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The International Writers Magazine - Our Tenth Year: TV

SKINS- Season Two
Producer Brian Elsey
Channel 4 - UK

Ruby C Harrison

Maybe I should be the first to say it. Put it out there and stop waiting for one more episode like an abandoned first date still filled with a puny and unfounded bit of hope that things will go well. So here we go; the new skins is utter crap. Everything about it. And after watching the early episodes holding off from judgement I can wait no longer.

For starters, I can not quite believe that of the thousands of young hopefuls who auditioned for the new roles, the kids I see monotonously mouthing their lines were the best of the lot. I get the feeling producer Brian Elsley and son Jamie Brittan who openly admitted that scrapping the whole cast was risky, are now dressing these teenagers up all pretty like a butcher might, with a piece of meat that’s just not as fresh as yesterday. Even the miserable cast know it’s true poor sods.

Mind you, they probably had to get rid of the first cast, given that in the second series the individual characters had got so fucked up and crazy there wasn’t really any more they could do except perhaps follow Gemma and Tar’s route and do some heroin.

Effie, Tony’s rebel without a cause sister, has thankfully been instated as the main character providing a vital link to the previous series and also lending an itsy bit of much needed depth to the programs premise. A bizarre and danger loving sex machine, Effie is, not to put too fine a point on it, a complete weirdo. Secretly however, after the first shameful episodes, I’ve realised Effie is just not as interesting as she tries to be.

Pandora, Effies best friend, is perhaps the only other mildly interesting character; an eclectic mix of goofed up naivety and vigour, proclaiming everything remotely good to be ‘wizard!’ with wide eyed stupidity and awe. Yet there is defiantly more than meets the eye.

The other characters range between mind numbingly dull, or utterly vile examples of the human race. Take Cook for example, with whom Effie sleeps with in the first episode. On a nurse’s examining couch. Classy girl. Cook is a bizarre hash of the previous series characters Chris and Tony. The self proclaimed dare-devil of the group, the little shite is brash and unamusing, with an addict’s voracious appetite for anything sordid, illegal, or penis related. Horribly unappealing but I guess Effie must find the bug-eyed-from-coke-inebriate look appealing.

Cooks best friend, who is so inconsequential I’ve forgotten his name, appears to hate his guts with a passion. Not that you can blame him for that of course. I can only guess that what’s his name’s function is to fill in the Maxie character’s shoes; sexy, effeminate and brooding. Hot stuff. Unfortunately, he fails miserably, plodding along beside Cook like a wilted flower. Id say the most interesting thing about the insipid boy is guessing what strange tank top he’s gone for that episode to showcase those protein shake arm muscles.

As they fart around on set demonstrating perfectly their utter love for themselves and their new status’ as ‘actors,’ any respect I may have had for the producers daring to do something different has been ejected with an almost alarming force from my body. If you are having difficulty imagining this sudden loss of respect, picture a teenager projectile vomiting after eight shots of flaming sambuca and you’ve hit the nail on the head.

In trying to represent the spectrum of teenage life, this new series pigeon holes and stereotypes every teenager, where each of the characters is the extreme hyperbole of anyone I ever knew at secondary school.
Throughout the first series, neurotic parents across England went into cardiac arrest watching Skins, terrified their own little Lucinda was spending her ‘Girly sleepovers’ partaking heavily in mass orgies, spliff smoking and necking two litre plastic bottles of scrumpy jack.

This series, it’s reversed. If their lives are the true, gritty representation they’re supposed to be, I clearly didn’t live up my anarchistic adolescence enough. I thought I was rebellious! But watching Skins now makes me feel like the geeky kid staying in to do chemistry experiments at the weekend.

The first series perfectly showed the drama, dangers, joys and general hilariousnesss that is teenage life. There were moments of pure comedy genius; Anwar’s uncle djing at his eighteenth birthday for example, or Tony driving his dad, still played spectacularly by Harry Enfield, completely round the bend. Or, my favourite, Sid’s T-shirt that sang when you pressed a button.

The only moment I’ve had a hearty laugh this series was when Thomas, an African immigrant who speaks perfectly enunciated yet archaic English comes out with an absolute cracker. Threatened by a dangerously pikey gangster, Thomas succinctly tells the gang leader, ‘It’s possible that your father was a homosexual donkey.’ Poor quality of Skins aside, that’s the funniest insult I’ve heard in a long time.

In the first series there was poignancy too in Cassie’s triumph over her eating disorder, and in Tony and Michelle’s struggle through their first real relationship.

Now, I struggle to find anything within the cast to connect with. At the very strong risk of sounding like a grandma, life as a sixteen year old is just not as rock and roll as Skins is making out. And it doesn’t have to be utterly mental to be realistic. It also doesn’t have to be that shallow. But it is, and it’s a shame as there’s so much potential. Teenage TV programs should make its watchers proud to be the high, hormonal adolescents they are. Instead, it made me feel lke I’d grown old overnight. The last thing teenagers need is their life reduced to a poor quality pantomime.

Eventually, the idea of damning it with faint praise and insult began to appeal more than my original one of ripping the program to shreds with delectable, finger licking distain. In a way, it’s more insulting. Skins is as desperate to shock its watchers as the whiny teenagers it represents. Not that the morons in charge will have the intelligence to appreciate that. Hey, maybe they’ll even think this is a good review compared to the ones they will surely get. But I digress. The sad fact is that its ridiculous portrayal of young people is frankly insulting to their intelligence and so unbelievable it could never be respected by its discerning, judgemental viewers.

Now, after watching another episode of cringingly bad ‘real teenage life’ scenarios – such as Pandora scoffing about ten grams of coke – it suddenly clicked. Maybe in that graduation between nineteen and twenty I had lost my teenage cool overnight. Terrified that next I’d finding grey hairs and reluctant to admit this even to myself, I asked my adolescent brother what he thought of the new series. ‘Skins can suck my balls,’ he announced, with the kind of deadpan distain the cast could only dream of emulating. Crude perhaps, but in the teenage honed skill of condensing whole theories into four words or less, I’d say he was spot on. So there Skins; you can suck my (metaphorical) balls and all.

Once again, as the final credits rolled, I was left with the feeling of disappointment you get upon showing up all dressed up to a party only to find the bloke you wanted to get with hasn’t shown up or is copping off with your best mate. It’s a shitty feeling, and defiantly not one that a BAFTA nominated program should engender.

Straight after however, the inbetweeners came on. Firstly, may it be said that the teenagers who populate Skins live a life the inbetweeners wouldn’t even dare to even have wet dreams about. If you mentioned MDMA they’d likely think you were discussing chemistry coursework. But the inbetweeners can safe give Skins the two fingered salute, because the program kicks its ass. It is funny. So, so funny it woke me from the drug induced coma Skins had lured me into and made me laugh out loud.

© Ruby Ceriden Harrison Feb 19th 2009

Ruby is in the last stretch of her degree in Creative Writing at the University of Portsmouth.
Watch Skins for yourself here

Angus, Thongs and full-frontal snogging
Ruby Harrison

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