The Inbetweeners at 10: the embarrassing true stories that inspired the comedy
When The Inbetweeners debuted on E4 in May 2008, few could have predicted the show would become a pop culture phenomenon.
But the series, following the wonderfully puerile sixth-form exploits of Will, Simon, Jay and Neil, gradually became a ratings hit, and two further films broke UK box office records in 2011 and 2014.
Its runaway popularity wasn't immediately clear to co-creator Iain Morris either.
"I didn’t really know the show was a success until we saw the DVD sales for the first film, then I remember thinking ‘oh, maybe this is popular’," he says.
"I suppose The Inbetweeners made all the failure and embarrassment worthwhile" (Photo: Channel 4)
Morris is on record as admitting that Simon Bird's character of Will is largely based on his own teenage faux-pas and fumblings, while co-writer Damon Beesley was more of a Jay/Simon hybrid.
"Ultimately I suppose The Inbetweeners made all the failure and embarrassment worthwhile," he says. "If we hadn’t written the show it would have been a very tragic but funny life, but an undocumented one. And the same goes for Damon, who I should point out also has a lot of his life failures in the show.
"The best men at my wedding, Damon and my friend James Bobin, said it was difficult to drag up embarrassing stories as I’d already told everyone."
One such story from Morris's past that did make it into The Inbetweeners was his attempt to impress a girl at a disco by taking his shoes off to skid along the dancefloor, which Will does at the caravan club.
"I did that at university," Morris confesses. "The girl – rightly - walked away. I didn’t think of it as funny or unusual until I mentioned it to Stephen Merchant who, rightly, pointed out it was mental."
"I miss the boys and working closely with them, and I miss the characters" (Photo: Channel 4)
Perhaps one reason The Inbetweeners worked so well was that it portrayed teenagers who weren't achingly cool or incredibly privileged or stereotypically angst-ridden; they were just four English lads, getting into all the normal suburban scrapes that become the stuff of best man speeches years later.
"[When we wrote it] we were thinking about how the portrayal of teenagers in the media seemed to be universally negative - and to be honest still is," Morris says. "They were either all ‘hoodies’ or teen mums. We wanted to write something about ‘normal’ teenagers, who we felt were probably the majority."
Then there were the gleefully graphic sexual references (mostly Jay), and a refreshingly no-holds-barred approach to the writing. Was there ever a moment when someone had a word in their ear and said, 'you can't do that'?
"The opposite, if anything," Morris says. "Our commissioning editor at Channel 4, now our executive, Caroline Leddy, continually told us, and keeps telling us on our new projects, to push as much as we can."
While Morris says he's happy with how they left the characters after the Australia-set Inbetweeners 2 (the highest grossing British film in UK cinemas in 2014), he does still have pangs of nostalgia for Rudge Park Comprehensive.
"I miss the boys and working closely with them, and I miss the characters," he says. "I was out the other night and someone was telling me about a friend of theirs who used plastic bags as condoms, and I honestly had a moment of 'oh god, I would love to hear Jay and Will discussing that'."
His favourite scene, like many fans of the show, belongs to the even-more-hapless-than-the-rest Neil.
"I still find the fish punch hugely rewarding when I catch it," he says. "I think we got a sense of escalation bang-on there.
"I also really like the desert scene at the end of the second film. I think the four of them did a pretty good job at pretending to be about to die."
The Inbetweeners 2 was another box office hit
It's inevitable that a show like The Inbetweeners still looms large on Morris's CV, despite previous credits including writing two episodes of Flight of the Conchords, producing a TV special for Ricky Gervais and co-hosting a radio show with Jimmy Carr.
"In terms of my career it is my career really," he says. "Everything else is now just managing the gradient of the downslope. And I’m okay with that."
But Morris and Beesley are moving on, albeit in a genre they've already perfected. Under their own production company Fudge Park they're prepping for the release of The Festival, a coming-of-age comedy starring The Inbetweeners' Joe Thomas, alongside Claudia O’Doherty (Trainwreck) Hammed Animashaun (Black Mirror) and Jemaine Clement (Flight of the Conchords).
"It’s set at a festival and hopefully captures the joy and horror of that," says Morris, who's directing a script written by Joe Parham and Keith Akushie.
"I think it’s similar to The Inbetweeners, but not ‘the same’. Very funny but with honesty and heart - that was the aim. It’s due out in August and I’d really love it if everyone could go and see it and help ease the downslope."
The Inbetweeners is available to watch in full on All 4
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Originally published on our sister title, iNews