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I realise I may be taking my life in my hands here. This show has some quite vehement supporters, and I’m not going to be entirely nice about it.

For those who don’t know; ‘The Inbetweeners’ is an E4-based comedy that has surprisingly turned out to be quite popular. In following the rickety misadventures of four socially inept British Sixth Form students, it is at heart a gross-out comedy about four idiots. And when I say gross-out comedy, I mean it, like seriously. Turned up to 11. The comedy of each episode is derived from just how completely useless the main characters are; the main plot, insofar as a show like this can actually have one, is their natural teenage drive to lose their virginity and generally be less unpopular. Their attempts at doing so invariably either fail utterly, or blow up in their face, to the point where it begins to feel like we’re transcending ineptitude and landing at the pearly gates of retardation. This, in itself, is not particularly funny. There is humour to be derived from approaching these surreal situations in the right manner, I think, but for the most part the scripts of ‘The Inbetweeners’ fluctuate wildly between sharp-witted dialogue and endless jokes about female anatomy. The result is generally hit and miss; for every genuinely humorous moment or page of well-written dialogue, there’s an embarrassing visual gag or a reprise of the ‘lol Neil farted’ running joke.

It’s not a case of not trying hard enough; it’s more about consistency. The show seems to pride itself on creating a continuity, with multiple references to previous episodes, both overtly and subtly (for example, in an episode in the mid-third season, one character gets a crude bumper sticker for his car. In the last episode of the season, it’s still there). But for all it creates the sense that time is passing, with reference to Christmas, exams, the end of one year and the start of another, there is very little sense of coherency. Take the character of Jay, for example: when first introduced he is a loud-mouthed boaster who seems to have been around and done everything. By the end of the first season, it’s reasonably clear that everything he’s ever claimed to have done can be cast into doubt. Then, in the third season, he is caught out in a lie and suddenly, people start to doubt him. Why now? Because it made for a good plot thread to this particular episode? What about the episode two series prior where it was established that you can’t trust a thing he says? There is no logical basis for everyone all of a sudden deciding Jay is full of bullshit. The show might pride itself on its bumper stickers but that’s meaningless; you can’t pick and choose your continuity like that.

By the end of the third series, which seems to be by general consensus the last one, nothing has changed from the beginning. Various elements of continuity have spun in and out of the lives of the characters, but they themselves are almost exactly the same as they were initially. They haven’t learnt, they haven’t changed, and by this point it’s getting pretty tiresome. The character of Simon spends most of the series chasing his childhood sweetheart. In the third series there is a full-on arc about his misadventures with a new girlfriend, but any potential is squandered when the writers churlishly destroy this new relationship for the sake of ..what? Laughs? I wasn’t laughing. But that was when it started to bother me; I decided to wait for the finale before I passed judgement on whether anything had ever really happened, and sadly, I was disappointed. Maybe they’re saving the closure for the forthcoming feature film, but at this point I really doubt it.

Look, it’s not hard. You either have a show lacking in overall continuity with static characters living in a bubble (for example, Black Books), or you have a show with a continuity where the characters grow and change over the course of said continuity (for example, Friends). If you have time passing and people remaining the same, you’ve created a twilight zone. At first, I thought that ‘The Inbetweeners’ understood this; the first series follows a rough arc and even offers a vaguely happy ending. But then the second and third seasons have been a consistent escalation of ridiculousness with no end in sight, just constant, unavoidable tragedy zeroing in on the main characters like flies to a pile of excrement. I can’t feel good about a show that hates its characters and abuses them for laughs. I can’t see any way I can appreciate a nasty post-modern tragi-comedy that squandered its opportunity to be unique, in dealing with an incredibly crude subject matter in a smart way, in favour of cheap jokes about pissing in your sleep because you drank too much orangeade.

So in summary, ‘The Inbetweeners’ is a heartless 21st century re-imagining of ‘American Pie’  for a far more cynical age. It’s not inherently awful; it adheres to the universal standard of ‘alright’. But it is neither ground-breaking nor deserving of a place on a list of top sitcoms; we can do much better than this.

Class of 2010, dismissed.

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Although this was mainly a film blog we felt it just to include a TV section, just to help express the ‘minor interruptions’ section of our site. This program is an example of the main reason we were happy to include TV, this being a) I want to express myself and b) that expression is that everybody should watch this program!!

This is a comedy program made and starring Australian comedian Chris Lilley. It was much larger in Australia although has had a BBC three showing over here. The show, based at a school, is classed as a mockumentary, giving it that real life feel, although it quite clearly isn’t. Chris Lilley plays the three, very unique, main characters. These are Mr G, Ja’mie and Jonah. The cameras follow their school lives throughout a term at their school, Summer Height High.

Mr. G is the stereotypical very camp and demanding drama teacher. To give a clear indicator of his personality as soon as he is made temporary ‘head of drama’ he ups his title to ‘head of performing arts’ quickly giving himself more power over other people. His job is to direct the school play. His very strong personality has him going out of the way to get what he wants. He may sound an annoying person but he is still very much loved through out the school. The students generally appear to like him and the staff tolerate him simply because he is a fantastic drama teacher. He fully takes over the play, writes it and promotes it with the tag line “arena spectacular” to be performed in the school gym. His musicals are very much bad and his style is even worse but you can only laugh at his exploits when he is acting like a child in front of the head teacher trying to get everything his own way.

Ja’mie is a Year 11 private school girl who is on an exchange to Summer Heights High to see what public schools are like. She is forever talking down to the rest of the school, considering herself much richer, better and hotter than everybody else. She soon makes friends with the ‘popular crowd’ and after lots of bitching and falling out ends up organising the Year 11 formal. Although she does consider her friends at Summer Heights High as best friends the second she gets back with her public school friends they immediately become scum of the earth. This character is not only hysterical with how she treats everybody else around her but also the sense she has about herself, how amazing she truly believes she is. She is also in many situations I certainly can remember girls getting into at school. Lots of bitching, deciding to hold protests, thinking they have the best ideas that can change the world and nothing can come of it, and Ja’mie is acted by a bloke! brilliant!

Finally we have Jonah. He’s the year 8 arsehole we all used to know, Summer Heights High is another school to try and tame him after the others had all excluded him. He has many attention problems, swears most of the time and just winds people up. He believes education is boring so he entertains himself and, he reckons, others. There are 3 main teachers involved with Jonah. Ms. Wheatley is his English teacher who actual hates him. Jonah really knows how to wind her up and does so, she just ends up completely losing it with him which, quite clearly, does not help the situation at all. Mr Peterson is the school welfare officer who is pretty much responsible for Jonah. He is the only real authority Jonah does respond to, not always positively, but he knows he can’t always just shout back abuse. Finally these is Ms. Palmer, she is his remedial English teacher who helps him with his struggling English in the ‘special building’ called Gumnut Cottage. Ms. Palmer is the only teacher he can really get on with. She understands him and he respects her for that. Aside from his teacher relations he is very big into break dancing, considering himself the best in the school and often gets into fights and problems with other students all revolving around that.

A lot happens in Summer Heights High, following the three characters does make it feel a little choppy. They never interact with each other in any way, you are always following just one at a time, however that is the harshest word I could put towards this fantastic show. Their adventures are hysterical, their language and approach is just unbelievable, everything they do just makes you laugh because it’s so wrong but yet feels so real. I could easily imagine everything that happens in this show to happen in real life yet it feels so crazy! Chris Lilley deserves absolute full credit for this wonderful piece of work, his acting and portrayal is fantastic. Even surrounded by 4 other actual year 11 girls he fits in so well! You forget he isn’t actual a year 8 troubled teen and  really believe he actually could make a fantastic play out of nothing. This guy is genius, this show is just as genius and absolutely hysterical.

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