'Skins' premiere review: Does this MTV show need... a Snooki?

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?

Twitter: @kentucker

Comments (167 total) Add your comment
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  • devomblr.tumblr.com

    I’m right with you on this one Kenneth. The UK version was/is far superior compared to what I’ve seen so far.

    • Dippidy doo

      its a lame show, Big Time Rush on Nick is a far better show and 10 x funnier

      • lefty

        stop. just stop.

      • SLB

        That’s a pretty sad statement.

      • psss09

        that makes you soulnd stupid. Skins is an amazing show

    • Tim

      The UK version seems far superior currently. I’m a huge UK skins fan, but I’m willing to give the MTV take a few episodes to find its voice, since the pilot was just a blatant remake of the first episode, and the rest supposedly won’t be.

      • Tim

        btw KT, the UK cast was far more attractive. Both Michelles look identical, Nick Hoult is much better looking than fake Tony, Cassie was much prettier in a girl next door way than Cadie (and can act too). Even Dev Patel landed a smokeshow like Freida Pinto.

      • lefty

        See, I thought the American cast was must better looking…especially Tony and Michelle. The one that really threw me off was Kadie (and Dev). Cassie was soooo much better than this Kadie character/actress is every.single.way.

      • JBD

        I’m also willing to give the MTV one a chance. Watching the first episode made me realize how much I loved series 1 of the original Skins and in tern made me want to rewatch the British version again. Also, I agree that the only cuter person in the US version is Stanly (who plays Sid’s old character). The rest don’t match up to the original cast in beauty.

      • JBD

        And is any one else upset that Maxxie is now a lesbian girl? Maxxie was one of my favorite characters. He was a huge backbone of the show. But I guess it’s good that they’re trying to be different than the original. But I wish if they were trying, they went with all new characters instead of copying the British version.

      • Katie

        I don’t see how the rest of the series can be so different. Every line they said in the promos were exact lines from the British version, and not just the first episode. I didn’t watch the American version (yet), but I doubt they could change the show that much and still keep the big lines they showed in the commercials (i.e. Where’s your mom, Chris?–that’s a pretty huge storyline). I have a feeling they’ll make changes that will diminish how real the show feels. I believe these kids (at least in the UK version), but I’m not about to believe the kind of stuff that happens on Gossip Girl. I’m worried this will become that type of show.

    • The problem…

      Is that MTV underestimated how many Americans are already familiar with Skins, and would inevitably make comparisons with the (far superior) original. And copying the show literally WORD FOR WORD (with bad actors) doesn’t do them any favors.

      • Gilly Hopkins

        Actually the problem is that they attached to every American sterotype. The crazy black chick, the asian chick who plays the violin, the wierd Indian kid..
        And Why did they make Maxxie a girl? Maxxie being a guy was very important to the story and his relationship to Anwar!!
        I watched this ep on mute and I knew exactly what was going on.
        He mTV version gets a BOOOOOOOOOOO from me..

      • Adrienne

        I completely agree, they underestimated how many Americans would be familiar with Skins and ultimately compare it. You’re exactly right, they did it words for word with bad actors, and it’s terrible. They tried to make Cadie like Cassie, but she has none, NONE of the magic that Cassie did. And I agree with Gilly, Maxxie being a guy was very important to the story, I thought, especially due to his relationship with Anwar. I think this is just playing into the fact that they thought Americans would feel more comfortable with a lesbian.

        The whole thing was just terribly acted, and it ruined it for me. I had to turn it off and go watch the British version to get the bad taste out of my mouth. It was like watching Shakespeare done by Keanu Reeves.

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    • E.B. Berman

      I didn’t love this opener, but I didn’t love the UK opener either and for a lot of the same reasons (mostly stuff already mentioned.) It’s always taken a while for this series to get to the substance beneath its naughty hipster posturing. I’d like to think this iteration will find its feet the same as the others did.

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  • ImStillToni

    Watched it, was disappointed but not surprised. Don’t know why Brittain & Elsley allowed MTV to dumb down their brilliant show. They need to just focus on the movie and spare us the US adaptation. If you have NetFlix, do yourself a favor and just watch the UK version instead.

    • elc

      You do realize that Brittain and Elsley wrote the US version too right?

      • Maggie

        they didnt say anything about writing it, they asked why they let mtv dumb down the show….. which is so true.

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  • red

    British version much better!!! I kept comparing the old cast to the new especially when the sociology teacher showed up. My friends and I complained the whole time about it but ultimately will still dvr it… just to see what crazy shit they do to this cast

    • Carlos

      I don’t quite know what to make of it yet. @Biz added an addendum to it saniyg more changes are coming that will make things better, maybe this is just the first of it. Maybe they’re adding threaded @replies or something. I don’t know. I can’t quite get my head around what the fuss is yet but I’m sure the fuss is justified I’m just not quite understanding how I’m affected yet.

  • Ruben

    So disappointing! I really did have high hopes but it doesn’t feel American enough, if that makes any sense. It was almost translated verbatim and I just don’t think American teens talk like that.

    • Elaine

      I know exactly what you mean when you say it wasn’t “American enough”! They wanted to show us that they weren’t veering away from the original, but they did it a little too much. I swear if I had known nothing about this show, and just stumbled upon it by surfing channels, I would definitely assume it was an import from Canada or something.

      • Jo Jo

        Your are correct about it being imported from Canada. It is a Canadian production through The Movie Network in Canada. It is shot in Toronto with a lot of the cast being Canadian.

        Canadian teens do talk like that because they are more intelligent than Americans.

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    • AliciaJo

      I so agree! As soon as Tony said ‘spiff’ for weed I knew the show was in trouble. I feel in love with the original while living in England but all my friends in America can’t watch the original cause of it’s language. This ‘American’ version didn’t even change most of the slang.

      I also agree that the cast isn’t as good. I love Sid but this Stanley doesn’t have the innocent charm that Sid had.

      • TCinNJ

        Why can’t your friends in America watch the British version? There is some different slang, but I followed it and loved it.

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    • ash.

      Yes that makes perfect sense because while I was watching the series thee other night that was my exact sentiment. I was constantly viewing the show as though I was an analyst on all things American culture or a sociologist. Trust me I’m not an arrogant American I’m just making a passing judgment on the show that if it wants to claim that its from an “American Point of View” at least represent American culture and society correctly.

  • Reno

    I can’t believe how bad it is compared to the UK version. Even though it basically took the entire pilot verbatim, it just didn’t seem to have the same something the UK version had. They should just give up now!

  • Chad

    Are you kidding me this is a freaking carbon copy of the english verizon! Let me guess at the end of the season Tony is gonna get hit by a bus.

    • Alonna

      I know what you mean I was like wtf?? Same story, scene characters and everything!

      • Ally

        i know! not an ounce of originality and what they did change just irritated me, i mean maxxie’s a girl now? and the new cassie just isnt what the old cassie was at all

  • taytum

    tried to watch it, but it couldn’t keep my attention. shit acting combined with a storyline i already know the ending to, and add to that the lack of originality in the adaptation- (‘spliff’ isn’t american slang- they couldn’t come up w/ something else?)— i knew the adaptation couldn’t surpass the greatness of the original, but did it have to SUCK THIS BAD?? evidently, it did.

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  • Scotty J

    MTV needs a Gossip Girl like show so they try to to be “edgy” but its just tired.

  • J

    Why do we need another “daring” teen show? As someone who just left the teen years, let me say, not every teen is a crazy partier full of “life is so fake, my parents are so clueless, sigh blah sigh blah etc.” How about a real show that real teens can relate to instead of glamorizing, exaggerated behavior and then claiming to accurately reprensent teenagers? And @ImStill Toni, that need for an American version is another necessary question as the British versions are generally superior. What, do teens not have netflix?

    • Lovelove

      Loving this. Even as the popular girl things aren’t really like this as a teen. It’s almost like their marketing that this is what teens SHOULD be like and it’s not a good look. Maybe something more realistic would capture the audience their searching for.

  • James

    Wasnt nearly edgy enough. The british version showed that lady in the window full frontal but MTV wouldnt even show some ass. They even had to removed the nude figures on Tony’s bed sheets and replace them with spiders lol. I thought they were going to push the boundaries as much as they could on basic cable.

  • Sonia F.

    DISAPPOINTED! But no big surprise. Stanley/Sid=No comparison. Tony/Tony=He’s trying WAY too hard to have the chemistry that the original U.K. Tony had, same think w/Chris. Katie/Cassie=her f***ed up crazy personality just didn’t make it to the U.S. character. I could go on and on but bottom line is that it just didn’t work and doesn’t compare to the U.K. version. Do yourselves a favor and catch the U.K. version on BBC/Youtube/or Netflix. Don’t waste your time with the MTV rip off.

    • Tim

      Best MTV approximations: Jal, Anwar, Chris (at least he looked like he was having fun), Michelle (since she doesn’t offer much anyways).
      Worst: The lesbian Maxxie, Stanley, Cadie are all awful people.
      Incomplete: Tony. He’ll never be Nick Hoult, but he might be able to salvage something.

      • lefty

        Seriously…i kept thinking to myself “who is this cheerleader??” and at the end of the episode I screamed “Maxxie!” …never will she ever match up to him.

  • etm

    I can’t even get through the previews for this show. It looks horrible.

    • Steph

      I know! I thought I might be able to watch it but there doesn’t seem to be a point. Saw the UK version, and from what everyone is saying, I haven’t missed much.

  • damian

    I passed based on the trailer and the cast photo that indicated there was no Maxxie. Is that true? Granted, he had the least of the edgy stories but I liked his friendship with Anwar.

    • Chris

      They replaced Maxxie with some girl named “Tea”. Sad that they chose probably the edgiest character to screw up. Maxxie had some great storylines in the British version with Tony, Anwar and Sketch, sux that we wont be seeing that. Oh well

      • MCS

        Maxxie was one of the strongest characters in the UK version. Bad move replacing him.

      • damian

        I totally forgot about Tony and Maxxies little thing and their eventual deep connection after Tony’s accident. I never thought Maxxie was edgy though. There is no way in real life a good looking gay kid like that would go that horribly bar he went to..lol. The Sketch story was pretty great too.

  • Chris

    I just finished watching the British version of Skins on Netflix and it was actually an amazing show. The new American version is not even close to being as good even though its almost and exact translation. The characters seemed dull and not good enough actors. There was just something missing, I think it did seemed to toned down or maybe Nicholas Hoult as the lead actor is what was missing. He was completely believable as Tony and made the show work. I can only hope the new Skins gets better cause if not, it wont last long.

    • Caio

      Although the american Tony IS really cute and sexy as hell, he’s an awful actor. One of the worst of the group, after Cassie. That made the episode painful for me a couple of times

      • @Caio

        Please get some standards – you think that guy is “cute and sexy as hell”? Damn, get out more often please.

      • Caio

        I do get out of the house, thank you, and have some fairly high standards. Maybe I exagerated a little bit, but he did have some unconventional beauty, like the original tony. I really liked him.

        But, like I said, his lack of acting chops ruin it, making it unbeliveable everyone would fall for him.

        As I see it, Nicholas Hoult doesn’t have the looks ( at least not for me ), but just has something about him that make him really sexy. The american Tony is the exact opposite.

      • Loiis

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  • Jason

    Lmao, I like James’ way of saying it! VIVA LA DE-CENSORSHIP!!! If I were MTV I woulda had 50 naked people falling over eachother JUST to get more viewers than slowly taking off naked people…

    • Lovelove

      50 naked teens? No thanks! I’ll still pass. Sure everyone that’s not a perv would too

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