TV review: The Inbetweeners

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From the August 23, 2012 edition

With “The Inbetweeners,” MTV has adapted another former British hit — see also, “Skins” — only this time with markedly better results. Comparing “The Inbetweeners” to “Skins” isn’t necessarily useful because they’re so different conceptually. “The Inbetweeners is more in line with other MTV shows, “Awkward.” and “The Hard Times of RJ Berger.”

Thankfully former “Arrested Development” writer Brad Copeland is executive producing. That means “The Inbetweeners” is more “Awkward.” than “RJ Berger,” in that it’s actually funny. Centered on four guys who aren’t popular but aren’t complete outcasts either, there’s nothing really original within the concepts, setups or plots, but it mostly works.

Monday’s premiere was a good example of the series’ structure. Simon (Bubba Lewis) and Will (Joey Pollari) are the central characters within the foursome, and Jay (Zack Pearlman) and Neil (Mark L. Young) are mostly there to provide comic relief.

Simon deals with his unrequited crush on Carly (Alex Frnka), and Will tries to fit in at public school after spending years at private school. Jay adds wisecracks and Neil drops deadpan non sequiturs — “She doesn’t love you. You wasted all that paint.” — in the background.

Where “The Inbetweeners” excels is in the camaraderie among the four guys that results in playful mocking (juvenile, but mostly funny) and engaging in bad ideas with disastrous results (completely juvenile and totally hilarious).

Chubby-guy Jay’s ridiculous lies and raunchy comments — “Renob is boner spelled backward. I’d literally renob her so hard that my penis would be pushed back inside my body,” — are fun, and Neil is by far the funniest thing on the show. But the situations these guys get into are the show’s most enjoyable aspect. When Simon gets wasted to impress Carly and it results in explosive vomiting all over her kitchen, it’s more than amusing because it feels like an authentic teen catastrophe.

“The Inbetweeners” probably will never be as good as “Awkward.” because it lacks the heart and doesn’t have Ashley Rickards’ stellar performance, but it had a strong premiere and there’s very little drop-off in quality in the next few episodes.

Feel like teens again:

“The Inbetweeners”

10:30 p.m. Mondays on MTV

3 stars