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The Inbetweeners USA review: It's the weaker cousin
The cast of The Inbetweeners USA. Image. Channel 4
The Inbetweeners USA is the long-awaited American remake of British teen comedy The Inbetweeners, developed by Arrested Development's Brad Copeland for MTV.
Once again it revolves around the misadventures of four teenage outsiders who are desperate to climb the social ladder and lose their virginities in the process.
You can always rely on a good vomiting scene to elicit a few giggles, especially when the spew's aimed at a cute kid.
I also found myself liking Joey Pollari as a more thoughtful and reserved Will, although it's a shame to lose the volubility and comical ranting of Simon Bird.
There was no specifically bad moment. Just an overall feeling of malaise that set in about halfway through, when it became clear the cast aren't as charming or effortlessly hilarious as their British counterparts.
Britain can take solace in the fact that the best teenage drama and comedy of recent times has come from our shores: Skins and The Inbetweeners.
"Covers the same ground as its source and comes off second best."
MTV remade both for America (and promptly axed them), but the problem remains that these shows were very British reactions to a genre dominated by US pop-culture (all prom nights, liquor stores, and toga parties).
In the case of The Inbetweeners, the subject matter and set-up may be universal, but it was particularly refreshing from a UK perspective because the milieu and language was tailored to a home audience gorged on too much American Pie.
The problem with MTV's Inbetweeners (now airing on E4 - home of the hugely popular UK version) isn't that it's bad, just that it offers nothing unique for the culture that spawned what the UK show subverted.
It's also impossible to review without bias if you've seen the original.
Much like NBC's The Office, this pilot episode covers the same ground as its source and comes off second best.
The Inbetweeners USA: separated by a common language
Casting was always going to be key here because the UK quartet are so ingrained in the minds of fans.
The American actors aren't awful, but you can sense they're not as cohesive. They can't convey a friendship in front of the camera without it feeling somewhat staged.
Joey Pollari makes a decent stand-in for Simon Bird as nerdy Will McKenzie (also the show's narrator), but he's too handsome and quiet.
Bubba Lewis (told you this was American) doesn't have the likeability of Joe Thomas as besotted-with-Carli, Simon Cooper.
What did you think of The Inbetweeners USA?
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- It was entertaining
- 95 %It was rubbish
Mark L. Young makes Neil Sutherland an outmoded stoner type, where Blake Harrison was better as a human-puppy.
The biggest change is transforming James Buckley's irrepressible Jay Cartwright into a sub-Jonah Hill, with Zack Pearlman lacking his predecessor's joie de vivre.
On the plus side, the American Carli's much hotter... On the downside, Mr Gilbert (Brett Gelman) is an immoderate bully instead of a twisted psychological monster.
I wasn't a fan of the way this remake was soaked in pop music either; it often drew you out of scenes, which is not exactly the desired effect.
MTV wisely tagged a trailer for the remainder of the season onto this premiere's denouement, and I'd be lying if I said some of the preview didn't amuse.
However, I ultimately didn't fall for the charms of this Yankee foursome. Maybe the cast would have improved had the show been given time. Maybe the scripts would have found ways to play to the US cast's own personal strengths instead of blindly following the UK's lead.
As The Office USA soon discovered, forging one's own identity - using the UK original as inspiration rather than template - works a lot better.
But we'll never know how The Inbetweeners USA would have developed; MTV will not be renewing it due to disappointing ratings stateside.
MTV's remake (and it is very MTV) offers further proof that there's a gulf bigger than the Atlantic when it comes to this material. The US version plays things far too safe, and the performances are very uneven. I could say stick to the British version, but that's a given.
- Verdict: This wasn't an unmitigated disaster, as US remakes go, but it's clearly the weaker cousin.
What other reviewers said
The Telegraph - "The US version feels more like an episode of The Wonder Years at times."
Digital Spy - "Well... it's not terrible. But - currently - it's not great either."
What people on Twitter said
@InbetweenWill - "I think what the E4 announcer meant to say was: 'Inbetweeners USA contains some strong language and no humour'."
@BuiltTheArk - "Inbetweeners USA looks like a failed GCSE media project."
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