In the film Little Miss Sunshine,Frank (Steve Carell) gives his nephew (Paul Dano) the following advice on the importance of going through hard times: “If you sleep until you are 18, ah, think of the suffering you’re gonna miss. I mean, high school? High school -- those are your prime suffering years.”
Frank makes a brilliant point. High school, adolescence... those are the years we suffer the most. High school is an awkward and painful experience (I should know, I work with high schoolers on a daily basis), and if you can survive it, then you can survive anything. However, even though high school can be more heartbreaking than a Shakespearean tragedy, it can also be filled with hilarious moments. The best way anyone can get through high school is to have a good laugh at it. Therefore, it’s no wonder that multiple TV shows and films have been made to make fun of the high school experience. Yet there is no show out there that succeeds in satirizing it as well as “The Inbetweeners.”
This British sitcom follows four painfully awkward teenage boys as they try to navigate the treacherous social scene at their school. The main character, William McKenzie (Simon Bird), transferred to a public school after his parents divorced, and he attempts to learn how to be cool despite his complete inability to read social cues. His three best friends, Simon Cooper (Joe Thomas), Jay Cartwright (James Buckley), and Neil Sutherland (Blake Harrison), are equally as inept, particularly when it comes to interacting with girls -- in one episode, Simon decides to try to impress the girl he likes by showing up to her house drunk and then throws up on her younger brother. Despite their complete lack of basic social skills, you can’t help but root for the boys. Their desire to fit in, ranging from every time they try to buy beer and are rejected to their complete lack of sexual knowledge, is surprisingly endearing. I particularly enjoyed Will donning Simon’s father’s suit and attempting to pass himself off as an “adult” buying “alcohol” for his “adult party.” His uncomfortable exchange with the bored cashier just makes you want to hug him.
The comedy in “The Inbetweeners” works so well because it’s so natural. The show never tries to make high school look like a glamorous or even fun experience; the sitcom truly embraces Frank’s theory that high school is when we suffer the most and capitalizes on that in order to craft brilliant comedic situations. It’s the awkward humor in “The Inbetweeners” that makes it work so well, and the show’s ability to remind us that, while we may suffer through all of high school, if we learn to laugh and learn from it, we will get through it.
Check out the pilot episode below (NSFW):
“The Inbetweeners” is available for streaming on Netflix.
In the meantime, check out Simon Bird's visit to the YH Studio where he shared his thoughts on the short-lived U.S. version of the show: