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PartnersFebruary 24, 2015

Inside the Lightbox: Back to School Woes

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Inside the Lightbox is a new sponsored feature where we mine the extensive Lightbox catalogue for cool shows you might like to watch. If you are going back to university this week, or simply pining for the days of essays-past, Alex Casey assigns some school-based television for you to study. //

The Inbetweeners

25-900597-The Inbetweeners January 2011_fct1024x630x54_t460The premise is simple: rich boy Will gets thrown from the ivory tower of private education into the ham-wanking (yep) cesspool of English public school. It’s a well-written comedy with strong and eerily recognisable teenage male characters (unfortunately). Only at times does the comedy lean a little too heavily on jokes that could have easily been flushed down the toilet rather than said out loud (I’m looking at you, James).

The strength of The Inbetweeners lies in the accurate portrayal of all the anxieties and moral quandaries that teenagers find themselves in on the quest for experience. So often the characters ask each other “this is fine, right?” – a question that constantly plagued my decisions through high school and, let’s be honest, even today.

The group of friends at Rudge Park Comprehensive find themselves oscillating between extreme bouts of boredom, squirm-inducing awkward encounters and rarely, “proper” teenage shenanigans. It’s a show for anyone who tried to be cool at school, only to secretly think “I’m the worst human being in the world.”


Screen Shot 2015-02-24 at 11.06.08 amBased around a riff raff study group at fictional community college, Community is a punchy look at what happens when you throw a group of oddballs back into the shark tank of higher education. The main character is Jeff (played by The Soup’s Joel McHale) a fast-talking yet fraudulent lawyer who has lied his way to the top, and now has to go back to school to gain the real qualifications he faked for so long.

Jeff is joined in the fluorescent study room of dreams by a holier-than-thou baptist single mother, a bored moist-towelette-making millionaire, an injured scholarship athlete and many more. One of the most crucial characters in weaving the rich pop culture tapestry of the show is Abed, a film student whose incessant referencing makes Community one of pure delight for those who have watched a movie or two.

Each individual episode cleverly adopts a different university subject, addressing it as obtusely or blatantly as the mood takes them. If there’s one thing that will make you want to go back to school, it’s this audacious, self-aware and incredibly enjoyable show.


Screen Shot 2015-02-24 at 11.05.12 amThis MTV-made comedy centres around high schooler Jenna Hamilton (Ashley Rickards), who is forced into the school spotlight after a simple accident is misconstrued as a suicide attempt. After receiving a letter that accuses her of sleeping with the popular boy at school camp (which she did), Jenna goes to bin the evidence but instead falls and breaks her arm, invoking some sort of twisted suicide attempt. Awkward, right? We’re just getting started.

Narrated by the omniscient voice of Jenna’s personal blog posts, the comedy series explores how to cope with a newly enforced identity at high school, and just how awkward it can be to get thrown into the centre of attention. Like Glee, it deals with grittier issues of bullying and sexuality, but has a depth to the writing that feels a lot more real than Lea Michele swanning around singing popular Disney songs. It’s a show about tirelessly trying to stay afloat in the shark infested waters of cheerleaders and jocks, made bearable by the hilariously dark self-aware narration that saves Awkward from being just another vapid high school romp.


Screen Shot 2015-02-24 at 11.02.38 amLike The Inbetweeners, this is another UK school-based series that’s been given it’s own US makeover years later. The original series stars Andrew Lincoln (The Walking Dead, Love Actually) as Simon Casey, a fed up 20-something secondary school teacher joined by like-mindedly apathetic coworkers. Hosting a fervent dislike for almost aspects of teaching itself, it’s an examination of the real people behind the thin veneer of authority in the anarchy of a secondary school.

A lot of the action in Teachers comes from the staff room, rather than the classroom. It is here that teachers sleep together, question their sexuality, and come up with excuses not unlike “my dog ate my homework” to get out of their own daily tasks. It’s a mix of mundane bureaucracy and surreal sequences (think a pared-down version of Green Wing). Using bizarre sound effects and frequent inexplicable appearances of animals, it’s an all-new insight into what actually goes on behind the frosted glass of the staff room doors.


Lightbox customers, click here to watch The Inbetweeners, Community, Awkward and Teachers before the school bell rings

Everyone else, click here to start your free trial (12 months for Spark customers, 30 days for everyone else)

Mad Chapman, Editor
The Spinoff has covered the news that matters in 2021, most recently the delta outbreak. Help us continue this coverage, and so much more, by supporting The Spinoff Members.Madeleine Chapman, EditorJoin Members

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