I first heard of Skins when every entertainment news site on the internet started reporting on the controversy concerning MTV airing the American remake. Because I was curious I checked it out and found the first episode interesting enough to keep watching a few more, but in the end I stopped because I felt no connection to the characters and didn’t like their portrayals. However, I kept reading comments that the original UK version was great, and figured I would try to see how different it was. I usually try to watch the original first anyway, so it was a no brainer. I watched the first episode, and as would be expected it followed the plot of the American pilot very closely, only with a few different characters. Because of this it took a while for me to really get into the UK version, but when I did I loved it.
I just finished Skins series 1 and 2 yesterday and I love it. This show completely changes its cast every two series, and with a few exceptions the entire cast from series 1 and 2 left at the end of series 2. I haven’t watched more of Skins yet so I don’t know how well it works, but I will say that the way they ended series 2 worked really well, and it was a really natural conclusion to the generation, even though it was really sad. Now that I have gone on too long about how I started watching it, I will try to explain why this show is worth checking out.
First of all, it’s a British show. Speaking for myself I will say that my list of shows I watch consists predominately of US produced shows. Therefore, it is refreshing to watch something so different and in a lot of ways a lot more close to home for someone who grew up in Europe. The characters and plots feel very close real life. Of course there are traces of the heightened reality you need in TV to keep it interesting to watch, but all in all I don’t think there have been many storylines that are too unrealistic. I’m sure everyone knows or knows of at least one person who could fit into this group of friends.
Another thing I like, surprisingly, is that they have cast mostly unknowns as far as I can tell, and the cast is generally very young. First of all, the fresh cast make the characters more real because I did not have any preconceived notions of how they were before Skins. Secondly, when they cast actors who are not a lot older than the parts they play the viewer doesn’t need to suspend disbelief as much as in some US shows were the 17-year-old is played by someone who is 30.
The last thing I want to point out that makes this show stand out is the use of character centric episodes. Nearly every character in the group of friends gets one episode each series. In their episode, an issue or situation they are struggling with is put in the foreground, but we get to see character development from everyone else too if it is needed at that point in the series. This is a neat way of making sure that you let every character get their story told even though it is a big ensemble cast, and it’s also a way to tell the larger story arcs without making the viewer bored with it after two episodes because of too much screen time. Additionally, the stories don’t always go where you would expect them to. That’s not to say that it’s never predictable, just that they take risks with their characters and it’s refreshing to see things take turns like they would in real life.
The story follows Tony, Michelle, Sid, Chris, Jal, Amwar, Maxxie, Cassie, Sketch and Effie as they attend college. My favourite characters are Cassie and Chris. Cassie is just such a lovely and layered character and the conclusion to her storyline in series 2 was amazing but heart-breaking. Chris’ story is a joy to watch, and it’s a perfect mix of depressing and hilarious, which I think really reflects the tone of the show as a whole. It took some time, but I think that by the end of the first generation I loved every character in different ways. There’s something to every one of them, even if it takes some time to find out what that something is.
To conclude I recommend that you check this out if you like good story telling, somewhat realistic characters and fun. It might not be something to watch for people who are easily offended by swearing, nudity and drug use, but that’s just about the only reason I could think of to not check it out. And if your excuse is that you don’t understand what they’re saying: get subtitles.