Thursday, 24 September 2009

A Review of The Inbetweeners



I recall reading a sociology book some time ago about the English as a people. The main argumentative string was that the English are socially inept. (How insightful). The thing is that I have the impression that all the people, wherever I lived, see themselves as handicapped when communicating with people from other countries. The only ones who tend to think their people are ‘sociable’ are those individuals who then spend their time roaring like sea-lions in pubs and generally getting on everyone’s nerves. Typically, they also fail to get anything like female company unless it’s an out-of-luck transvestite and they’re so drunk they can’t figure it out. The last sentence only applies to the male ‘sociable’ guys, but mistake me not – there’s also the female version, normally expressed in something like a radical Christian girl belonging to the Church of the Presbiterian Schwlopping from the far mountains of Southern Austria or whatever. These girls are extraordinarily proactive and are at their most dangerous when an instantiation of karaoke is taking place. Take a single girl capable of speaking in tongues and you can empty a crowded pub in the space of less than fifteen seconds! (For the record, much like the ‘sociable’ men do not pull for shit, these girls do no-one the favour of offering some love, not even to their own husbands if they have any, which even by Christian standards has to be blasphemous).

Anyway, I was sitting as happy as a pear the other day in the break-room of my ‘office’ (if you can call a restaurant with two floors full of kids screaming louder than the lead singer of Linkin Park an ‘office’), when this friend of mine put on a DVD. It was a TV series which apparently goes very much in Britain, called The Inbetweeners. A brief sample of the stuff can be found here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uvTgvEzpSzQ&feature=fvst. I wish to dedicate this post to take a look at this British oeuvre. The story centres around four high-school kids who are, go and guess this, socially inept. One of them is quite the normal guy, but he seems to have all the good judgment of a suicide bomber attacking a mall during a bank holiday; he is in love with The Dumb Blonde of the day, who is not supposed to be The Dumb Blonde but The Cute Blonde, but is in fact so dumb that she either deserves the Oscar prize for Best Actress or she was born with half the natural share of skull-cream and was picked up for her genuine disposition to the role. The second guy is a sexual pervert who constantly claims to have fucked girls more often and in more circumstances than he has warmed up the palm of his hand. The third one is a weirdo whom I can’t really define (the guy dresses like an ape for his job, can’t come to terms with the fact that his father sucks cock, mercy-kills fish with his bare hands and is the only guy who somehow manages to get some sex going).

The fourth and final guy is the protagonist, a character with glasses whom I can’t figure out for the life of me. Leaving aside a couple of deus ex machina slip-ups, this guy is not only very smart but incredibly witty, yet he seems to become instantly ostracised wherever he goes. It’s like the act of wearing glasses makes you a nerd. By that logic wearing a sombrero makes you a Mexican. So the first series follows the misadventures of this gangly group of lobs as they consistently make fools of themselves in all the typical English coming-of-age experiences, from drinking under-aged to getting a driving license to trying to chat up girls to other stuff. By the end of the series, absolutely nothing is resolved or has been changed, yet somehow The Dumb Blonde falls in love with the cretin who is in love with her. If you’re wondering how this is possible, then don’t bother asking – I don’t have the slightest fucking notion. He never does anything other than make a complete idiot of himself (even implausibly vomiting over her little brother in a scene worthy of a Tucker Max tale), yet she finds him irresistibly cute.

The ending is meant to be educational – it is an old trope in coming-of-age narratives which teaches that romance is out of our control and that eventually things will follow their natural course (in the soppiest cases, in fact, it is suggested that this lack of control is precisely the ‘magic’ of romance). But this is an example of how bad execution can turn a timeless trope into nothing more than a cliché. Much like the protagonist is poorly characterised because it doesn’t make sense that someone so smart should meet with such social closure, so there is nothing to tell us why The Dumb Blonde should get attached to this dick, other than her being Dumb (so at least they’ll make a nice couple). This highlights a problem with the series throughout – all of the female characters are incredibly flat, posing as no more than cardboard cut-outs who stand there and offer one of two acts: 1.) Flaunting the power of their sexuality, be it by acting in a way that is seductive (wittingly or unwittingly) or simply by denying social acceptance to the men, and 2.) responding to whatever ‘hilarious’ demonstration of social ineptitude by frowning and going ‘What are you doing?’ or ‘What do you mean?’. The entire frigging show has no more than two facial expressions for its female characters! Where the hell are we, in an episode of Scooby Doo? There’s got to be more than ‘flirtatious’ and ‘frowning’ that can be done with the human face, surely.

I wish to state that I have great respect for British television, more so than for any other television in Europe. But The Inbetweeners is a very poor show. There’s some flashes of wit in the script and some of the situations have some humour, but mostly it is too stretched from plausibility and too predictable in its clichés to ever be truly immersive. Ultimately its juvenile bullshit means that it is a typical case of a work of art standing as an example of that which it wishes to represent (it performs that which it claims to satirise, appeals to the world which it wishes to deconstruct, and so on). This is a very common fallacy in art and learning how to recognise it is an excellent critical tool to possess (for an easy example, EVERY film produced by Zack Snyder displays this fallacy). The Inbetweeners is worth watching to practice this tool, but for almost no other reason at all.

41 comments:

Anonymous said...

rubbish review... and completely wrong

Anonymous said...

You're trying too hard with this review and doesn't make sense a lot of the time.

"One of them is quite the normal guy, but he seems to have all the good judgment of a suicide bomber attacking a mall during a bank holiday..."

Malls are always packed on a Bank Holiday Monday, so what's your point.

This blog is one reason why I hate the internet. Anyone is a critic these days.

Anonymous said...

Jeeze! What side of the ebd did you wake up on! The Inbetweeners is pure genius and it highlights exactly what school is like! You hav eno idea what you're talking about and are clearly someone who enjoys Antiques Roadshow....

Anonymous said...

Your writing, judgement (notice I didn't say opinion. Everyone has the right to an opinion, but this opinion is formed by judgement)and general attitude is verging on dire.

This show is award winning and has received nothing but brilliant reviews from a range of ages and backgrounds, and even won over some of the harshest critics.

Your attempt to be controversial and of alternative opinion makes you look like, for want of a better word, an idiot.

Anonymous said...

Couldn't disagree with this review more. The Inbetweeners is a fantastically funny show and the characters are brilliantly written and acted.

Liam said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

What an awful review....

Let's face it your views are void in comparrision to the millions that watch and enjoy the inbetweeners.

Get a hobby or maybe a plant, it might cheer you up.

Anonymous said...

you chat utter bullshit :')

Simon Bird til I die lol said...

Oh fuck off you old queen, you have completely missed the whole point of the set up.

vumpireofkid said...

I think you should stop being such try-hard and just enjoy the show! It's awesome, one of the best shows I've seen in a long time and it never fails to make me laugh.

Oh and I'll think you'll find there's a lot more to Will's glasses that make him a nerd.

And contrary to what your profile suggests, you do not have a "gorgeous turn of phrase", you have a mediocre one, with very poor spelling and grammar.

Anonymous said...

happy as a pear? your a fucking plum mate.

Anonymous said...

Idiot

Anonymous said...

I was going to leave a quote from That Mitchell and Webb Book, but scared that its inferiority to you would make you spew more idiotic, made up shit like this.

equiserre said...

You're like the bad guy in "Ratatouille" at the beginning of the movie.

Anonymous said...

jeeesus you're so miserable! complaining about everything you see or whatever occurs around you. try to have a sense of humour or try to have some fun for once in your life.

Anonymous said...

oh piss off, you BUMDER.

Anonymous said...

Your pedantic review is flawed. You have the journalistic ability of a block of butter.
If you cannot see 'The Inbetweeners' for the fantastic comedy it is, then it must be you who is socially disadvantaged.
Also, for future reference, it does help if you actually research and know about the subject you are reviewing.

Jess said...

"By the way, "its" has an apostrophe when it is used to describe something belonging to someone/something."

Actually "its" only has an apostrophe when referring to 'it is' or 'it has'. Just saying.

But anyway, it would be fair enough to just 'not get it', or not find it funny but I feel this is a very unfair review based on glancing a small selection put on in the office. Will is seen as a nerd because he has come from private school to a state school, carries a briefcase, likes to wear suits, thinks/acts like he is more sophisticated than he is and does star wars impressions to try and impress girls (it would impress me but then I am a bit geeky myself).

This show does not glamourise binge drinking and promiscuity - yes they may go to the pub/clubs under-age and attempt to get girls but it is in no way over the top. In fact they fail miserably everytime they try to be 'cool' or impress. For example, the vomiting on the brother - he is trying to impress the girl by agreeing to help babysit, is told he should take alcohol/get drunk in order to relax, but instead brews a concoction so strong that yes he is sick on her brother and ruins it all. Hardly glamourising drinking now, is it? Another example - they attempt to go clubbing in London even resorting to using a tramp's urine-soaked shoes as they are not allowed trainers. The girls they wanted to impress go off with other people and their car gets clamped.

What fans of this show like about it is that you *can* identify it. Even if you don't like the characters, you have come across people like them. You feel for the 'normal' guy that listens to his friends' bad advice too much and makes an idiot of himself, as well as the middle class nerd that has to adjust to new social conditions and whose wit is not always understood because of it. Even the ones you don't like show some redemption when their heart is genuinely broken (the one who falsely boasts about his conquests).

They are not social butterflies but are not total outcasts which makes them 'The Inbetweeners', and that's why we love them. They're normal and they make us laugh.

Jess said...

er, identify with* it.

Anonymous said...

Briefcase wanker!!!

Jesus Feckin' Christ said...

You emotionless Bus Wanker. Take your review and shove it where the sun don't bloody shine.

Anonymous said...

OMG are you for real?? you sound like a boring twat with absolutely NO sense of hunour at all!! The Inbetweeners is nothing short of GENIUS, entertaining and hilarious!!!! Youre talking a load of bollocks mate-just do us a favour and be quiet!!

Anonymous said...

Clearly this guy has never had any Clunge himself!
I bet he's from sCUNThorpe!
Fanny!

Anonymous said...

You didn't get it, just move on. What a shame that some people don't have humor.

Anonymous said...

To those just insulting him back and saying 'we're right you're wrong', you're showing no more intelligence than this so-called reviewer and really not making a good impression of Inbetweeners fans.

Anonymous said...

what a load of balls!

Anonymous said...

whata load of bollocks ... your either old ..or just plain boring ... but im guessing your a bit of both

Anonymous said...

You sir, are a bus wanker.
Also your introduction made no sense and was of no relation to the rest of your unnecessary rant. learn some english skills and maybe I'll listen to what you have to say... actually don't hold your breath. twat

Anonymous said...

Sorry, but did anyone ASK your irrelevant opinion on The Inbetweeners?

Um no.

What the hell was the introduction?! APART from prententious and pseudo-intellectual?

Try taking some happy pills, and if they don't work, take 20 paracetemol and choke on your own vomit.

Bumder.

Liam said...

When you learn to type, punctuate and spell, then maybe one of your reviews can be taken seriously. For now, I will take this for what it is: bullshit. You "can't figure out" the protagonist? But I thought the show was "juvenile bullshit" - so doesn't that say something about your intellectual capacity? There's not a great deal to figure out here, take it for what it is - fun. I would suggest you probably haven't watched enough of the series to make a fair judgement on it, and you seem to be basing it on some kind of American Pie stereotype.

By the way, "its" has an apostrophe when it is used referring to "it is" or "it has". Bumder.

Anonymous said...

You are a fucking idiot. Period.

Anonymous said...

Inbetweeners is not made for those with NO SENSE OF HUMOUR. get a life and watch it again.

Anonymous said...

classic example of a yank not getting british comedy

Anonymous said...

The guy who reviewed this has obviously never gotten laid.

Laura said...

I'm slightly lost by this review...you dedicate half a paragraph to how stupid it is that the "Dumb Blonde" falls in love with the "cretin"...but that doesn't even happen. They kiss once and then she goes back to her boyfriend. Did you even watch the show properly?

Yes, it is incredibly juvenile, and yes Will gets a much harder time than he deserves, but the show's brilliance is that it sums up perfectly what it's like to be a teenager in Britain. Teenage boys ARE that crude, and a boy like Will would be bullied in real life...unfortunately, being well spoken, witty and sophisticated doesn't get you fair in high school. And if you don't recognise that then either American high schools are very different to here, or you're very out of touch with reality.

But each to their own :)

Anonymous said...

I hope you trip and fall on your face.

Anonymous said...

It seems like you have formed your judgement on, what sounds like, half an episode??

1) Will is not a geek because he wears glasses. He is seen as a geek because he carries a briefcase, tries too hard, and is a general embarassment. But a cool geek people can relate to.

2) You've seen some of series 2 episode 6. The last episode they've made so far. They've had 11 episodes to develop the characters. You appear to have not seen these episodes, due to of your lack of understanding of the characters. Before you judge the genius of it, watch the rest.

3) At no point does Carli fall desperately in love with Simon (it's blantantly obvious you know his name, stop trying so hard to pretend you don't. Fair play he's embarassing, but these two characters have a background, which you would have realised if you'd seen the rest of the episodes.

4) Inbetweeners are amazing. Roll on series 3.:)

Anonymous said...

I myself am a sixteen year old teenager living in Britain. I find that The Inbetweeners have totally hit the nail on the head when interpreting teen life. Sorry to burst your bubble, mate, but you will NEVER understand british life so don't attempt to review it. Cheer up.

Anonymous said...

Obviously you are like 30+ or something so you don't appreciate this sort of programme so why are you watching it? Your talking bollocks get lost!! THE INBETWEENERS RULE! =D

Jon said...

Oh dear, Andrea - whoever linked your article to the Inbetweeners fan forum was obviously hoping to stir up some intelligent counterpoints. Since most of them seem to be have nothing worthwhile to say, I'll have to have a go.

What I think you're missing is that all the events in the Inbetweeners are filtered through the lens of the protagonists' viewpoints. What is depicted is more how an embarrassing incident seems to unfold when you're in the middle of it than how it looks from an objective standpoint. Showing teenage mishaps in a straightforward, realistic way would make for incredibly dull viewing, in the same way that there's a disparity between the excitement of a drunken night out as experienced by the reveller and as viewed by the sober observer.

So the dumb blonde is dumb because all Simon really notices about her is that she's pretty and immediately turns him into a bumbling idiot. Will's 'witty' lines are really a part of how he sees himself, pitched awkwardly enough so that we get a measure of how smug he seems to everyone else. Every facet of their characters is a lunatic exaggeration that mirrors the extreme way we characterise minor incidents.

And by the way, most of the kids on here saying things like "Inbweenters is pure genius and you just dont understand its genius" are very likely trend-hoppers who only started watching it when it suddenly took off, and will have forgotten about it entirely in a couple of years. You should see the pasting every internet blogger gets when their negative review of a hyped-up film gets posted on Rotten Tomatoes. There are gangs of people roaming the internet whose sole purpose seems to be to attack anyone with a dissenting view. Good times, eh?

Anonymous said...

This show pisses me the fuck off everytime it leaves its shitstain on my tv screen. Fucking pathetic humor and rubbish acting. I would have more fun squatting over my monitor and releasing my lunch ontop, maybe watching my digestive remains drip down the screen would be more entertaining, especially since my tv set me back a few thousand. I feel like i get dumber everytime this show dares to remind me of ita existance on australian television. Fucking biggest load of bullshit on tv at the moment.