The American version of the popular British television show Skins comes across much like it’s UK brother; depicting a youth culture wrought with a double-dose of sex, drugs, rock ‘n’ roll and a naive spirit of invincibility that mixes the ingredients into a cocktail of intoxicating danger. But MTV’s take on the show thus far falls quite short of its British counterpart.
The premiere of Skins in most ways mirrors the plot of the source material’s first episode. We are introduced to Tony, a young man who thinks he owns the world and isn’t faced with much to prove him otherwise. He’s intelligent, handsome, quick-witted, sociable and, above all else, horny. He spends the first part of his morning spying on his neighbor as she changes her clothes, pissing off his father by intentionally locking him out of the bathroom and rallying his friends for a night of debauchery.
As he phones the rest of his friends on the way to school, we are introduced to the majority of the other cast members: Michelle, Tony’s girlfriend whom he affectionately calls “Nips;” Daisy, the mediating voice of reason; Tea, a lesbian cheer-leader; Abbud, a young Muslim rebelling against his parents’ traditionalism; Chris, a lovable pill-popping nihilist and Stanley, a hapless virgin and Tony’s best friend.
After the introductions, the goal of the night becomes clear: Stanley is a virgin, and this is a problem to be conquered. Tony finds a party for the gang after flirting with a rich bitch named Tabitha from the all-girls prep-school across the green and sends Stan off to meet his lady for the evening, Caddie, and score some pot.
The rest of the episode plays out like a more intense (and less funny) version of Superbad. Stan accidentally buys way too much weed on credit and must sell it off before the drug dealer comes to collect, the gang ends up causing a fist fight at the party and Caddie overdoses on pills. They rush her to the hospital in a stolen car, but Caddie wakes up just as they arrive.
The night is deemed a failure seeing as how Stan didn’t end up getting laid, and it seems like the only thing to do is smoke a spliff, but the pocket-search for skins (or rolling papers), the show’s namesake, causes the stolen car to roll into a lake. Everyone makes it out okay, but it seems as if the drugs are lost. “Well I reckon that could’ve gone a lot worse,” Tony says after popping up from under the water.
Although the plot of American debut is practically a carbon copy of the original, it just doesn’t quite hold up. The acting is flat and boring, the pacing doesn’t flow right and the characters don’t seem quite as believable despite the fact that almost everything from the dialogue and camera angles to the overall look of the show has been borrowed from the original.
One of the biggest changes is with Caddie, the damaged young girl who is supposed to make Stan into a man—she’s nothing like her UK parallel, Cassie, aside from being damaged. Caddie is sullen, brooding and morose, whereas Cassie was wide-eyed, bubbly and spacey, spouting catchphrases like “Wow!” and “Lovely!” The American version takes everything wonderful about the original character and leaving behind a hurt little girl filled with nothing but sadness. This may prove interesting later on, but for now it’s hard to see.
The other notable change is with the character Tea, whose British equal was a tap-dancing young man named Maxxie. While we don’t get to see much of Tea in the first episode, one of the few things we do learn about her is that she’s a lesbian. As openly-gay characters gain more prominence in film and television, we can expect conflicts we haven’t seen a million times.
Despite its rough start, there’s still reason to hope for Skins. Though the premiere was just a sub-par retelling of the British pilot, the plot will deviate as it grows.