The Inbetweeners (USA) episode 2: Sunshine Mountain review

Frances looks in on the second episode of The Inbetweeners USA remake, but doesn’t find much to recommend it…

1.2 Sunshine Mountain

Last week, I defended MTV’s The Inbetweeners against accusations of over-sentimentality; this week there’s no defence to be made, the show is undeniably cuter than the UK version.

Instead of stranded in a Surrey car park blaming each other for their day of misadventures, the US version of Thorpe Park left the boys crooning along to a feel-good power ballad sing-a-long. Prior to that, Will had apologised to Simon for not being “…a good friend”, un-ironically called his three new mates his “…partners on the turbulent road to adulthood”, and played with a basket of kittens. Well, alright, not that last one, but you get the idea.

Sunshine Mountain rehashed the Simon gets a car/the gang go to a theme park/hilarity ensues template, but combined it with the ongoing saga of Simon’s unrequited romance with Carli D’Amato. We saw the gang disrupt a funeral motorcade, unintentionally proposition a little girl and accidentally insult a trio of disabled theme park visitors, who ended up having the last word. (As an aside, it’s interesting to see that Canary yellow – alternatively, Muppet yellow, or Nan’s piss yellow – as a car colour remains at the bottom of the social currency scale on both sides of the pond.)

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Apart from one or two changes then, it was the same 20-odd minutes of mild homophobia and boner jokes scraped from the UK scripts as last week’s season opener led us to expect. Neil’s character still doesn’t work (though the boy does wear a pair of Daisy Dukes with aplomb), the vast majority of the good stuff is borrowed, and all four of them still deliver their lines as if they’re in a race to finish first.

Cuteness, it should be said, is relative. Though the yank versions of Will, Simon, Jay and Neil are more prone to the odd warm, fuzzy moment, they’re not exactly Care Bears, and Sunshine Mountain was still packed with tasteless sex slang and cringe-worthy encounters with the general public. Fans of the UK show may be pleased to know that episode two saw what had to have been the inaugural use of the word “clunge” on US TV, a coup for bad taste lovers everywhere.

However, despite the efforts of Jay (Zack Pearlman keeping up the potty-mouthed Jack Black impersonation) and his panoply of horrible synonyms for vagina, The Inbetweeners (USA) is neither as nasty, nor as funny as its UK ancestor.

Bleeping the sexual expletives and adding in twiddly guitar and sentimental narration makes for a slightly blue, shallower version of The Wonder Years, which, on balance, might not be a disaster.

Brace yourselves for the obligatory comparison to NBC’s The Office (we’ll try to make it quick). That show quickly proved itself much more sentimental than the Gervais/Merchant creation that inspired it. Its characters – Michael and Roy especially, but even Dwight – were rendered much more sympathetically than their UK counterparts, and necessarily so, because 22 episodes a season is a long time to spend with only one couple to root for amongst a crowd of horrors.

With longevity in its sights, The Inbetweeners (USA) may be attempting a similar plan of attack by asking its audience to invest in the boys’ friendship rather than just laugh at their exploits.

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The problem with that? None of its young cast has anything like the charisma or comic timing of Steve Carrell, and at this early stage, it’s still only a karaoke cover version of something much better.

Read Frances’ review of last week’s episode, First Day, here.

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