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Losers' show is on to a winner

Sharing more than a little DNA with David Mitchell's Mark Corrigan in Peep Show, Simon Bird's Will McKenzie in the hip teen comedy The Inbetweeners (C4, 10.55pm) is another nerd out of his natural waters. In this case, Will has found himself shunted from his safe private school to a rough and ready comprehensive. Which features rough and ready -- and mildly thick -- boys. And lovely girls. The rest pretty much writes itself.

As he informs us over the opening montage, Will has managed to make three friends in his eye-opening first year at his new school, Rudge Park Comprehensive -- friends who have introduced him to such joys as punching a fish, vomiting on a small child and talking Yoda to Irish hottie Jayne Weisener. Oh, and sh*tting himself during an exam.

The new year -- and the show's third series -- starts with some typically encouraging words from their long-suffering teacher, Mr Gilbert (Greg Davies, the We Are Klang comedy troupe co-founder who actually spent 15 years as a secondary school teacher): "Shut up -- let's get this over with."

A show that tries to push the boat out a little -- letting us know that the wheelchaired student at the centre of the charity might be a major asshole -- the writers behind The Inbetweeners are also happy to play on stereotypes. Will's three best friends encompass earring-toting wide-boy Jay (played by James Buckley), the thick-as-a-PE-teacher Neil (Blake Harrison) and the sweet-natured, good-looking, actually-out-of-their-league Simon (Joe Thomas).

It's all good, slightly-unclean family fun, like The OC crossed with Shameless, or Grange Hill on some happy pills. For a show all about losers (as all British sitcoms are, at heart), The Inbetweeners is proving something of a winner. Fans might be happy to hear that the cast are currently filming a big-screen outing, following the boys on holiday in Malia, Crete. Then again, as anyone who sat through Kevin & Perry Go Large will know, maybe that's not such a good idea...

Everyone's favourite egghead uncle, Stephen Fry, has returned to chair yet another outing of QI (BBC1, 8.30pm), departing pearls of wisdoms and wry wit to those mere mortals brave enough to go forehead-to-forehead with him.

Last night's opener of the new series was brought to us by the letter H -- which gave our brainy Big Bird the opportunity to introduce us to the humongous Phill Jupitus, the hyperbolic Ross Noble (you know, the stand-up who looks like Billy The Fish), the hygienic Jack Dee and the ho-hum Alan Davies. To quote the wry Fry himself.

A little like the old late afternoon kids show How, rebooted for the Friday night couch brigade, QI gives its audience a little something to think about. Such as immortal jellyfish. Or a "sort of circular triangle drill bit" which can make a perfect square.


Noble, Dee and Jupitus were all happy to joke about entering into a battle of wits with Fry somewhat unarmed, with regular team captain Alan Davies clearly the Wise to the chairman's Morecambe. Only, Davies isn't all that wise. And he isn't half as funny as Ernie, either.

Still, if it wasn't for a show like this, we might never know the meaning of a word like hoplophobe -- meaning a person with an irrational fear of firearms. Or, as urbandictionary.com puts it, "An irrational fear of weapons, generally guns, usually occurring as a result of a liberal upbringing or the fact that the person is just a wimp in general. Rather than deal with the fear said hoplophobe will assign human characteristics to a weapon -- ie 'guns are evil' or 'guns kill' -- to justify the fear rather than deal with the core problem of being a cissy."

Take that, Guardian readers.