It’s easy to be struck by the cultural differences between America and England. Ever since that whole Revolutionary War thing, we’ve been pointing out their funny accents, their goofy use of the word “zed” instead of “z,” their deplorable habit of eating blood sausage. Occasionally, though, it’s enlightening to note our similarities. For example: Nerds, it would seem, are nerds the world over.
Witness BBC America’s sitcom “The Inbetweeners.” It’s about a quartet of high school (or whatever the Brits call it) lads whose social ineptitude is matched only by their desperate desire to shag some birds. From Revenge of the Nerds to Superbad, from “Freaks and Geeks” to “The Big Bang Theory,” American equivalents abound.
Our main character (and narrator of the show) is Will McKenzie (Simon Bird), an officious, glasses-wearing dork who has been dubbed “Mr. Briefcase” by his classmates. Will has recently transferred from a posh private school to a grubby public school in suburban London. The fact that he’s busy looking down on everyone around him doesn’t help much with his social standing. As a result, Will is stuck palling around with shy Simon (Joe Thomas), cocky liar Jay (James Buckley) and thickheaded git Neil (Blake Harrison).
Like the American Pie films, “The Inbetweeners” milks teenage angst and libido for all they’re worth. And since it’s British, the cursing flies fast and furious. (Note to the American censor with the twitchy bleeper finger: “Twat” doesn’t mean quite the same thing here in America as it does in England.) Despite its gleefully raunchy streak, “The Inbetweeners” feels less exploitative and more realistic than your typical teen sex comedy. Teenage boys talk this way. And act this way. On both sides of the Atlantic, apparently.
The show draws most of its humor from the banter between the characters—all of whom squabble and cut each other down like typical teens. At 17, these boys are desperate to shed their awkward teenage years. They want to be adults with all the commensurate freedoms (alcohol, sex, a lack of homeroom teachers). But for now, they’re stuck navigating a world of school dances, class trips and large-breasted blond girls who won’t give them the time of day. The chemistry between the four leads is quite good. Almost every conversation leads to an argument, which is topped off with several creative insults. And in case we missed the point, we’ve got Will’s pompous voice-over to put it all in perspective for us.
The second season is underway on BBC America right now, and producers are promising a third season will shoot soon. So the time is ripe to become a fan. After all, you strip away the accents, the school uniforms and the bad teeth, and you’ll find that a riotous teenage sex comedy is a riotous teenage sex comedy. As true in York as it is in New York.