The Bottom Line
- Stars Joey Pollari, Bubba Lewis, Zack Pearlman, Mark L. Young, Alex Frnka
- Developed by Brad Copeland
- Airs Mondays at 10:30 p.m. EST starting August 20, 2012, on MTV
Still, this can’t help but come off as the lesser version of the material, especially since American TV standards require toning down the language and vulgar situations. Star Joey Pollari, as the somewhat fussy main character, high schooler Will McKenzie, is a little too bland to match the portrayal by original star Simon Bird, but the actors who play his three friends fare better. It helps that Zack Pearlman (as Jay) and Mark L. Young (as Neil) both get to put their own unique spins on their characters, rather than just imitating the originals as Pollari and Bubba Lewis (as Simon) mostly do.
The show hinges on these four guys being likeable, since it’s all about their unfortunate misadventures, and sympathy for the characters is key to the humor. Per the title, Will, Simon, Jay and Neil aren’t popular, but they aren’t on the bottom rung of the social ladder, either. They’re fairly normal teenage guys with normal teenage-guy interests, primarily avoiding responsibility and picking up girls. Those efforts generally go horribly awry, with uncomfortable, sometimes entertaining results. The Inbetweeners relies heavily on the kind of cringe-comedy popularized by The Office, and it’s sometimes more uncomfortable than funny. But the toned-down version also loses some of the more over-the-top awkwardness of the British series, rendering some of the supposedly mortifying situations a little milder.
Compared to MTV’s other current teen comedy, Awkward, The Inbetweeners is crass and overly broad, and driven more by vulgar jokes than by character development. But its main characters are still amiable enough, and the jokes that are successful (often the ones lifted directly from the British version) can be very funny. The American version of The Office didn’t really take off until it started forging its own path, and The Inbetweeners might need to do the same thing.
The rehashing of the jokes and storylines from the original series only highlights how this version isn’t as successful, and anyone looking for those elements in a more entertaining form would do well to seek out the British series. But this version’s cast and producers (Brad Copeland, who developed the series for American TV, has written for Arrested Development and My Name Is Earl) have enough talent that they could eventually come up with something unique and entertaining on its own, a worthy teen series in the MTV tradition and not just a slightly sanitized knock-off of an existing product.