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Inbetweeners a success in the US? No. It's too mean.


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The Inbetweeners is one of a rare breed of sitcoms: painfully well observed, relatable and almost without exception, British. Along with shows like Outnumbered and The Office it typifies a certain kind of cruel and self-deprecating humour that we Brits so love.

Everyone who has ever known an unpopular teenage boy can instantly relate to the antics of Will, Jay, Simon and Neil on their unending quest for 'clunge' and coolness.

Words and catchphrases from the TV show have become an intrinsic part of the teenage vocabulary. Who hasn't, at some stage or another, referred to someone as a 'bus wanker' or a 'football friend'?

An American remake is set to start airing in August on MTV but the big question is, will they 'get' it? Will it be as much of a success as The Office's U.S. remake, or will it flop spectacularly like Skins U.S.A.?

Sure, there's the gross-out factor. America has a prudish, conservative reputation and the TV exports we see in the U.K. tend to be far less explicit than The Inbetweeners – particularly those aimed at a teenage market. How well will the profanity and sexual frankness translate?

I don't think that this is the main problem, though. Look at the incredibly successful American Pie franchise, now on its seventh installment. Awkward, sex-crazed teenagers is not a concept new to the American marketplace and in terms of success, it's one with a good track-record.

Regardless of that, I don't think that The Inbetweeners is going to be a hit with our friends across the pond. Why? Because it's just too mean.

There has been a long held belief in this country that American humour is inferior to British humour. Of course that's a gross generalisation and not one which is remotely true, but the humour does tend, on the whole, to be quite different.

Ricky Gervais said it better than I ever could: “We [Brits] tease our friends. We use sarcasm as a shield and a weapon. We avoid sincerity until it’s absolutely necessary. We mercilessly take the piss out of people we like or dislike basically. And ourselves. This is very important. Our brashness and swagger is laden with equal portions of self-deprecation. This is our license to hand it out.

Gervais claims that he had to tone down the main character in his sitcom, The Office, for the American version. “I guess the biggest difference between the U.S. version and the U.K. version of The Office reflected this. We had to make Michael Scott a slightly nicer guy, with a rosier outlook to life. He could still be childish, and insecure, and even a bore, but he couldn’t be too mean.”

Essentially, The Inbetweeners is too cruel for the U.S. It's funny to us Brits because nothing ever turns out well or ends happily ever after. To change that would be to change the very essence of the show, not to do so would result in the loss of a large sector of the American audience – those who like their comedy kinder.

At the end of American Pie we see the four main characters all getting some action. Conversely at the end of The Inbetweeners series, they're all just as dorky and socially inept as when the series started. That's the crucial difference and that's why I don't think The Inbetweeners will be as much of a hit stateside as it was here.

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