Bleeding Cool has managed to gain access to a number of scripts from the MTV US remake of The Inbetweeners. An E4 show in the UK, it successfully mapped out the male adolescent experience with greater success than, well, basically any show before it. A world mad up of fantasy and lies, low self esteem with a high self esteem facade, where everybody seems to have success except you, but things aren’t bad enough that you can in any way take solace of kinship in your suffering. Life is suburban, uncertain and full of sex that you aren’t having. Will is a public (private) schoolkid whose parents have divorced and now he finds himself having to go to state (public) school, with grand ideas and lack of social graces, that will only make him bully fodder. Neil is an charming ignoramus who gets by on luck alone. Simon is the closest the group have to an alpha male, and could be successful if he wasn’t hampered by extreme bad luck and a willingness to keep going when he should have backed out. And Jay who lives the life of a porn star in his mind and doesn’t see any disconnect between that and his actual life. They hang out at school because they aren’t cool enough to be in the cool group or geeky enough to be in the geek crowd. They are… inbetweeners. And they are all pretty useless.
Firstly, everyone has the same name. Simon, Jay, Will, Neil, Mr Gilbert, Carly, Charlotte, Donovan, etc, which makes they scripts a hell of a lot easier to read and compare, if you are familiar with the original. They even have Will narrating the show from a position of superiority he clearly doesn’t hold. And because I don’t know the US cast, the scripts play out in my head like the UK version. So how do they stand up?
Sunshine Mountain is very much based on the Thorpe Park episode of the UK version, with some new motivation and embarrassment. Carly is going there with her boyfriend and Simon wants to get in with her, which makes getting him with Jay and Will to the theme park is a lot easier. And obviously he fails horrifically. But his new car is still yellow, Neil is naked under his squirrel costume, they still get caught in a funeral journey, Will causes offence to the disabled group next to him on the ride, the car door still comes off, in many ways it’s a shot for shot rewrite, with localisation adding a few twists along the way – “garage” can’t mean both a automobile repair centre or a petrol station, so alternatives must be found. But with the minor changes, they’re not really making much of a case for a remake, aside for American accents, location and prettier actors. The writers of the original episode, hailed by many as one of the best, were Damon Beesley and Iain Morris, the US script is credited solely to Brad Copeland, which I think is a bit unfair.
The Wrong Box however is brand new, and integrates the character’s lives into social messaging as lubrication for interaction and, obviously extreme embarrassment, in new way. Will’s interest in a new girl causes him to make major social messaging mistakes which, taking bad advice from his mother, makes far worse. While Jay is trying to have his first wet dream by not masturbating. Will is starting a cooking club to interest said girl which Simon also uses as a way to get Carly’s attention. And the Cooking Club song scene reads in a spectacular fashion, as does the arrival of the blowtorch. There’s an addition of a new character, Michael, who works as a US Military recruiter, someone who just could not exist in the UK version, it sounds so alien to me, but I understand it’s commonplace in the US. And his mixture of aggression and understanding is an intoxicating one, good cop and bad cop in one person.
The Masters… well this is where it starts to go wrong and into Farrelly Brothers/American Pie territory. Because while the British Inbetweeners have got into some awkward genital scrapes – an emergent testicle at the fashion show, naked except for a sock and delirious with cold on a small boat, none of them have ever thought to try and fuck a jacuzzi and get their dick stuck for two hours. I mean, in the UK, Jay probably would, but he’s never had the chance. It makes it into a different show. Which is a shame because the slave auction scene seems perfectly in the “road to hell is paved with good intentions” mode. Simon’s relationship with his father doesn’t seem relatable to the way we’ve seen/read him act before. Originally a jovial fellow a little too full of himself, he becomes some kind of manic overachieving golfer and competitive dad, without the bumbling good natured version of the original. Simon has always been a natural moral compass of the show, even if one easily led astray, and you could kind of see where he got it from. It’s not so clear here.
The biggest changes are with the adults it seems. Mr Gilbert, in the UK version he is a sarcastic bully with horrifically dry wit and a disdain for pupils. Here, he is incompetent and angry, but repeatedly he’s trying to be a responsible teacher, even if he fails. Casting will be key here, but the teacher who really doesn’t care to be a teacher, who just wants the day to end, but isn’t a miserable wretch worked rather well. This isn’t him.
And Will’s mother is a more wretched person here, especially in Wrong Box, she’s less in control of herself, ditzier and, from the script, not as funny either. Will’s friend’s attitudes to her are just the same though, even if we never quite get to the depth of “can we please stop talking about my mother’s vagina”
Indeed that’s one thing missing about the whole show, it’s filthy but not quite as much or as imaginatively so as the UK version. That had language and turns of phrase that rivalled The Thick Of It. In the US, as noted, it’s closer to territory already mined by American Pie. Which means it’s just not going to come over in as original a fashion as the UK version. This version on the right is as strong as the US version gets.
Compared to from the UK;
Jay: So I had one bent over the table here, there was one up here who I was fingering and I was just toe fucking the one on the floor.
Will: So when do we get to meet these lucky ladies?
Jay: You can’t, they’ve gone back to the Playboy mansion.
I mean, it’s close, the structure is so similar, it just doesn’t take that final leap into insanity. And there is no US equivalent of “clunge” it seems. But even if you haven’t seen the original, it may well seem like you’ve seen it all before.
Maybe not the “white schoolchildren winning a fellow black student as a slave” scene (below) with the extensive, excrutiating guilt and realisation that follows from The Masters. Okay, I’ll give it that.
But here’s an appeal to the new cast, since these scripts are shooting right now, improvise filth. Throw in a few ad libs. The worst things you’ve ever heard kids say. They may well make it to the screen…