to name just a few.

Though the show is centered on a group of young men, viewers of both sexes will find something to laugh, cringe and gag at over this upcoming season’s six episodes (and for the lucky uninitiated, the six of the first season).

With a third season, a U.S. version for ABC and a feature film in the works, “The Inbetweeners” isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

Guess it’s time to figure out what a bell-end is after all.


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