I don’t know how often kids today watch MTV, but I’m a real-life, breathing child of the music channel…
In the’80s, the new Music Television channel changed pop culture forever with music videos—thank you, MTV! In the ‘90s, the network began to slowly drift away from the music videos, and started airing original broadcasts such as Road Rules and The Real World, animations including Beavis and Butthead and Celebrity Deathmatch, and even a few popular game shows like Remote Control and Singled Out—the show that put Jenny McCarthy and Carmen Electra on the map. By 2000, rarely could we flip channels to MTV and actually watch a music video. Instead, we’d find The Osbournes, where we’d watch Ozzy and Sharon wrangle their children and many small dogs around their house; or we’d watch Ashton Kutcher play pranks on celebrities on Punk’d; and, sometimes we’d even watch Newlyweds: Nick and Jessica so that we could laugh at just how silly that girl could be. Since then, MTV has continued to launch more and more reality shows: Laguna Beach, NEXT, My Super Sweet 16, and the craziest of them all, Jersey Shore. And, who could forget one of the biggest hits of all MTV programming—Jackass?
But I’ve never given up on my MTV. Today, when I’m looking for something to watch on television, I always flip over to check out what’s on the channel. While I can’t say it’s been a music video one time in the last few years, MTV still offers a few programs that I don’t miss—the Road Rules/Real World Challenges, Teen Wolf, and Death Valley. Everything else… I have stayed away from (Teen Mom—no, thank you); but that’s not to say I haven’t laughed at the commercials for a few of the other MTV originals.
Let’s be honest—MTV is supposed to grab the attention of the teen audience, which I believe it does. However, teen programs today aren’t necessarily the same as the ‘80s and ‘90s. Television in the 1980s offered a bit more substance than today’s reality fixation. Back in the day, honest- to-goodness family programming dominated network TV’s primetime hours—Who’s the Boss?, Growing Pains, The Cosby Show, The Wonder Years, Family Ties—instead of the incessant need to watch individuals hurt themselves while rushing through an obstacle course or watch a young talent’s hopes shatter in recorded auditions.
Teen television today tends to focus on more adult situations. Take The Secret Life of the American Teenager—how many characters have either already had a baby or at least a pregnancy scare? And as much as I like The Vampire Diaries, where are the parents? Who gets these kids alcohol for their parties? Today, popular young adult TV seems to focus on pretty people, popular kids, high fashion, and adult themes.
But what about the rest of us? Not everyone fits in with the “in-crowd.” At one time or another, most teenagers have felt like they don’t belong; like they are all alone in this cruel world. Luckily, MTV caters to this crowd with two programs—Awkward and The Inbetweeners.
I didn’t plan on watching either of these shows, not until I saw Comedy Central airing reruns of The Inbetweeners this weekend. While I still haven’t seen Awkward, I did set the DVR for MTV’s latest series… I mean, if Comedy Central is going to play the new show, it must be funny—right?
It’s funny… to me, The Inbetweeners might be more realistic than most other teen programs on television. The thirty-minute show focuses around Will Mackenzie (Joey Pollari), a recent transfer student from a private prep-school to a public high school. On his first day, he meets Simon (Bubba Lewis), Jay (Zack Pearlman), and Neil (Mark L. Young). Despite Will’s not really fitting in with these guys, he has found his circle of friends—they’re not jocks, they’re not nerds; they’re not in any way popular—they’re inbetweeners. And like most teen boys, all they can think about is girls, sex, and alcohol. These characters are constantly thinking about girls (Simon loves Carly, but Carly is dating a real “hunk”), sex (Jay claims to have had sex many times, but we all know the truth—he’s a virgin), and alcohol (they even drink the expensive stuff with gold in it…). Seriously; it’s all about girls, sex, and alcohol. The comedy is a bit lewd and there are quite a few bleeps over the bad language, but it all seems realistic to me—how teens act and talk, and especially how they think.
In just the first two episodes, the boys have already fallen victim to many embarrassing moments: the principal’s warning students to not bully Will over the PA system; Will’s thinking he’s getting a cool car when he passes his driving test, only to learn his father has purchased him the “sports edition” of an old, yellow Ford Festiva; Simon’s drinking too much and throwing up all over Carly’s kitchen after she invites him over on a pity-date (he spray-painted her driveway and his friends were making fun of him); and the enduring pain of watching parents’ public displays of affection. Most of us can relate to at least a version of these embarrassing moments, can’t we? Even if we considered ourselves part of the “cool” kids in school?
Based on the British series of the same name, and created by the man responsible for hit shows such as Arrested Development and My Name is Earl, The Inbetweeners has already survived the first crucial moment in a television show’s life—MTV has picked up twelve episodes. Will it last? I don’t know… but if anyone fell or falls into the “inbetween” group while in high school, this show might just be for them.
Have you watched The Inbetweeners? Will you? Have you ever felt like an inbetweener? What do you look for in YA television? I’d love to hear from you!