Jugasaurus rex. Clunge. Muffwagon. Goodness, it’s been a long time since we’ve heard those creative expressions of male sexual frustration, and it's nice to hear them again, like old friends, or “Fwends” in this case. The Inbetweeners are back. Sort of.
Even by the usually self-congratulatory standards of tellyland, the total of four hours and 10 minutes of airtime devoted by Channel 4 to their 2008 hit The Inbetweeners is a tad self-indulgent, though it is one of the channel’s recent glories.
Hosted, inevitably, by the roughly contemporaneous Jimmy Carr, the first two hours of this teenage marathon, The Inbetweeners: Fwends Reunited, is given over to a sort of mix of This is Your Life, An Audience With..., and Radio 4’s The Reunion. That is followed by four full episodes of the series, mostly for the devotees, I imagine, as well as any stray viewers unfamiliar with this comedic landmark to judge this odyssey of pubic discovery, adolescence and embarrassment at first hand.
In all, The Inbetweeners ran to three series and two films, predominantly onanistic in tone, and most of the cast and creators turn up for this celebration of its 10th anniversary. The Fwends Reunited show is dominated, naturally, by the four sixth form virginal idiots a good shag would have probably sorted out, but who, fortunately for us, never got lucky. Simon Bird (as Will McKenzie), Joe Thomas (Simon Cooper), James Buckley (Jay Cartwright) and Blake Harrison (Neil Sutherland) confirm the impression that they were basically playing themselves in The Inbetweeners and haven’t changed much since the last piece was smut was propelled like a flying turd into the public’s consciousness in 2014. I just hope their real-time personas have managed to “plunge some clunge” as they approach early middle age. Not sure, though.
Given the vast prairie of time to fill, the producers plunder every known format to maintain some kind of momentum, and mostly to good effect, thanks to the timeless quality of the original gags. So there is a series of “Awards” for stuff like “best bodily malfunction”, and I for one will never tire of seeing Simon projectile vomiting semi-digested creme de menthe on his girlfriend’s six-year-old brother; nor of Simon’s left testicle hanging forlornly from his posing pouch in the school fashion show; nor of watching Will tearfully confessing to his teacher that “I thought it was a fart”, as he had to be escorted from the A level exam room. You can almost smell the, er, shame.
There is a mini-quiz segment too, featuring Inbetweeners “super fans” whose programme knowledge exceeded that of the cast themselves, with a scholarly textual grasp of lines such as: “What is Swansea. Is it an animal?”; “What's this pesto stuff? Is it for humans?”; and “Just cos you’ve had your first puff on your first joint it doesn’t make you Kurt Cobain.”
One super fan even had a tattoo of a grinning Jay with the inscription “CLUNGE” garnishing her upper thigh – ironically about as close as Jay ever got to a lady’s bodily treasure.
The quiz “prize”, won by a Will lookalike in specs and a blazer, is a bright yellow M-reg Fiat Cinquecento Hawaii Edition, complete with “tape deck” and red passenger door.
This runabout is also the co-star of the Fwends show and features in the freshly filmed sequences, such as their nostalgic trip back to Rudge Park Comprehensive (, as Carr puts it “in a car none of them owned to a school none of them went to”. Will relives the moment when he shat himself, which is, well, moving.
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The talking (dick) heads are good too, especially when creators Damon Beesley and Iain Morris explain the genesis of some of the set pieces, often based on their own life experiences. Beesley, for example, confesses how he had ranted some foul-mouthed sarcastic abuse at some hapless kids for pushing in at an amusement park before bullying his way onto the ride. Smug, he turned to them and only then discovered that the selfish bastards were at the front of the rollercoaster because they had Down syndrome.
Greg Davies’s presence as the bad-tempered teacher Mr Gilbert is also enjoyable. No wonder that Davies went into comedy having himself been a bad-tempered teacher (“a living hell” in his seemingly sincere description). Waen Shepherd (Mr “Paedo” Kennedy) is extremely game to join in the fun – perhaps surprising given the times we live in. Indeed, I wonder, only a few years on, if phrases such as “spaz” and “rapey” could be scripted now.
You could call it a retrospective then, if you were pretentious enough, or “going in balls deep” if you’re Jimmy Carr. Although it lacks a certain pointfulness - the cast are even more absurdly old to play adolescents again and there will be no more episodes or movies - and all concerned refuse to take itself too seriously, which is just as well. Like a more successful sort of school reunion.
There’s nothing more tedious than people earnestly trying to deconstruct comedy: much better instead just to get on with the clips and the poo jokes. And so they do, and so does Will get a high speed turd in the face from a water chute, and suddenly we are all back in the sixth form disco again.
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