If your name is Will, you wear glasses, and you occasionally had a rough time of it in high school when it came to fitting in, then you will likely find that it’s quite easy to enjoy the new BBC America sitcom, “The InBetweeners.”
Actually, I guess that’s a pretty tiny demographic, so let’s try this: if the idea of an amalgam of “Freaks and Geeks” and “American Pie” delivered in a British accent fills you with joy, then, boy, do Iain Morris and Damon Beesley have a show for you.
Their best-known American credits…okay, fair enough, it’s really their only one…are as the writers of a couple of “Flight of the Conchords” episodes, but with “The InBetweeners,” they’ve put together a raunchy look at teenage life that, at least based on the episodes I’ve seen, is a bit like “Skins” without all the depressing bits…which is to say that the teenagers here are committing the sort of debauchery that you’d like to think that your own teenagers wouldn’t indulge in, even if you’re pretty sure they do, anyway.
“It’s not in any way, I think, really heavy,” said Joe Thomas, who plays Simon on the show. “I suppose it’s heavy in the sense that it’s sort of about inadequacy and expectations not being met and teenager years being sort of perpetually disappointing to a degree you wouldn’t even have thought possible given the last disappointment. But ‘Skins’ has, like, death in it and big themes, whereas we have…”
At this, Morris interrupted his star. “The best example is probably that, in the first series, you might see Joe’s naked bottom. In the second, you’ll see his penis in a wet sock. That’s how we moved it on. That’s how we’ve tried to develop the show and try and just get those themes going through. Of humiliating Joe Thomas.”
“Yeah,” confirmed Thomas, “that’s one of the themes.”
Regarding comparisons to the work of Judd Apatow, Morris is more than happy to consider his work part of the tradition of comedy humiliation. “It’s those things like ‘American Pie’ and ‘Animal House’ and ‘Swingers’ and things that were sort of character stays of men in a way that had humorous content. And in one of the episodes, the last episode, there’s a sort of homage to ‘Freaks and Geeks,’ by which I mean a joke we stole wholeheartedly. Do mention it to Judd if you see him.”
Now, there’s one thing for Americans to keep in mind (as if we’d ever forget): our television standards are more stringent than those of the Brits. This necessitates certain changes in various episodes that air on BBC America, and you can bet that “The InBetweeners” is a series which will require a bit of tweaking.
“We actually do bleep certain words,” said Garth Ancier, President of BBC Worldwide America, then backpedaled slightly and clarified, “We don’t bleep them. We do audio deletes, which is actually a different way of dealing with it. But we do do audio deletes on certain words that start with ‘F,’ and we do pixilate occasional nudity and things like that. Look, we have to live within the U.S. system. These are shows that are airing on free over-the-air television in the UK on E4 and Channel 4, but the U.S. audience is a little tamer, and so we have to calibrate where it should be, and we do. We do it with ‘Skins,’ too.”
“Sounds like bad news for Joe Thomas bottom fans,” said Morris.