Worst to Best
The Inbetweeners

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14 Exam Time (2009)

A lot takes place in the season two finale, with Will shitting himself in an exam, Simon and Carli finally getting together (and then falling apart), and Jay having his heart broken by a real love affair ("plenty more clunge in the sea.") However, for some inexplicable reason it doesn't quite come together as a great episode, despite being composed of semi-great moments. Possibly it's that the real appeal of the series relies on the chemistry and interaction between the four leads, and this is an episode which, under the threat of revision, sees the boys split up for much of the runtime. Possibly it's also that, as amusing as it may be, Will taking his stained trousers to the pub afterwards is another of season's two unbelievable plot developments.

13 Thorpe Park (2008)

A vital episode for continuity, as this is the one where Simon gets his yellow car, as well as the story as to how it gets a red door. Sometimes with The Inbetweeners there's nothing particularly special about the set up, and, despite the language and crude sexual references, it's very much a sitcom in a pure tradition. But it surprises by shifting such sitcom conventions left-of-centre, making you wonder why you've never quite seen them before. It's not just the entire set-up of an adult sitcom featuring teenagers (or men in their 20s playing teenagers), it's small moments like a car turning unwittingly into a funeral procession.
     Jay's various derogatory terms for vagina may seem a little crass ten years on (two extras are instructed to give shocked looks after overhearing him in the sixth form common room) but here The Inbetweeners gets what has been regarded as its very own word, with the debut of "clunge". Appalling yet unique, it manages to establish a sense of identity for the programme that it hadn't previously contained.
     It should be noted that it wasn't, as James Buckley and Damon Beesley admit on the commentary track to Home Alone, an original invention by the series. The exact origin is unknown, though appears to date back to a 1978 episode of The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin, though in that instance probably meant "arse". Examples of it meaning vagina date back in urban dictionaries until at least 1999, but The Inbetweeners must be credited with popularising the term. In further Clunge-based trivia, then Jay says it 14 times throughout the series and movies, Neil once, and Simon says it while quoting an email from Jay in the second movie.

12 Bunk Off (2008)

The nature of the pejorative "political correctness" has to perhaps be overlooked with The Inbetweeners. Not that the reams of sexism and attitudes towards homosexuals are necessarily aimed at the targets; the boys themselves are very much losers talking themselves up, and the nature of the show is to depict how teenage boys really speak. But for those shocked at the series' never-ending line of "gay" material, then this is the first episode where Neil is called upon to defend his dad's sexuality, and a brand new homophobic slur is invented, with "bumder". (Another note for trivia fans is that only the episodes Xmas Party, The Duke Of Edinburgh Awards, Exam Time and The Gig And The Girlfriend fail to feature any "Neil's dad is gay" material)
     The series still feels a little "sitcommy" at this stage, with Will dressed up in a suit pretending to be an adult in an off licence not as believable as some later situations. The best Inbetweeners moments occur when a situation starts small and escalates out of control; Will buying drinks starts at a point of ridiculousness and never really gets chance to become "real". Better is one of the series' "gross out" moments, which are fewer than the movies would have us believe, with Simon vomiting on the head of a child. Unlike the movies, it's a moment that has a long set-up, rather than just being thrown in to appeal to the masses.

11 Will's Birthday (2009)

The Inbetweeners continues its curious mission to add left-field twists to standard sitcom tropes by introducing a French exchange student, Patrice. Patrice (Vladimir Consigny) is so cool and good-looking that everyone, even Will's much-desired mum, is taken with him. This eventually leads to further heartbreak for Will in an episode with good moments, but one which does make pains to overstate its purpose; it's fine for the quartet to be losers, but their continual acknowledgement of it detracts. Despite all this, it's an episode with funny moments that almost scrapes top ten status.

10 The Gig And The
Girlfriend (2010)

By this stage The Inbetweeners had achieved the seemingly impossible task of becoming a "watercooler" television programme, and much discussion was had around offices the following day of this amusing take on teenage drug culture. Sadly, it doesn't hold up quite as well after the first viewing, where it all seems a little empty and based around "moments", rather than a strong plot. Or possibly it's that the boys' innocence and naÏvety around cannabis was retroactively obliterated by the second movie, where Simon casually smokes a joint without compunction.
     The "shock value" of the third season continues, with Simon snogging a girl who has just vomited. Rather significantly for Simon (Joe Thomas), said girl (Hannah Tointon) would go on to become his girlfriend in real life, with their engagement announced in 2017. Apart from the signiicance of a major new character, the episode also marks the final appearance, outside of a movie cameo, of well-spoken Henry Lloyd-Hughes as the school bully Donovan.

9 Work Experience (2009)

A solid if not spectacular episode that features some elements that perhaps don't quite come together as well as they should. Will being so insufferably snobby on work experience is unlikely, even for him, as is Mr. Gilbert laughing in front of parents. As the central character who narrates the episodes, then Will has always been more nerdish fool than audience identification figure, though here it's pushed too far against manual workers who, despite it all, actually aren't that bad.
     Yet it's not every episode that features the immortal line "thanks to me, we're now watching Simon get wanked off." An ending with Will's mum coming to rescue them also rewards, but there's maybe the feeling that there's almost too much plot for the show's restrictive 24 minute format.

8 Xmas Party (2008)

The traditionalism of The Inbetweeners comes to the fore once more when Neil arrives at the school Christmas party wearing an outfit that no one in reality would ever wear; the spiritual ancestry of Are You Being Served?. Yet such matters detract little from an episode that has more heart than the average Inbetweeners episode. Jay finally comes to terms with why he lies (apart from some meanness to John) and Simon and Will come to terms with their feelings for girls.
     While maybe not a standout of the show, it has a form of warmth not present in all editions, and makes a nice conclusion to a first season that still shows evidence of finding its feet. Thankfully season two has Jay conveniently forget his resolution to stop lying, ensuring the comedy can continue. The Inbetweeners is a fine comedy series, but, as can be evidenced with the films, it has to maintain the status quo in order to keep the humour present, and thus gives itself a natually limited lifespan.
     The TV series has 14 DVD commentaries spread over thirteen episodes, with writers Damon Beesley and Iain Morris talking together on three of them. (Beesley also does a third season commentary with Buckley and Bird, while Morris gets a track with Thomas and Harrison). The commentaries are generally a pleasant albeit inessential listen, though the track to Xmas Party contains more details than most. Through it the writers reveal that Neil's outfit was based on clothes that Blake Harrison would wear in real life; that, contrary to reports elsewhere, the character of Jay did appear in the unaired pilot episode, and that one of their original titles for the series was "Dickheads".