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We’re the Kids in America

Filed Under: TV Reviews

Jesus I'm getting old.

Jesus I'm getting old.

For whatever reason, despite being well outside MTV’s target age demographic, I was really looking forward to Skins. After all, the network knocked it out of the park with Jersey Shore, and I’ve never really given up on stalwarts like The Real World. Let’s just say while everyone was moaning about MTV replacing music videos with scripted shows and reality fare, I was among the few (many?) cheering my support. Besides, what are MTV shows if not extended advertisements for new indie songs you can find (shocker) on MTV-supported Rhapsody.

So it took me a full ten minutes last night to admit something I had hoped wouldn’t be true—Skins is really bad. Having anticipated something like a fresher Gossip Girl, or a My So Called Life 2.0, instead Skins only lived up to the one show everyone has been comparing it to since MTV’s ad barrage started: Undressed.

Which isn’t to say the writing is the only problem. In truth, it’s hard for me to judge the writing, as it’s been the better part of a decade since I kept up with what the kids are saying. Part of me wants to believe some of the language—”I get to park my Chevy in Michelle’s garage?”—was tongue-in-cheek, but as the hour dragged on I started to wonder. Is this all some Juno-esque language parody? Do teenagers really speak this way? Or is this a sad television approximation of Tom Wolfe’s attempt to sound young in I am Charlotte Simmons?

But even putting the writing aside—which is a big concession—Skins is still lacking. I should clarify that I watched the British version, or at least the first two seasons of it, so for now it’s a fairly apples-to-apples comparison. Where the British version seemed dreary and nuanced, the American one is flashy and shallow. Where the British cast seemed like a group of misguided teens revolving around a mildly sociopathic but somehow endearing Tony, the American group is a roving band of depthless idiots, following around a Tony who you just want to shake while yelling “You’re not even tall!” The British parents are flawed but believable; the American parents complete and utter cartoons.  (MTV didn’t help itself by opening with a wife beater-clad father berating his son for spending too much time taking a shit.)

In fairness, it’s been but one episode and if the British version is any indication, an early-season emphasis on sex and drugs eventually gives way to deeper issues—divorce, abandonment, death, etc. In a way, this gives me hope for the MTV iteration, but it also makes me nervous: Tackling major issues from a platform of pill-popping and teenage sex is already difficult; doing so when your characters come across as irredeemable douchebags is a challenge unto itself.

Then again, maybe I’m giving MTV too much credit. Maybe Skins is just supposed to be awful. After all, this is a network that packs the same dozen 20-somethings in houses all over the world to watch them fight and fuck; that amplified the lives of a few white trash teen moms to the point of assault and arrests; that has made bank in the last year selling the idea that watching drunk guidos argue is actually entertaining (which it is.) Maybe Skins is just trash for younger set, and was never intended as a well-written and subtly insightful commentary on teenage values. In which case, kudos MTV, you’ve knocked it out of the park again.


12:33 PM on January 18th, 2011 | 

Posted by kira

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