Top 3 Reasons Why “Skins” (US) Will Never Be “Skins” (UK)

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 😉

1. Language

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.

2. Music

DISAPPOINTMENT!

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.

3. Characters

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.

  • Votta

    MTV.com has a list of the music played in the episode. They actually do focus a lot on the songs, but they really do not market it very well. The first episode included a track by Animal Collective and Phantogram (my favorite one).

  • Matt

    Correction. Skins is a Channel 4 drama, not BBC. It can be found on Channel 4 and E4

  • Steve-O

    Agreed so far the US version is a pale comparisson of the original UK version, but I’m British so I’m biased.

    However, I don’t think them replacing the gay character of Maxxie with a lesbian is some slap in the face action. I think they feel that US television right now has a load of highschool gay teenage boys, Glee, United States of Tara and now with the character of Ian on Shameless (another UK remake….GOD don’t they have anything original in Hollywood anymore) filling the ‘unconventional gay teenager’ niche on TV, I think are looking to differentiate the role by making it a lesbian.

  • Votta: I’m glad they finally came out with something- the song placement was epic in the UK so i definitely am disappointed in the lack of advertin’ it in this version.

    Matt: Will correct that now- thanks for the help, i didn’t know there was a difference between channel 4 and BBC 4 haha.

    Steve-o: I think all us original fans are biased ha. And, as far as the gay change goes… well there is a lack of lesbian roles in tv today i still find it really odd that that is the ONE change they made. Also, i do have ask, do you really think if they HAD maintained maxxie’s character they would have shown the “gay sex scene” the same way they did with the les in this past episode..? i doubt it, but maybe that’s just me..?

    thanks for the posts guys!

  • Connor

    I completely agree with EVERYTHING you said in this article. MTV has royally screwed one of my favorite show in the past 5 years. I will however give some credit to MTV for making me aware of the UK version. I had never heard of it prior to the new of MTV bringing it to the US. So I will thank them for that.
    I also have a problem with them replacing Maxxie….yes because he was one of the hottest men I have seen, but also because he was so much different than all the other gay teen characters on US television. Maxxie had a different attitude to him. As much as I like what Kurt Hummel’s character has done for the gay community, I don’t really relate to him. He is such an extreme character. He is so feminine that it is really hard to relate him. So, watching a character like Maxxie who could hang out with a bunch of other straight dudes and fit right in was a really nice change of pace. I don’t think that the US has really had a character that has done that before…

  • gad1n10

    So far the US version has been exactly what I expected. It’s a shame we can’t seem to get it right when we import UK shows. US Coupling was a MAJOR letdown. Office sucks no matter which version you watch 😉
    I prefer US Tony to UK… UK was too ‘Bryan Kinney’. Sid had a pathetic side that made you like him, while Stanley seems like he should be in a ‘Dazed and Confused’ type show. I did like Maxxie, he was def Cool. Cassie hasn’t translated too well, as of yet, either.
    The problem with watching imported shows – or even revamped shows like Hawaii 5-O – after seeing the original is that you focus too much on the fact it isn’t the original. If we hadn’t seen the UK version, most of this wouldn’t even be an issue. Unfortunately, we have, and it is.
    The fact that the story-lines are almost word-for-word/plot-for-plot doesn’t make it any easier to view the show with objectivity.

  • 1) “Stanley” seems more stoner than awkward-kid.
    2) The US does have its share of gay male characters, but they’re on premium cable. “Glee” is the only one that’s freely accessible, and they have very stereotypically put him into the gayest situation they could think of. Kurt has a great storyline, yes – not arguing that; he’s probably the strongest character on the show. However, part of Maxxie’s intriguing story was that he was mainly friends with the guys. He wasn’t the effeminate guy hanging out with the girls all the time.
    3) Americans – scratch that, American MALES – the ones supremely in charge of media – love to see that girl-on-girl action. Sex it up. Did they need to do this? Nope. The UK version had plenty of sex. But there were too many dudes involved, apparently.
    4) “Cadie” isn’t cutting it. She’s trying too hard. And Jal, the black girl with a talent for clarinet but living in a hip-hop family, is now ASIAN, of course, because Asians are the ones who are good at classical music. Jeez. And last but not least, I read on a site (always cite your sources!) that “Eura” looked as if she’d been beaten and raped behind a dumpster instead of just out partying.
    5) I think you sense my supreme disappointment with this adaptation.

  • Correction to number 4 – “daisy” (Jal) is now Costa-Rican. But still.

  • Lola B

    I think the biggest let down as a first time US Skins viewer is seeing how the show was NOTHING like the promos. In between episodes of Jersey Shore I’d get ampd that a new hot series was coming on (biggest deception was the reverse party sequence and how the show was not like it at all)!!!

    From the beginning of the US version, the acting from Tony was awful. The scenes were attempting to mirror the jumpy fast action that the UK version did, but failed and had me lost.

    CHRIS! No one mentioned how unrealistic it was for the US Chris character to catch the eye of an attractive young teacher; as opposed to the witty, charming, yet adolescent UK Chris.

    Cassie’s character takes my breath away. Every time. “Oh… wow” lol

    Dev Patel is hilarious so I’m very partial towards him over anyone else.

    Sid is a genuinely sweet, yet awkward sweaty, lonely kid that most people can relate to someone they know in real life.

    Maxxie is truly talented at dancing and we see that in his episode in season 2 of the UK version. There’s no indication that any of these characters in the US version are as well rounded.

    Ummm where did Scarlet go?

    Michelle has a strong presence and even stronger sexuality on screen. So it’s easy to watch her unfold in her relationship with Tony in the UK version… The US version makes me feel like I’m interrupting some private moment. Awk.

    All of the parents in the UK version are boss, in acting, in “parent”ing, and in being completely unaware of whats happening in their children’s lives.

    EFFIN EFFY!!!!!

    That’s all I have to say.

  • Becca

    So I’m an American who has watched the first 3 seasons of UK “Skins” on Netflix and plan to watch season 4 asap. A few of my friends and I have seem both US and UK and HATE the US version. It’s complete crap.
    1. The acting just sux
    2. Changing Maxxie was extremely annoying seeing as he was one of the most well rounded and genuinely good people in the UK version.
    3. Trying to use the UK script, characters, and story line just doesn’t work with the American actors.
    4. PG-ing Skins down for MTv was just terrible and made the entire show pointless.

    They should just stop this now…

  • Noah

    I’m american and i watched the first season of skins (us) and i really liked it. But now that i know they did a poor remake of the uk version, i really need to go watch skins (uk)!

  • Elizabeth

    At first I watched the US skins before the UK skins. My sister told me the UK skins is way better than the US version. At first I liked the US skins better than the UK skins but them I realized the UK is more graphic than the US version which makes it way better. I feel like the UK versio goes wayy more in debth with the characters stories and lives than the US. They should have kept maxxiie to keep the story line straight. US Cassie can never compare to the UK one because the actor for the UK version was much better played out. I liked a lot of the music In both versions sense I like dubstep and they play that in the US version. The ending for season 1 is so much more different. Thee UK one is more dramatic and keeps you on your seat excited to see what ever happened to Tony. I don’t even remember the season finale for the US version because it probably cannot compare to Tony getting hit by a bus. Doesn’t matter anymore cause the US skins was cancelled which is nice so it can stop embarrassing it’s self to try to make it as the UK version but kinda upsetting cause I wanted to see how they would make the 2nd season different from the UK version.

  • celeste

    dude, same thing happened to me