It’s January 2009, less than 24 hours before a mammoth snow blizzard will grind England to a halt… and Joe Thomas is sat in a motorboat in Little Hampton, drenched, stark bollock naked. “It was so cold,” the actor shudders, now notably drier and less starkers. “But the show needed to be made.”
The (chilly) climax to the opening episode of The Inbetweeners’ second series, the scene in question finds the four school boys trapped on the English Riviera after their boat’s motor conks out. There’s snotty Will (Simon Bird), the love child of Woody Allen and Tony Blair, dopy Neil (Blake Harrison), who has just punched a fish to death, gobby Jay (James Buckley), who would shag anything with legs, and be-coiffed Simon, whose todger gets him into all kinds of trouble. Boys will be boys.
For some, school may have been a cornucopia of social interaction and learning. For most, it was a grind akin to a stretch on death row. That’s the genesis of E4 comedy The Inbetweeners. Its four lead lads are neither hip nor overtly geeky, occupying an indefinable limbo of unbelonging. Buzzing with hormones and straining for cool, their first series of comical misadventures garnered word of mouth momentum, leading to the speedy green-lighting of another six episode stint.
“It was a very nice phone call to get,” enthuses Iain Morris, one half of the writing team behind the gags and the gross-outs. His partner in crime, Damon Beesley, chips in. “It was that classic thing. We thought, ‘Yeah, we’ll do a second series, we’ve got tons of ideas!’ Then it became, ’Ooh, we’ve got to do a second series… Where did we put those tons of ideas that we had?’” Having crammed their first outing with every amusing and awkward – not to mention personal – misdemeanour gleaned from past years of school-time hell, what could the duo possibly concoct for the show’s sophomore year?
Well, field trips to Swanage, for one. “When I was reading the episodes, that was my favourite,” says Blake, real-life counterpart of spaced-out Neil. “Just kind of the grandness of it, it seemed a little bit bigger. It was the same old characters but in a bigger setting.” Swanage? Grand? Flying in the face of its overtly exuberant pilled-up cousin Skins, Inbetweeners forages for the humour in the everyday fuck ups that haunted most of our formative years. School trips, lame school dances, unfortunate boners… It’s Grange Hill with a potty mouth.
THE MILF FACTOR
“All of them continue to grow,” Joe reveals of the new series. “All of them have things move on a little bit in their romantic lives.” It’s now March, and the guys have gathered to discuss their return to the school halls, and they’re just as you’d expect. There are shades of the characters they play onscreen (“I don’t find it very hard to play a geeky loser,” admits Simon), as well as a blokey camaraderie that only hours spent together on set can foster. One mention of Will’s mum – the gorgeous Belinda Stewart-Wilson, MILF extraordinaire – and they erupt in a chorus of appreciation. “She is fiiiit,” trills James. “Why isn’t she in my life now?” Joe concurs. “The first day that she was rolled out we were like, ‘That’s a bit much isn’t it?’ She’s very, very pretty.”
So… four guys, hours waiting on set, surely there were some pranks going on behind the scenes? “If I’d have had a bit of time I’d have come up with summink,” James says. “It’s more like puerile, persistent irritation,” sighs Joe, destroying our visions of cellophane-covered toilet seats. “Exactly like the “frieeeends!” gag in the show. It’s so lazy.” Simon jumps in, observing, “Joe’s the easiest to upset. Joe’s quick to go. And James is very keen to make Joe go.” James agrees. “It’s a match made in heaven.”
With its gross-out humour and moments of astute observation, it’s no surprise that writers Iain and Damon credit American teen comedies as their influences for the show. “In the early days before we made this, we really wanted to do something that felt like the good American teen comedies,” says Damon. “Like Freaks and Geeks. There’s something about that age in life, they captured it perfectly. And I think it’s quite universal.”
The inside scoop on series two is that the lads will face the torture of work experience, a night out in London town, a “greasy” French exchange student and, of course, that hellish exams season. But can they pick out a particular highlight? “There are highlights in all the episodes,” reasons Simon. “That’s what I think is really good about it. It’s nice and emotional, but each episode has a big payoff. There’s always some visual gag at the end.” So term’s about to commence, and things look set to be as hilarious as ever. Just don’t mention Will’s mum.
Via Total Film