The Inbetweeners


The film-of-the-sitcom is one of the more unheralded genres in cinema.
It‘s illustrative that 40 years ago, whereas the low budget work that transformed the American film industry was Easy Rider, the British equivalent was about an altogether less glamorous form of transport: On The Buses.
Made by Hammer for £ 90, 000, the first On The Buses film made over £ 1 million, and out-sold Diamonds Are Forever.
Not surprisingly, this, um, runaway success sparked a gold rush.
The following year, Steptoe & Son outsold Dirty Harry. 1973 saw the release of NINE films based on sitcoms.
Bless This House, Man About The House, Dad’s Army, Love Thy Neighbour, Father Dear Father, Porridge, and Rising Damp all eventually became feature films.
A trip to school camp in Please Sir ! inspired the imaginative sub-genre: the sitcom on holiday.
In the George & Mildred movie (six words you never thought you’d read), they ‘enjoyed’ a romantic weekend away.
The Likely Lads went touring. Are You Being Served ? took a package trip to the “Costa Plonka.”
Thanks to the variable (ie, dire) quality of these notoriously thin, over-ambitious adaptations, by the early 80s, the genre had seemingly become irrevocably tarnished.
But in 1997, the astonishing success of Bean proved British TV comedies could still provide a rich seam of material – and make someone rich. Bean and Mr Bean’s Holiday Movie grossed over $ 400 million worldwide.
Ali G Indahouse and Guest House Paradiso (based on Bottom) made money. The lamentable Kevin & Perry Go Large took £ 10million.

All of which makes The Inbetweeners: The Movie rather less of a quantum leap than it first might have appeared.
The engagingly puerile, brilliantly plausible suburban sitcom about four sixth-formers (‘inbetween’ school and adulthood) closed its last series with a record 3 million viewers on E4 and has sold over 1.5 million DVDs.
Although the budget is low (around £ 3.5m), aspirations for the film are huge.
The show’s writers/creators, Iain Morris and Damon Beesley, talk of wanting to make a British equivalent of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off or American Pie.
On set in Spain, producer Chris Young (Gregory’s Two Girls) stresses their intention to make “a stand alone film” that people who’ve never seen the TV series can go and see at the Odeon Leicester Square.
“St Trinians is not a film I have any respect for or interest in,” he says mildly. “But in spite of being crap, it took £ 12 million. There are lots of American films that 12-20 year old kids want to go. I want to show we can make them here.”
With a deal with Entertainment to open the film on 400 screens nationwide, and an Alan Partridge film also in the pipeline, the financial and artistic viability of the film-of-the-sitcom genre is about to be tested again.

WE ARE IN Magaluf, which for logistical reasons is doubling for Malia in Crete, where the four Inbetweeners are taking their first lads’ holiday.
It is essentially a reprise of Will’s riposte in series two when Simon suggests they use a school trip to Swanage to “try and get off with the local girls or try and get some booze.” “Everything we’re shit at, except by the seaside.”
Beesley tells me you find groups of 150 kids from a single college arranging trips to Malia. For others, Magaluf is hell.
Scandavian stag parties and squaddies on leave from Afghanistan crawl from lapdance bars to “Fun Pubs” which, frankly, look like no fun at all.
One night in the “EastEnders Kareoke pub” next to the cast’s 8 euros a night hotel, a bloke in a Spongebob Squarepants costume was seen fighting a penguin. Well, a bloke in a penguin costume presumably. Hopefully.
Simon Bird who plays the show’s narrator Will (a man who is hailed everywhere he goes by fans using the school swat’s nickname: “Briefcase Wanker !”) recalls discovering one pub “full of grown men playing a drinking game that involved having toilet roll up your bum. They light it and you have to down your pint before the fire reaches your bum.”
His horror was compounded by the realisation that the participants were all from the film crew.

TODAY THEY ARE filming at the swimming pool of a local hotel.
It’s symptomatic of how passionately its fans relate to The Inbetweeners that several extras have paid their own way to be there.
Like many great British sitcoms (Dad’s Army, Rising Damp, Only Fools & Horses), The Inbetweeners is essentially about losers forced together by circumstance (the 6th form) and camaraderie in the face of failure.
The boys’ attempts at the things that will make them cool (losing their virginity, buying alcohol or “spliff puff”) invariably end in humiliation.
The way it captures the humour and friendships forged at school is sublime despite (or because of) the way they do things such as mercilessly tease Neil about his dad being gay (on the grounds that he plays badminton) or fantasise about shagging Will’s mum.
Morris and Beesley have an impeccable pedigree in modern TV comedy, having started their careers working with Sacha Baron Cohen and Ricky Gervais as producers on The 11 O’Clock Show. Morris was a Commissioning Editor at Channel 4 on Peep Show and Phoenix Nights and they wrote two episodes of Flight of the Conchords.
They cite Alan Partridge as their “touchstone” but have a keen appreciation of traditional suburban sitcoms citing John Sullivan’s Dear John, Reggie Perrin and Fawlty Towers as influences.
“I remember seeing the On The Buses film when I was ten,” Beesley enthuses, “and thinking: this is the funniest film I’ve ever seen !”
The Inbetweeners is more like an adolescent version of Double Deckers than the studied cool of Skins, and has a ribald humour that goes back to Donald McGill’s saucy postcards.
Today’s filming sees Bird spend the entire morning having Joe Thomas put sun cream on for Will, expertly tracing what will become the outline of a large penis on his back.
As usual, the film finds the 4 teenagers using words like “clunge”, “spazz”, “Kraut”, and the greeting “hello benders !” – language that more politically correct viewers probably thought had disappeared with sitcoms like Mind Your Language and Til Death Do Us Part.
The prevailing view is that the boys’ youth makes a vital difference.
“These four boys are there to be laughed AT,” argues James Buckley. “When they’re talking about a car full of girls as a muff wagon, you’re not on their side. You’re thinking they’re SO stupid.”
In an early version of the show, the characters were older. “But it didn’t work,” remembers Morris, “because they just sounded offensive. To deny that teenagers use those terms would be wrong. They haven’t worked out that using those words in the adult world is totally inappropriate. We’re watching as guilty observers and it is quite funny.”

Even though the four stars are in their mid 20s and so obviously smarter and more articulate, the camaraderie between them is exactly the same as their characters.
”The atmosphere on set is infused with bullying and defensiveness but in a genuinely funny way !” beams Bird. “I love it, it makes me feel alive !”
They are, broadly, like a band.
Simon (Joe Thomas) is the gregarious, garrulous lead singer; a middle-class Le Bon figure.
Jay (James Buckley) would be the moody, enigmatic guitarist, Will (Simon Bird) the well educated keyboard player and Neil (Blake Masters) the dumb drummer.
In fairness, they concede Masters is the least like his character and Buckley the most at odds with Jay’s yobbishness.
“I’ve NEVER sworn in front of my parents,” Buckley grins. “But one day after the third series, where I’d been swearing my head off for six weeks, I sat down to dinner and I just went ‘oh shit I forgot my fucking washing !”
The writers, he says, are forever hovering on the set, correcting him for mixing up his “clunge”s with his “gash”s.
“To Sir With Love,” Bird remarks, “never had that problem.”

As for the crossover from TV sitcom to film, any pressure to make it “more like a film” has been resisted.
Thomas says that, “apart from a few spectacular location shots and some lenses used by Martin Scorsese, even the six week shooting time is the same.”
“Yes. I assumed there‘d be a little more emphasis on performance but it hasn‘t been like that at all !” Bird objects, sounding like Will. “And I feel just as hurried and stressed-out by this as I did by the show !”
The others fall about.
The film opens on their last day at school and is ostensibly a rites of passage of sorts but Bird says “Damon and Iain’s first priority at all times is to make it as funny as possible. I don’t think we can over-emphasise how immature Damon and Iain are for two men in their mid to late thirties.”
“It is moving in a very Inbetweeners way,” Beesley suggests.
“But not for too long hopefully,” Morris laughs.
Whether the film signifies the end of The Inbetweeners is a delicate subject and, where the four actors are concerned, very much the elephant in the room.
They would all clearly love to do more and at times seem to be in denial, refuting the notion the film is “the end of an era.”
The writers – the puppet masters – are less equivocal though.
“More than any series we’ve done, this feels like The Last Chapter,” Beesley concedes, slightly forlornly.
The implications of the boys leaving school in the film – which is what threw them together – only just seems to be sinking in.
“The trouble is,” Morris agrees uncomfortably, “as hellish as filming is, I adore the four of them and Damon. And the more we do it, the more I enjoy it. But part of the charm of the show is the awfulness of the things they say. And the justification is they don’t know any better. But if they were adults and they talked like that, you’d just say, fucking grow up !”
Plans for two Christmas specials have now been scuppered – partly because of the film and the writers’ evident annoyance that Channel 4 “are not exactly beating our door down” for a follow up.
Morris is marrying an American singer-songwriter and moving to LA but he and Beesley are working on “a more grown up comedy drama” and a few film ideas.
Chris Young agrees that the actors haven’t really come to terms with the fact that the week’s filming in Magaluf could be their last.
“It will hit them later because it’s quite difficult to take on board. When I go into my Co-op on the Isle of Skye, the woman at the till says ‘God, episode three ! Hilarious !’ To have that currency across the nation is very difficult to find ! Doing The Inbetweeners is practically all they’ve ever known.”
He recalls the time after the show won a BAFTA and they arrived in Malia last August when he says, the four stars were becoming “a bit moan-y.”
“I said ‘guys, I’m fifty. I’ll tell you now – this might be as good as it ever gets. So for fucks sake enjoy it !”
The irony is obvious. School days really are the best days of your life.