The American version of our peerless hit comedy show, The Inbetweeners, has been scrapped on the grounds that it is “intolerably bland”. MTV have decided not to do a follow-up to the 12 episodes screened for the first series, which bodes ill for the viewers of E4 on this side of the pond who will get their first taste of it next week.
Announcing their decision, MTV used a wonderfully anodyne set of euphemisms. “While we won’t be moving forward with another season of The Inbetweeners, we enjoyed working with the show’s creators and such a talented, funny cast”. What they meant was: the show wasn’t very good, the ratings were even worse, and there’s not an ice cube’s chance in hell that we’d spin a profit out of it.
Already the Twitter sphere is alive with the usual blather about Americans not getting irony, and US remakes being doomed to fail. As Ellen E Jones, my colleague on independentvoices.com, points out, this is bunkum. You could only say that Americans don’t get irony if you’ve never watched Frasier, or any of the countless comedies of its ilk – and never mind the joyfully Jewish comedies, from Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm, whose main tool is irony. As for US remakes, The Office is in series nine, which proves they must get something right.
There must be all manner of specific reasons we punters will never know about why the American version of The Inbetweeners didn’t work. But I’d venture that there is one more general reason, and that is to do with the uniquely British vision of those late teenage years which the stars of the show so brilliantly capture.
If you read scripts of the British show, and listen hard when watching repeats, you’ll notice that, like with Iago, the core of their language is filth. There are constant references to sexually obscenity, adolescent frustration, and scatological produce. These have come to typify how we view teenage boys.
In America, by contrast, boys who are 16-19 are portrayed in a more flattering light through television. Of course the peccadilloes and pimples are still there; but an image of good, gilded and mostly clean living dominates. What got lost in translation in the American version was the dirty minds and disgusting habits of our teenage reprobates. Nothing to do with irony.
If anything, the failure of the American show highlights the quality of the original Inbetweeners, which made such a magnificent film too. It’s the best depiction yet of life as a middle-class teenage boy in Britain, and reminded us that while all teenagers stink, our lot stink best of all.