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The pilot for the American version of “The Inbetweeners” combines the first and second episode narrative arcs of the immensely popular British TV show of the same name, wraps it in a thick of layer of ‘whatever’ and half bakes it for an hour at 350. The result is fragmented, under-developed, inexplicably paced, and soggy.
It’s not just that the pilot is structurally unsound– the splicing of the episodes together allows for little of the on-screen relationship development that is the backbone of the show– but also, it feels like MTV just doesn’t get it. The 2008-2010 series (and a movie) charts the last school years of a bunch of extremely unfortunate adolescents– pretentious Will, compulsive liar Jay, hopeless romantic Simon and dopey Neil– who navigate the stormy waters of pre-adulthood with impossibly bad luck and massive erections.
What differentiates the British show from other more-semen-than-sense “American Pie” equivalents, are two distinct factors. Firstly, “the Inbetweeners” commits to a whole new level of vulgarity unbeknownst to Stifler or his mom, and, secondly, the original TV series manages to strike a delicate balance between the extreme despair of these kiddies’ misfortunes and the uplifting knowledge that they have each other and many, many years in which to become more successful at life.
The pilot of “The Inbetweeners” 2.0 is not nearly brave enough to be as offensively irreverent as the original (and MTV isn’t allowed to say some of those bad words.) For instance, in the British “Inbetweeners,” the second episode is the one in which Will embarks on a bravado-proving, booze-fueled tirade towards Neil’s ambiguously sexually-oriented dad, wittily labeling him a “bumder” (a scathing portmanteau of the words“bender” and “bum”) and ending the episode with a regrettable accusation of pedophilia. Apparently, that’s the sort of stuff that American audiences object to.
More upsetting, however, is that the soul-wrenching despair aspect of the British show is almost wholly lacking from the US pilot, while the undercurrent of youthful elation is now cloyingly omnipresent. Even the actors are better looking. And, simply put, the show isn’t funny unless it’s very, very sad.
To fans of the British Will Mackenzie and his merry band of would-be sex-offenders, the US version is a travesty. To an “Inbetweeners” newbie, there is nothing to distinguish this particular televised offering from the cartloads of other -“coming of age” to the dulcet tunes of “Grouplove” - schlock that MTV churns out on a regular basis. Indeed, this is just another “The Hard Times of RJ Berger” without the hilarious titular pun.