There are some adaptations of British shows that fall flat on their face (“Coupling”) and then there are others where the writing and the characterization of the original is so good, translating it is almost foolproof: Change clunge to p*ssy, gash to vag, and naff, quim, tuppence to slit (yes, “The Inbetweeners” refers to female genitalia frequently), find actors with similar characteristics, and Boom! Bob’s your uncle.
As much as I hate to say it — because the original British version of “The Inbetweeners” is one of my all-time favorite comedies (think “Wonder Years” crossed with American Pie) — the American version is pretty good. You can’t really attribute its success to MTV: It has everything to do with Iain Morris and Damon Beasley, the two men who wrote and created the original series. The American version is little more than a facsimile of the original with a different soundtrack and actors who don’t quite look they way you want them to, but it works. It’s like watching a rerun with different actors, and when a show is as good as the original, a rerun still manages to hold a lot of its power: It’s hilarious and awkward and angst-y with a touch of whiplash poignancy and the heightened essence of reality (or at least, a reality for me).
That is to say, during one’s coming of age years, the biggest humiliations always seem to accompany sexual activity. My first time, my nose bled all over my girlfriend, and because it was dark, she didn’t even realize it until she checked the mirror afterwards and found her face streaked in my blood. That’s the kind of story that would feel right at home in “The Inbetweeners.” Nothing ever goes right in the dating life of these four adolescents, but ultimately, they have each other to fall back on. During the most traumatic years of one’s life, there’s nothing more important than a solid peer group, even one as bumbling and hopeless as the foursome at the center of “The Inbetweeners.”
Granted, Joey Pollaris — who plays the lead, a straight-laced private-school transplant, Will McKenzie — has none of the cheeky charm of Simon Bird’s British counterpart, but the other three actors — Zack Pearlman, Bubba Lewis, and Mark L. Young — don’t so much reinvent the public-school characters as they do the originals’ justice. MTV has also managed to maintain the tone, and they’ve done a serviceable job of translating the British slang into American slang.
It’s a good enough show, in fact, that though all the gags have been repurposed from the British series, I found myself laughing both in anticipation of what I knew was coming and doubly so at the gags themselves. MTV doesn’t get it right very often, but with “Awkward,” and now this, there’s suddenly a reason not to delete MTV from my channel guide.