In spite of much controversy revolving buzz words like “child pornography”, “drug propaganda” and “offensive expletives”, SKINS has finally made its way across the pond and into MTV’s anticipatory lap… much to my chagrin. “Skins” is based in the UK and has made its way through four amazingly successful seasons on Channel 4, tracking the lives of a close-knit group of friends in their mid-to-later teens who barely attend class, take every drug under the sun and truly corporealize the concept of “screwing like bunnies”. Basically, living their Id’s (note: I’m talking Freud, not driving permit here) to the fullest and skirting society at every step, these kids draw you in and make you care about every misstep and tragedy that befalls em’. Without harping on the amazingness of this original series too much as it’s been 3 years since it’s been out and there’s plenty of praise out there for it, what I will tell you about is how the American version of this show rates in comparison after having seen their first and second episodes these past two weeks.
Long story short, “Skins” (US) will never, ever be what “Skins” (UK) was and is. Thus far the opening to American episodes have mirrored how the Brits began- just like was done with past exports like “The Office”- thus making it perfect for a comparison. Though the US decided to turn the lispy blond gay character into a snappy, sultry lesbian as they adapt the show, the rest of the first episode is a dead parallel, though likely as things progress it will diverge more and more… likely in sad accordance with whatever focus groups tells MTV they want to see more and less of. Basically, the US version is severely lacking in so many damn ways, that said, I’m gonna focus on the big three as I see it- I being the self-proclaimed “Skins” expert of Homorazzi ;)
Let’s face it, Americans don’t sound clever. I’m Canadian- but the good kind, on the West and near the border- so trust me, I don’t sound any better myself. While the US characters don’t throw out any unnecessary “y’alls” or “bubbas”, the brilliant and UK-purposed script does not translate. Even worse, most of the lines are directly taken from the original story and just sound WRONG coming from the New Worlders mouths. Any true fan of the show is just waiting for the day that the US version tries to pull off “Wizard!!” (sorry, non-fans, that makes no sense but trust, it’s a BIG deal to the UK die hards). Then there’s the US trying to pull off the term “narcotics” like it ain’t no thang (… see how stupid I sounded there MTV? That’s what Tony sounds like every time he asks Stanley if he’s picked up the “narcotics” yet). FAIL.
While the UK will never be matched, I do think the US can at least up their game and own their nationality and play up local and American-specific vernacular. Christ don’t even get someone my age on your crew, you need an actual teen who actually parties helpin’ you clearly 30-something+ imposters out. As your show comes into its own MTV I’m gonna need you to bust out some smarter script than you’ve started with, and, judging by some character choices you’ve made that I’ll denounce later, I don’t have much faith this is gonna happen.
I’m sorry, but a quick scan of the net barely even REVEALED that the US episodes had specific tracks to it. Fine “Skins” US, you’re still finding your way and it’s a bit early but COME ON!!! A) You’re ON MTV… you are the music channel and you have access to every song in the world and have a throng of music-experts at your fingertips; B) You didn’t exactly throw this show together without knowing what you were walking into, this has been a methodical work to copy and take from the UK where; C) The UK’s musical credits are UNPARALLELED and you need to man up!
For those not in the know, the UK version brought to us secret gems and unheard brilliance from the likes of Santogold (BEFORE “Gossip Girl” proselytized em’), Crystal Castles, Bon Iver, Gang Gang Dance and Florence and the Machine. Now, while many of you will argue: “Hey, I’ve heard of those bands!!”, I’ll tell you write now, a big reason you recognize those names is because of “Skins” UK. That show revolutionized how we find and think of our favourite new songs; every time I hear Castles’ “Alice Practice” all I can think is Tony, confused and depressed, surrounded by sweaty New Yorkers in an underground club. So far the US has given us nothing and it almost seems like they’re completely ignoring their roots in doing so. I honestly don’t believe that even if they do start TRYING, it’s not going to be anything near what the UK was able to put together. Since there isn’t much for me to discuss as the US has put nothing out there, this is mostly me throwing the gauntlet on behalf of the Brits who have basically owned TV-music in opinion for years now.
Eura Snyder, you will never be Effy Stonem. The iconic “Skins” lead- and the only one to span all four season for a very good reason- has started off weak from her very apatheticness to her famous crazed outfits that is NOT mirrored in the US thus far. My criticism of “characters” encompasses clothing, make up, age, look and straight up acting ability. My favourite first two seasons character from the UK series was hands down Cassie (Hannah Murray)- played in the US as Cadie (Britne Oldford). Congrats makeup artist on giving her the needed sleepy-druggie-starved look, but everything else was Grade F. The starvation of the original Cassie goes from her eyes to her soul and even to the desperate hunger for love, boundaries and genuine caring. This layered character does not appear in “Skins” US. Rounding off the sadness, the Tony is nowhere near the sociopath he is in England and his best friend has lost some of his much-needed perversion and patheticness as he gets an “american-izing” seen in way too many of these characters.
It seems to me like MTV ran their sad focus group of teens “with nothing better to do on a Saturday afternoon” than make 40 bucks by watching the UK version and telling the US how to “fix them” to make them kids they’d relate to. ERROR. I’m sorry, but the real kids who watch this show (and not just the ones looking to get tips on how to seem cool to their aloof and much more sexually active schoolmates) would have loved the UK versions exactly how they were. And, what was up with changing the blond, virginal, femmy twink to a naughty, sexy lez??? Let me guess, Americans still aren’t quite comfortable with gay boys and their gay boy sex? BUT, throw in two pretty girls kissing and suddenly people have a lot less issue with it…? Pathetic and without purpose, I’m gonna call this move out as pandering and cow-towing to right wing asses. You couldn’t get rid of the homo character altogether without sending us gays over the edge so you compromised and gave us a lesbian? This is nothing against lesbians (Hell, the two lady-lovin-ladies in season 3 and 4 of the UK version are among my top characters) but having THIS as the only alteration to the pilot series is a slap in the face. Though I’m sure they’ll never admit to why they actual changed this character, I’m gonna hold MTV accountable for this awful and frankly offensive decision. LAME.
Living in England for a year in my 20s I grew the greatest appreciation for British humour and drama: that they knew how to do it just BETTER than we do… this American version of a British show unfortunately goes to prove this point in spades. I’m gonna keep watching the US and see if they can fix some of this sadness but the fact that Season 5 of the UK “Skins” just started is about the only thing that’s saving me from giving up on TV altogether. Okay, exaggeration, but honestly you NEED to watch the UK version and tell me how much your life is better for it.
Here we have scenes from the UK “Skins” and their identical counterpart from the US pilot to help you truly contrast and compare the vast and disappointing differences.