MTV’s American version of the hit British show Skins premiered on Monday night, and it’s just what you’ve heard about, and seen in MTV’s promos: Teens drinking and drugging, staying out all night, fighting with their parents, trying to help a pal lose his virginity, going to z-z-z-z-z… oh, sorry — my head hit the keyboard while I was typing phrases familiar to describe so many “daring” teen shows.
The MTV premiere was a near-total copy of the British first-season debut episode, with different character names and, of course, an American cast.
We had Stanley, desperate to lose his virginity; Tony, smarting off on his smart-phone about hook-ups, drug deals, and parties; Eura, Tony’s sister, meant to seem pretty even with her face smudged with day-old make-up after a night out; Cadie, who said things like, “Later we’ll get bumping at the party with a pile of drugs, and Stanley, I only like great narcotics, understand?” Understood. Oooh, how cool.
What disengaged me from the new Skins was that everyone looked so attractive and alert (even when the characters are supposed to be messy and wasted), so ready with a perfectly timed quip (even the characters who were supposed to be dim), that I didn’t suspend my disbelief for a minute. This was not the case with the far more engaging British version, which, like much British TV, isn’t afraid to cast actors who aren’t ripped and lovely, and whose characters are permitted to mumble and be irritating, if that’s what’s called for. It’s called dramatic verisimilitude:
The big question for MTV is whether or not the channel has so successfully altered its viewers’ tastes to such a degree that a scripted show like Skins cannot compete with the ratings-busting “reality” of Jersey Shore.
The other problem for Skins is tucked into its own press release for the show, in which MTV describes its production as “funny, rude, shameless, lewd.” Well, rudeness is all over the air — take last night’s Ricky Gervais/Golden Globes performance as the most current example. “Shameless”? Say, isn’t that the title of the new Showtime series, also a British adaptation, about a dysfunctional family filled with troubled teens?
See what I mean? This Skins is going to have a hard time distinguishing its ground-breaking rude-lewd-shamelessness from all the other rude-lewd-shameless shows on TV right now. Skins may need a guest appearance by Snooki to add a little authentic crassness to the proceedings.
You know what would be truly revolutionary? A series about a family with two parents and a bunch of kids who liked each other, and who spent their time confronting rudeness and laughing in its tired old face.
Did you watch Skins? Did you like it?