The second series of The Inbetweeners constitutes an impressive comedic feat, writes Westley Barnes.

TEENAGERS AND the media’s perception of their lifestyles have always proven to be a tricky subject for television. In the past series have either been laughably unrealistic (Saved by the Bell springs to mind), or portrayed with a hedonistic sensationalism verging on nihilism, such as the obvious example of Skins.

However, with The Inbetweeners, E4 has finally seemed to reach a midway point – a comedy series grounded in realism, but with an exaggerated, farcical light-heartedness that makes for cracking telly. Consequently, the show succeeds in making the channel’s Thursday night comedy schedule the only night of the week when television doesn’t leave you bored senseless.

Set in a typical London suburb, the show follows the often-hilarious trials and tribulations of a group of four socalled mates. All that connects them is the fact that they’re not cool enough for the popular crowd and not nerdy enough for the geeks – hence, they are The Inbetweeners.

The narrator is Will (Simon Bird), a former private school boy who is forced to cope with the traumatic transition of being sent to a comprehensive after his mother’s divorce. On his first day he manages to insult the headmaster who happens to be standing around him at the time and get inundated with verbal abuse for carrying a briefcase and being a ‘posh twat’. The only person who tolerates Will is Simon (Joe Thomas), who is assigned to show him the ropes.

“The refreshing thing about The Inbetweeners is that, unlike Skins, the focus is not on the cool guy of the group”

Meanwhile, Simon’s brash friend, Jay, a chancer with a ridiculously high opinion of himself, is notorious for boasting about his alleged sexual experiences to the others. Rounding the group off is Neil, the slow member of the group, who is addicted to fruit machines and finds occasional employment at Thorpe Park.

The usual male teenage issues are addressed – the perils of underage drinking, the desperate need to find a girlfriend (or at least a shag), becoming accepted amongst your peers and passing exams. Moreover, all these themes are skewered with a healthy dose of cringe-worthy farce.

The refreshing thing about The Inbetweeners is that, unlike Skins, the focus is not on the ‘cool’ guy of the group. The protagonist is the geeky outsider, allowing our sympathies to extend to his failures and ambitions.

The chemistry between the actors also works crucially; it’s as if they’re demonstrating their natural reactions to each other’s jibes. Nonetheless, it is ultimately the dialogue that places the series in that long neglected category – must see TV.

Ultimately, there is something universal in the comedy of the programme that hits home, unlike some of the more sensationalistic sitcoms that we’ve seen on television over the past number of years.

Series 2 of The Inbetweeners can be seen on Thursday nights at 10pm on E4.