"The Inbetweeners" latest episode 'Class Clown,' sees the series continuing to find its own voice and bring the funny.
Not only is school voting for "Most Likely To Succeed" and "Best Hair" going on, but the new episode also tackles the issue of bullying. Thankfully, not in an 'after school special' kind of way as seems to be the norm lately, but in the painfully and sympathetically funny way. Will's run-ins with Charlotte's ex-beau see him essentially get the original's 'briefcase wanker' label of the UK series without the 'wanker' part. Because calling someone 'briefcase' is funnier to US audiences...?
Meanwhile, Simon's latest attempts to win over Carly find him with the home bed advantage -- with her family's house being fumigated, Simon's parents invite them all to spend the night. Unfortunately, his room still bears the treasures of childhood, from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles action figures to a super-cool racecar bed. Simon continues to be borderline creepy. The UK version was such a hapless goof you couldn't help but slap your forehead with every awkward move he made on girl-next-door Carly. MTV's Simon comes off more like a weirdo serial killer in the making, staring at his love in an unflinching gaze as he reminisces about childhood sleepovers.
The two best reasons to keep tuning in to this utility player, though? No, not Will's mom's chesticles. Well actually yes, but that's not what I'm referring to. Neil and Jay continue to be the MVPs of the series, Neil displaying his dumb charm when describing what makes something funny ("I'm scared of clowns. And I'm not scared of you."), and Jay just being Jay. There was a predictable black light joke midway through the episode that I saw coming from a mile away, but Jay somehow pulls it off.
I would rank this episode among the best of the series so far. The best results have come when the writers go their own way rather than directly lifting from the original UK series as they did in the first few episodes. Unfortunately it looks like they're heading back down that road again next week, as Jay takes the gang on Caravan Club. Oh well.
The show is a definite mixed bag, but a solid half-hour of comedy if you're seeking to reminisce about the painful high school years (or are currently immersed in that period, in which case you have my sympathy). The most surprising aspect of the MTV series is that I expected to hate it, but much like the US version of "The Office" find myself genuinely enjoying it for what it is.
Final Grade: B