First of all, I feel the need to clarify that I had no intention of watching the US version. I got through the original (three seasons and a movie) in about a week, and was more than satisfied. Why would I bother with the Americanized crap? But damn MTV played it after Awkward tonight, and so I figured it was as good of an opportunity as any to do a side by side review. I’m mostly going to focus on the structure and the four main characters for this episode, if I do anymore I’ll dive into the rest I’m sure. So then, here goes nothing…
The opening was a lot more rushed than the original’s. It failed to set up Will up as the supreme dork that he is, although that might have more to do with the actor. Joey Pollari has none of the nerdy qualities that Simon Bird so effortlessly portrays. He comes off as an attractive guy trying to play a loser, ala Freddie Prinze Jr in Boy and Girls. (Actually, Fredster was slightly more believable.) And without the beginning and the whole name-tag fiasco, we have no reason to think this kid is destined for unpopularity other than what he tells us from his monologue. Speaking of which, Pollari’s voice is nothing special, and therefore fails to capture the viewer the way Bird’s did, allowing the voiceovers to become a welcome aid in telling each story. Instead, it’s as annoying as, well, any other voiceover on television. When he cries to his mom at the end, I was cringing even more than I was at the random popular music they threw over every scene to make it more appealing to clueless viewers. Augh, not to mention his mom looked MAYBE ten years older than him.
I guess that made it more all the more appropriate for Jay’s crush. Zack Pearlman portrays him, and at first glance, I can understand why he was chosen. Going the fat route was an easy enough way to tell your audience “This is the guy who is trying to convince everyone he’s a stud, and it’s obvious why they don’t believe him.” Once again, the US counterpart lacks the enthusiasm of the original Brit. Jay has to come off as sleazy, and I didn’t really get that from this one. He played the “balls deep” conversation well enough though. And he was given all of the swear words, of course, although seriously MTV: Why would you even bother to put in something you have to bleep out? (Or maybe they didn’t even swear and just bleeped over to make you think they did?) It just makes it sound like a reality show, which it’s clearly not supposed to be. Are you trying to make a statement that you want to make it as much like the original as possible, only you can’t because this is fucking America? Boo hoo. That’s why this shit doesn’t translate unless it’s on a premium channel like HBO or Showtime.
Clearly I have a lot of issues with this version, but my real problem with Bubba Lewis (other than his name) is that he isn’t as likable as Joe Thomas. Maybe it’s just because I found him attractive, but I thought the UK Simon was sweet, and I routed for him with Carly (and later Tara), while simultaneously thinking she wasn’t good enough for him, and wishing I could be the one whose driveway he spray-painted. I’m not even remotely attracted to Lewis, and he played Simon with less of the naivety that Thomas did. Oh man, and that smile? Forget it, no one else will ever be Simon for me. I don’t believe this guy when he professes his love for Carly to the others while talking about losing their virginities. And in the most pivotal scene, when he’s drunk in her kitchen, he comes off as much more abrasive than my British Simon.
My second favorite character, Neil, is also the one who changed the most for me in the original. At first I couldn’t care less about him; I was distracted by Will’s awkwardness, Simon’s cuteness, and Jay’s grossness. Once I acknowledged him, I giggled at his idiocy, and was happy he was there for a laugh. But he did finally become a real character in my eyes, and by the time I got to the movie, I really appreciated him. Blake Harrison played the part perfectly in my opinion. All of the boys matured, but I think Harrison must have had the most work cut out for him, playing someone who comes off as dumb, but actually has a lot of wisdom. Mark L. Young, the only one of the actors I actually recognized, had more of a “bad boy” quality in my eyes. He came off as a little hostile in the scene where they’re drinking alcohol in the park, which doesn’t fit Neil at all.
Other random thoughts that I couldn’t fit in above: The throwing up was slightly less disgusting, but maybe that’s because I knew it was coming. I’m pissed they cut out Neil’s dad, especially since they talked about him the whole episode. And of course, in typical American fashion, they chose attractive actors over good ones, especially in terms of Carly. I’m going to tear that bitch a new one every time I talk about her, sorry not sorry (and yes, I know how dirty that sounded). Also, I’m too tired to be writing this, and I wish I hadn’t gotten started on it. Once again, I blame you MTV.