Column: MTV can’t beat original “Skins”

Thom Carter | Staff Writer

The original “Skins” was a bold teenage drama that spun the typical formula on its head with a barrage of alcohol-fueled parties, recreational drug use and casual sex. The actors portrayed were all age-appropriate and mostly inexperienced, while the writers of each episode were teens themselves. The series, initially criticized for its over-the-top scenarios, became a favorite among critics thanks to the subject matter that became increasingly emotional as characters developed and became more human, displaying the detrimental effects of such a radical lifestyle.

When it was announced that MTV was to helm a spin-off, I was outraged that “Skins,” a show rooted in English culture, was likely going to be Americanized. “The Office,” now in its seventh season, underwent a similar process when it was tailored to American audiences, and it was met with enormous success. Unfortunately, MTV has decided to completely ignore this formula, as illustrated thus far in the first several episodes. Since the station has recycled everything from the characters and plots to a scene-for-scene remake of the pilot, this U.S. version doesn’t live up to an original that excelled in much of what MTV’s series is failing in. Most notably is the acting. What the British series did so well was it cast a group of teens that were believable and well-rounded. Each performer, most of whom were first-time actors, played their parts with brutal honesty that often resulted in either hilarious or deeply emotional consequences that came from their often careless lifestyles. Instead of making an entirely new show, the American series doesn’t give their inexperienced cast a chance. Each is pressured to live up to the already-established roles given to them, and their performances are, as of now, pale in comparison to that of the original, now in its fifth series.

If you haven’t seen the show that’s currently airing on MTV, you’ve more than likely heard about the controversy concerning the subject matter of the show. Groups like the Parent Television Council have gone as far to say that the show, in its effect on teens, will “warp their perceptions of life,” or perhaps “encourage negative behavior that youngsters may one day regret.” All that is fine and dandy, but without a decent show to fall back on, all this worry is simply white noise that will hastily recede as the reviews come pouring in. If you want a show that contains the same provocative subjects that you may actually have the capacity to connect to simultaneously, watch the original. It’s brilliant, and highlights the very best of teenage drama, a genre that is sorely lacking.