‘The Inbetweeners: The Complete Series'
Much like the Beatles took American music by Buddy Holly and Elvis Presley and channeled sounds through their own sensibilities and sold them back to the states in a new, fresh form, “The Inbetweeners” is a post-“Superbad” British teen comedy — a stunningly profane, honest and, most importantly, hilarious look at being unpopular and pathetic in high school. Yes, having essentially invented modern comedy, the British did not need to lean on American inspiration, but “The Inbetweeners” unquestionably bears the stamp of both the Ricky Gervais school of uncomfortable humor and the post-Judd Apatow ultra-blunt aesthetic.
“The Inbetweeners: The Complete Series” collects the original 18 episodes in anticipation of next month's feature-length film, and it starts fun and gets incrementally better throughout. The series begins with Will McKenzie (Simon Bird) arriving at a new school after his parents divorce. He's a smart, quick-witted but socially awkward kid who quickly finds his level when he meets lovelorn Simon (Joe Thomas), skinny goofball Neil (Blake Harrison) and the explosively vulgar Jay (James Buckley). The story arc for the series weaves Simon's struggle with his unrequited love Carli (Emily Head) into a series of archetypal teenage adventures with “fit” girls, enthusiastic drinking and unbelievably bad social decisions.
Any great comedic ensemble requires spot-on chemistry, and “The Inbetweeners” achieves it early in the run. Bird and Thomas are the best of the crew, mainly because they are the first to create believable inner lives for their characters, but Buckley is a dependable show-stealer and usually the trigger for the boys' plans going off the rails. MTV is readying a U.S. version of “The Inbetweeners,” but like their stateside interpretation of “Skins,” it's hard to imagine anything special emerging from that pointless exercise or anything as uncompromising and emotionally on the mark as these original stories and characters. But it's easy to understand why Bird, Thomas, Harrison and Buckley would sign on for the movie — their chemistry on the U.K. version of “The Inbetweeners” is lightning in a bottle.