Photo Credit : MTV
When we aren’t remaking our own shows, we’re busy remaking shows from other countries. On rare occasions the new version can overcome the obvious comparisons to the original (such as, “The Office”) but usually the result is a faded Xerox copy of its predecessor (I’m looking at you, “Viva, Laughlin”).
By : SHAWNA BENSON
When we aren’t remaking our own shows, we’re busy remaking shows from other countries. On rare occasions the new version can overcome the obvious comparisons to the original (such as, “The Office”) but usually the result is a faded Xerox copy of its predecessor (I’m looking at you, “Viva, Laughlin”). In Britain, “Skins” is a popular show and it was only a matter of time before its take on teen life was recycled and refashioned into something for American audiences. Strip away the accents, most of the profanity and the nudity and you turn an edgy, provocative show into…something slightly less edgy and provocative.
That isn’t to say there aren’t some great moments in “Skins,” but most of them come after the premiere episode. It’s hard enough to ask an audience to stick around for a full hour, let alone come back next week for another hour of the show, in the hopes it finds its footing and takes off. This is made doubly difficult when there’s already a version of this show out there, a version not made for basic cable and North American restraints. If I were half my age and I knew I could watch a more raw, uncensored version of this show, I’d seek it out.
Photo Credit : MTV
The story in this first episode isn’t very complicated; it mostly revolves around Tony, who wants to help Stanley “finally” lose his virginity (at age 16) by finding him a willing partner. That partner is Cadie, a slightly crazy drug addict who really likes knives. Tony plots for the gang to go to a party, Stan will get Cadie drugged up and then all will be right with the world. Stanley seems reluctant to participate in Tony’s plan – this could be because he’s in love with Tony’s girlfriend, Michelle. Apart from Stanley buying too much weed from a dealer and Tony assuring the group’s invite to the party, not much else happens in the episode, until the party, which, of course, doesn’t go exactly to plan. The story gets more interesting in the second episode, when we learn about Tea’s life and the ramifications of Stanley’s drug buy.
As an adult, I have very little interest in watching these kids. It isn’t that I don’t empathize, and it isn’t the generation gap (though, admittedly I feel like a prudish fuddy duddy watching what passes for supposedly ‘typical’ high school behavior. I hope to have many teenagers tell me that they have never seen anything like the events portrayed in the show). The problem with the show boils down to characters. There is one standout: Tea, a self-professed lesbian cheerleader strikes me as an intriguing mix. Also, Tea (played by Sofia Black-D’Elia) carries most of the story of Episode 2. Stanley feels like a character I’ve seen a million times before – he’s like a less fun version of Spicoli. Tony is the kid who seems to have it all figured out, which of course makes other people wish they could hit him, if only he wasn’t so good looking and self-assured. As is true with any ensemble it takes time to learn enough about each character to make a determination, but based on what I’ve seen, I’d say Freaks & Geeks, Degrassi, The Breakfast Club, and My So-Called Life stand the test of time in ways I’m not sure this show can.
I have avoided comparisons to the original primarily because I’ve seen little of the British version of the show, save the first couple of episodes, but as a pure comparison, the casting for the British show, save the character of Tea, feels far stronger and more interesting.
The challenge of shows about teenagers is there is a desire to lump them all in a group. As we all remember from our own pasts, people have very different experiences in high school. Let’s just say that the teens on “Skins” won’t be hanging out with the cast of “Glee” anytime soon. Yet both shows have threads of truth weaved into them by their creators who feed in their own high school experiences with what they know and learn about teens today. In the case of “Skins,” I’m not convinced that a version for American audiences adds anything to the conversation that hasn’t already been said by the original. Then again, I’m a lame adult…
The series premiere of Skins airs Monday, January 17 at 10 pm ET on MTV.