Little value in these pubescent capers

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TV Review

The Inbetweeners, Channel 4

Dangerous Adventures for Boys, Five

WRITTEN by Damon Beesley and Iain Morris (who met on The 11 O'Clock Show, but don't let that put you off too much), teen sitcom The Inbetweeners won Best New British Television Comedy at the British Comedy Awards on Saturday, which says less about the programme's actual merits and more about the current dreadful state of British television comedy.

Not that it's a bad show by any means. It's actually quite likeable and reasonably amusing at times. It is, I suppose, the sort of teen comedy I might have vaguely enjoyed when I was about 14, although possibly not. If the producers wish to use any of these quotes on the DVD sleeve then they're more than welcome.

It's clearly trying to posit itself as a British, middle-class version of a Judd Apatow comedy. The relentless vulgarity that spews from the mouth of sexual fantasist Jay, for instance, owes an obvious debt to Superbad.

Unfortunately, the odd gently funny exchange between the four male leads aside, there aren't very many actual jokes to speak of. Their largely sex-obsessed quips certainly sound like the sort of nudge-nudge banter that most teenage boys engage in. The problem is that they – teenage boys, that is – aren't that funny.

It's not enough simply to say: "This is what post-pubescent squirts are like." The characters have to be well-drawn and interesting in themselves. If I want to listen to a bunch of bum-fluffy dorks calling each other gay and making cracks about "your mum", I can go and sit on the top deck of a bus.

It's not that hard to create characters and situations reminiscent of our own teenage experiences, since almost all of us went through the same bouts of insecurity, despair and confusion. But what The Inbetweeners needs to do is to take those shared recollections and mould them into something fresh and with a voice of its own, rather than a voice we recognise and could easily regurgitate ourselves.

Still, it boasts a nicely judged central performance from Simon Bird as Will, a neurotic yet sharp-witted kid who resembles a more self-aware Adrian Mole or a mini-Mark from Peep Show. I did smile at his dry pronouncements on text etiquette, such as "the winky face is the mark of the moron". Unfortunately, he's the only truly engaging character in the show (and that's probably because he reminds me of myself at that age).

Incidentally, I presume Will's voiceover is intended as a parody of The Wonder Years. I would have loved to have heard a grown-up Kevin Arnold reading lines like: "Looking back, I should have realised that Mr Cartwright's explosive bowels were a sign of things to come."

In the latest instalment of Dangerous Adventures for Boys celebrity toff Lord Charlie Brocket and his teenage son, William, learned the ins and outs of being a British wartime spy.

This involved an afternoon learning jujitsu on, for some reason, the lawn of a country manor. The lesson seemed to consist mainly of the senior Brocket being choked by an expert, but even that couldn't dampen his Lord Haw-Haw guffaw.

They also tried their hands at a spot of code-cracking, lock-picking, free diving, breaking into an unbelievably lax Nazi stronghold, and scaling a 50-foot wall while attached to a harness, a skill that no spy could've done without. William was almost paralysed with fear during this last task, while clearly wondering if there weren't easier ways to bond with his silly-ass father.