What Can The Inbetweeners USA Teach Us About Americans?
America has a long history of adapting, remaking and straight ripping-off English sitcoms. They transformed the Pinter-esque West London grot of Steptoe & Son into this, they watched The Thick of It and press-ganged Armando Iannucci into removing all traces of Malcolm Tucker and those philistines committed the ultimate act of cultural sacrilege when they turned our beloved Porridge into something called Oz, which just isn't funny at all.
They've been scouring the shittier end of the schedules for their latest remake, a US college-based re-rendering of The Inbetweeners. The trailer just dropped the other day, and is already knocking up a staggering amount of pure, crimson hatred on the YouTube reaction bar. The "dislike" part looks like a fun-size Kit-Kat.
Watching the trailer, it seems that the Americans have toned down a few of UK fans' favourite things about the show. But which subversive elements of The Inbetweeners UK couldn't MTV and the so-called "Land Of The Free" handle, and what does it say about them as a nation? Let's investigate.
Left: UK geek; Right: US geek
THE CRINGE FACTOR
Ever since Ricky Gervais reclaimed "cringe" comedy from the working men's club circuit, it's been the favourite trick of the British comic who lacks any real material. You know what I mean, you basically can't switch on E4 right now without seeing someone call someone else's disabled mother a spastic, or whatever. But Americans don't like to see their idiots trapped in awkward silences, trying to make sense of what's just happened. They prefer to have them whoop and holler and do star jumps instead.
When the UK Inbetweeners hit a disabled girl with a frisbee in a park, it's a moment of mundane horror. But when the Americans send a guy with leg braces and crutches toppling to the ground, they stand around gawping at each other like it only really qualifies as humour because he landed on a whoopee cushion.
SOCIAL GREY AREAS
The whole idea of the UK Inbetweeners is that the boys exist in a kind of social hinterland between the football-playing lads and the Halo-playing geeks. Thus, they just about scrape their way into parties because they're nice guys, but then one of them will jizz their pants or something and it all goes wrong. But in America, they don't understand that grey area.
In American high schools, you're either a quarterback superstar, or you're assumed to be planning a pipe bomb attack at a pep rally. The trailer constantly feels the need to reassure us that the guys dwell in what, for Yanks, is a hitherto unpopulated social bracket: the zone of the "almost cool".
Left: babe UK; Right: babe US
In the UK version, the "sexy" Inbetweener who does the best with the girls is an actor called Joe Thomas. He's not bad looking, I suppose, he kinda resembles a milkman's apprentice who could win over a Valium-addled Home Counties housewife with his virgin's smile and jet ski ramp fringe. But his American equivalent looks like he should be stealing Miley Cyrus's heart with an acoustic version of an Usher song in a post-puberty Hannah Montana episode, and one of his mates looks like a long-haired witch house Tumblr hunk. He's supposed to be a loser, but in London he'd get laid more than The Teenagers did when they first came over.
Then there are the girls. In the UK version, they were classic suburban hoodie-and-hair-extension girl-next-doors, but the American ones are sun-drenched goddesses who look like they'll grow old in unhappy marriages with Silicon Valley technogarchs. It obviously can't be that American people are inherently and generally more attractive than British people, because everyone knows that British people are the most attractive people on Earth, so what's up?
As a nation founded by crazy, sex-hating Puritans, America has always had a conflicted relationship with the world of sauciness. Lest we forget that this is a nation that basically had a government inquiry into Janet Jackson's Superbowl nip-slip, whereas over here we have Barbara Windsor, who spent decades doing the same thing in Carry On films and is now viewed as a kind of surrogate Queen. And while there are a few boners and laxative gags in the American version, it's a little bit more Mad magazine than Viz magazine. It's erections rather than ejaculations, farts rather than diarrhoea. If the US have made something that resembles Blink-182, it makes the original look like Discharge.
Left: UK gang; Right: US gang
Americans try to do indie pop, but they don't really understand it. Indie's not about 35-year-old guys from San Francisco talking about how much they love their wives and Yo La Tengo and hate their jobs and meat.
In Britain, we understand that the genre is about making over-produced landfill junk for shows like The Inbetweeners to reach for at every available opportunity. You can imagine its makers sitting around in the edit suite – got a chase scene? "Spit At Stars" by Jack Penate. Post-shag euphoria? Some Wombats will do nicely. Someone's feeling a bit down? "Naive" by The Kooks will make even the most unconvincing stage school brat seem like a young Pacino.
Home-grown acts like Kurt Vile or SALEM just wouldn't fit, so the Americans have composed a sort of bland hip-hop muzak soundtrack full of "Come on! Come on!" sound-bank samples. Oh, and some crunk. Nothing says awkward suburban teenagers like crunk.
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