'Skins' review: You can't keep a good kid down, but he did try duct tape...

We reached the third episode of Skins on Monday night, the one The New York Times highlighted as the hour that demonstrates just how much MTV has miscalculated the degree of controversy the network can court without losing both advertisers and viewers.

The central plot line this week was — well, there’s no way around this: It was a tale of Chris’ penis. His aroused member consistently entered the room before he did, the result of him having “dropped a couple” of Viagra-like pills… and this was before he discovered that his neglectful mom had left him home alone for the weekend with an envelope containing $1,000 in cash and the cheery note, “Be gone for a few days, be good!”

Of course, this being Skins, Chris took the money and used it to be “bad” — to throw a big, messy party, at which his under-age friends got loaded, vomited, and shagged a lot, not necessarily in that order. In between bouts of tiresome decadence, Skins tried to winch up some sympathy for Chris. At one point, he drinks a cup of milk and gets a perfect milk moustache on his upper lip; it’s a visual cue for us to think of him as a vulnerable child, one who should be consuming milk ‘n’ cookies, not erectile dysfunction pills and (in a later scene) an “Estronet: Oral Contraception” pill. Awww, poor child…

Our hearts were also meant to go out to Chris when he began talking about his brother Peter — a brother about whom none of his Skins chums have ever heard. As soon as Chris ran into a graveyard, you kinda knew what was going to happen: he’d visit a headstone upon which was carved the name “Peter.”

Even if it weren’t being shown on MTV, home of skillfully made reality shows about adolescent life such as Teen Mom and skillfully made cartoon reality shows such as Jersey Shore, Skins would come off mawkish and unbelievable on its own terms as scripted drama. I didn’t believe for a second that a naked Chris, locked out of his house, would run down the middle of his suburban street (it’s been established that Chris is far too self-conscious a character to do that sort of thing; he’d be more likely to skulk from shrub to tree until someone handed him a towel), or that the first place he’d go to would be school and the teacher he has a crush on. Which only extended the ludicrousness: The comely teacher apparently welcomed him into her classroom, handed him a blanket, and, by the end of the episode, let him sleep at her house, even though, as she says, “I could lose my job over this.” No kiddin’.

It’s no wonder the viewership for Skins dropped steeply — more than 50 percent — between the first and second episodes. MTV’s hype for a disappointing product can only turn off consumers. Unless there’s a surge in watchers for this week’s episode, it’s beginning to look as though the young people who’ve sampled Skins are a lot smarter than the young characters on Skins.

Twitter: @kentucker

For more: ‘Skins’ ratings drop sharply for second episode: What’s to blame?

Comments (114 total) Add your comment
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  • sambroucek

    the funny thing about this is I didn’t even know that a third episode had came out yet….guess that shows how much I liked the show in the first place lol

  • Maryg

    At what point is this version supposed to brachial away from the original? Episode three was definitely an inferior remake of the original series.

    • Maryg

      Apple autofill fun! I meant branch, not brachial.

      • tony

        I Agree, Chris ‘s episode was my least fav on the UK version But it wasn’t inferior either. It was a EXACT mimic of the UK one. Him falling down the stair, walking naked in the suburbs, even the lines were the same and I saw the British episode once.

      • Tim

        Let’s just give up on Skins US. I watched about a minute of it, and this Chris can’t hold UK Chris’ artificially enhanced jock. The UK Skins was brilliant because it felt real. This feels forced as all hell and untranslated from Bristol. I half expect them to say how safe everything is and how fit Tony is.

      • Renard

        And yet “brachial” sounds quite spiffy and smart. That will be my new favorite word.

    • Mike

      Episode three of the British version was probably my 2nd, or least favorite episode. I’m surprised they copied this episode at all.

      • MCS

        I agree. Worst episode of the UK series. Why copy it?

      • ally

        i loved chris’ episode! he was my favorite character in series 1 & 2

      • soz

        I actually liked it. Poor Chris.

      • JBD

        Anyone watch the new UK skins (series 5)? The third generation is actually fantastic. I’m just happy that the UK series is still airing.

      • Monica

        I don’t think we’ve gotten to that season in the US yet? (Or maybe I just missed it on BBC America). The last season I remember, I think, was the first season of the second generation (with Effie and friends). The season that included someone getting based in the head in the woods.

  • H. Smith

    Sir, I believe your review is the product of the media hype and proves how disconnected you are from this generation. I am the mother of a 15 yo and I watched this show today and so nothing terribly wrong with it or anything that ABC or NBC hasn’t shown in prime time either. Contrary to your statement, I believe the central plot line was clearly child abandonment and neglect. True the show is not the perfect of a moral lesson, but it is definitely not as terrible as your review makes it seem.

    • Dean

      Most of the people that watch will probably never read these reviews.

      • Dannysw

        most of the people who watch this show dont read period.

      • JBD

        H. Smith, I completely agree with you. I felt like Ken totally missed the mark. This episode was not really about “Chris’ penis,” and I’m surprised that Mr. Tucker couldn’t read subtext. I think that he’s great reviewing other shows, but his hate for skins is coming across in these reviews.

    • SLB

      This show is disgusting.

      • skinthis

        so disgusting it’s awesome

      • @@jared

        You think it’s awesome because it’s disgusting. It’s not.

      • Tony

        what and Jersey Shore is a Family Show??

    • DJ

      I would have to think someone somewhere is missing the big picture on raising a child to maturity as we see some havent made it there as parents as of yet. The show is a script and has nothing to do with real life or real values thats why it is on tv. my 16 year old son said jokingly about a 45 year old producer perv making kids his tv victims, it does make you wonder what the real intent of this is.

    • miss k

      No really, I’m 19 and I think this show sucks. It’s not even the “raciness” or whatever that’s bad. It’s just…bad.

    • KJF (So, it’s the new year until it isn’t ?)

      Yeah, that’s true. I usually think those who criticize Ken Tucker just for the sake of it are just being trolls but this time, the review is really bad. Come on, the boner part didn’t even last half the episode – you were probably the only viewer who only focused on this trivial detail rather than on the fact that the whole episode was about Chris’ mother abandoning him and his father refusing to even see him. Not talking about it just makes this review pointless and stupid.

  • FYI

    If you let your kids watch this you suck as a parent.

    • Munx

      Anyone who writes (or says) ‘FYI’ sucks as an individual.

    • H. Smith

      I am guessing this was directed at me. My parental skills are not the issue here, the issue here is that the importance of a show like Skins is that it highlights the truth of teenagers today. Obviously, the show highlights the parental void that exists in the lives of many teenagers today in US and everywhere else, yet the reviewer didn’t seem to notice this or is so jaded that his review was probably already done after the first 10 min of the show aired. Whether you like to see it in a show or not doesn’t mean it is not happening. Will it ruffle some feathers if they decide to embark on a teen prostitution storyline? Probably. It doesn’t mean that it is not happening here in the US-CNN just did a show on it and it is heartbreaking. Kids definitely have it rough and turning a blind eye to the issues they face whether directly or through someone they know does no one good. Have you watched the show (US or UK), FYI?

      • Ana P.

        I understand your argument. However, I must say that if you are so adamant about supporting a show that “highlights the truth of teenagers today” and “highlights the parental void that exists in the lives of many teenagers today in US and everywhere else”, then by all means do. However, your time would be better served (if this is your purpose) by watching the original british series, which does the EXACT SAME THINGS you are commenting on, but with actual credible writing and acting. As an adolescent, I identified more with that version of the show, and it does portray the things that you admire from MTV’s version in a more skillful, credible way.
        I think this what Ken Tucker is trying to say is that the show is not well-made, not only considering its predecessor but considering average TV standards, and because of that the message does not resonate well.
        But hey, we are all entitled to our opinions, right?

      • Captain Obvious

        Well, then when do we start to question the brilliant parenting in this country? Or is this just “kids bein’ kids”?

        Yeah it happens – and crap like this makes it all seem OK to be happening.

      • Jared

        If this show is your teenagers’ “truth” than i worry a lot for your kids.

      • H. Smith

        Ana P. – Of course I respect your opinion because it is based on what a review is based upon, acting, writing, directing; especially with a show that has aired in the US before through BBC America. I may disagree, but I understand your argument.
        Jared – Thank you for your concern but my kids are great. Guess what, had my baby girl when I was 20, made it to and graduated from UPenn Law School on my own merits and sacrifice, have around 5 tattoos including a half-arm sleeve. Truth is I was a handful, a wild child then and an amazing mother and wife today. If you think a TV show will entice kids to drugs and alcohol you are dead wrong but parents that live in a bubble or with blindfolds will certainly do the trick.

    • Debbie

      High school student with a 4.2 GPA, two state golf championships, and the ability to play both the oboe and the bassoon. I also watch this show. How do my parents suck, exacty?

      • Debbie


      • Kevin

        I think they suck at teaching you that little thing called humility.

      • saywhat

        Read too quickly and thought she wrote “ability to play with the obese”

      • ew

        4.2GPA? I thought GPA was a 4 point max scale. What is this Spinal Tap…my grades go to eleven.

      • ani

        If I had a 4.2 in high school, my parents would have disowned me. I wouldn’t brag about that one, little girl.

      • Bec

        @ani, your parents would have disowned you? What kind of parents do you have? Believe me, everyone who doesn’t have a 4.0 or higher wishes they did. (especially when it comes to applying for college)

      • miss k

        Congratulations. But you have poor taste in television.

      • asher

        Debbie – Rattling off a grocery list of accomplishments you’ve achieved does not mean you have good parents. Your parents may be good parents, I just don’t think the reasons you gave support your argument. Good parents teach their kids to love and respect themselves and others, regardless of their GPAs and after-school accomplishments.

      • Aly

        Some schools have weighted GPASs, which sucks when you transfer to one from a school that didn’t. The real kicker for me was the school I switched to was actually behind the one I attended, so not only did students have a higher GPA than me because of it being weighted, but they earned it through lesser course work. So lame.

      • Aly

        Also, I think the weighting was to make an A in honor courses count more than an A in a regular course. It sounds like an okay idea on practice, but when it’s not universal, it handicaps people who aced honors classes in schools that didn’t weight their GPA (if the new school doesn’t retroactively weight it.)

  • Will

    I’m a 20-year-old male, and when the original series was in it’s run, I was in high school, and so I think this show is supposed to appeal to my age group and younger, and I think it’s pretty much trash. It’s trying to make these kids seem sophisticated and mature because of all the “adult” things they do, but these are the kind of characters that if I were to see them in real life, I would take a deep sigh, and think to myself “what has this world come to”.

  • Amanda

    Shouldn’t someone who can relate a little more to the stories be reviewing the show? Just sayin’

    • Kat

      Ken Tucker’s ability to relate to teenage melodrama doesn’t have any effect on his ability to review things like character inconsistency and predictable plot “twists.”

      • Jack

        Well, it kind of does when he completely misses the point that Skins is *meant* to be farce in places – it’s deliberately over the top. Being all po-faced about the whole thing, as Ken is, is ludicrous.

    • Scotty J

      If you’re a child or adult and you relate to this show you have serious problems

      • Shanice

        Everyone who watches this show (I’m a fan of UK one not the US crap) knows that it is over the top. The thing kids love about the show is the truth in the exaggerations. Every teeneage has dealt with feeling like their parents or adults don’t understand them. A lot of teenagers drink just to experiment if they didn’t then entire genre if teen films would be obsolete. A lot of teenagers hve dealt with the separation of parents or the pressures of being accepted at school or with friends some of us have eating disorders. Some of us are gay. These are the issues that show addresses by having each character personify each of the problems in their episode. Yes it is over the top the audience and the actors know that this is more for entertainments sake but there are a lot of issues that everyone can relate to in this show.

      • Shanice

        Please excuse my typos. I’m not used to typing on an iPhone.

      • Sarahlynne

        I’m 16 and I even agree with you. Whoever relates to this shoe are crackheads and whores

    • SLB

      There is nothing “real” about this show.

    • Aly

      That’s why only sea creatures should review Sponge Bob. I mean, what do we know? We live on land.

  • ChristopherH

    I’ll say it again …

    If you want to watch Skins, rent the original British version. Trying to translate this to American teen/youth culture is like trying to make fish fly.

    Like … how many Americans even know what “shag” means?

    • Olive

      Or you can watch both since the same people are responsible for both series.

    • Munx

      Plus… without subtitles it might as well be in Spanish.

      • Shanice

        Are you serious? The English accent is not that hard to decipher. This is an ignorant comment. If you refuse to watch things because they challenge you to think in a way or experience something you’re not used to then you are missing out on a lot if wonderful things.

    • jj

      Thanks to Mike Myers, more Americans than you think.
      As far as UK to USA transfers, Coupling, Life on Mars and even Dr. Who were all ruined by trying to copy the UK versions.

      • Debbie

        Whoa, wait? Doctor Who was copied?I know Torchwood is on Starz now, but have I been living under a rock because I never heard about that.

      • jj

        Yeah, in the 70’s. Jon Hexum? It was called Voyagers and on NBC Sundays at 7pm.

  • Michael

    It’s sitting on my DVR, so I’m withholding judgment on the episode and this review. But if the complaint is that Chris wouldn’t have had a party or walk down the street nekkid then you would have to have that complaint about the original. It was just as ludachristmas then. I thought the reviewer saw the original show. If so, then of course he would know that he was going to end up at the grave.

    • Jack

      But that’s the point. Ken is totally missing the point of the show. It’s not a straight drama. A lot of the scenes are intentionally ludicrous for comedic or dramatic effect. That was true in the UK series, and it’s true in this (inferior, but not dreadful) MTV remake. Ken is reviewing the show as something it isn’t, which is a pretty major fail for a reviewer.

      • Ana P.

        But I get what he’s saying. In the UK version you DO feel sympathy for him when he loses everything and ends up in the grave. In this one, you just don’t.

  • Kevin

    Mr. Tucker, with all due respect, I think you’re completely misinterpreting this show.

    You’ve made several claims that the original British series is superior (and from technical and acting standpoints, it is), but I really don’t understand how you can receive a completely different message from a nearly line-for-line repeat of the British original. Chris’s episode isn’t meant to be a morality play, and he isn’t using the money to be “bad.” He’s using the money how most teenagers would use it, if they didn’t know the full weight of their circumstances. It’s an episode about a lost kid, who has been abandoned by a terrible mother and faced with an unthinkable problem that he is far too young to deal with.

    How can you get that from the British Skins and not this, considering they produced by the same writers and nearly identical? I think you’re showing a pretty unfounded bias.

    • Aly

      England and the US AREN’T the same. We’re similar and teens have similar issues but it’s those subtle cultural

      • Aly

        that make a nearly line for line remake falter.

  • Lauren

    This was a shoddy made episode, but then again, the whole series has been a shoddy, incomparable version of the much better British Skins. It sucks that there are two different Skins. There should be only one, and this one ain’t it.

  • Danny

    season 5 of the British version of Skins just premiered in the UK, i downloaded an episode online and it just proves why the british version is sooo good. It’s subtle which is something American television can never be. Even when its vulgar, it makes sense and seems real rather than this trash. I dare you to watch the first episode of season 5 with the new cast and tell me it isn’t better than the US version.

  • Jillian

    Viewership has probably declined because fans of the UK version have quickly discovered that this version isn’t worth the time it took to create it.

    • Shanice

      Exactly, I spent my summer complaining about this remake, watched the premiere, was bored to death, scoffed at the acting and annoying changes, and promptly forgot to watch any episode since. Not out of spite but I really found this to be forgettable.

  • Munx

    People are so oblivious.

    This show will eventually pick up and be better than the original. Never underestimate the power of American television and attractive teenagers.

    • Jack

      Hahahahahaha – no. UK Skins will always be the best.
      But this remake is not nearly as bad as some people are making out.

  • maxine

    Skins should be celebrated for it’s ethos but also take some responsibility for the effects of the story lines on it’s chosen demographic. It’s hard one to call in a democracy but I think the makers of Skins may want to avoid the shock tactics or they may get a shock sadly

  • andrew

    Why are they remaking this at all? It seems that they are just recopying exact plot points from the original, which is easily available here in the US. It doesn’t seem all the American-ized or otherwise reinvented. Just rent the original on netflix.

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