Thursday, June 25, 2009

TV on DVD: Skins

Maybe I’m old fashioned, or just completely naïve about how teenagers actually live, but I find television shows about teens who live and behave like adults sort of disturbing. In between all of the cocktail parties they attend in designer clothes, the endless stream of sexual partners, and the heavy drinking and drug use I wonder, “When do these kids get to actually be kids?” Granted, I grew up with a somewhat overprotective family in Middle of Nowhere, USA, so maybe there was an entire subculture of my peers who adopted this “live hard, die hard” way of life, but the major dramas my friends and I dealt with were trying to get into R-rated movies and how to tell our parents we got a “D” on a science test.

Despite my aversion to these teens-as-adults shows, based on several recommendations and critical acclaim, I decided to give Skins—a British series about teens in Bristol—a chance. After renting the first two seasons, I have mixed feelings about the show. There are some of the same annoying clichés you’ll find in any number of American series, but there are some things that the show got just right. I was pleased to see that the actors in the show were actually teenagers (and not overly glamorous ones), unlike the “teens” in most American shows, who are played by overly made-up 20-somethings. These actors look just like the type of kids you’d expect to see in a Bristol school; they’re awkward, they have acne, they have questionable haircuts, the boys are lanky and goofy-looking, and the girls wear ill-fitting clothes and amateurishly applied makeup. But while they don’t look like adults, that doesn’t stop them from living lifestyles beyond their years.

The first season of Skins seems to exist to merely shock you. It focuses mainly on Tony, the ringleader of the group of friends mainly due to being the best looking and most charismatic of the bunch. He’s dating the blindly devoted Michelle, who he regularly cheats on and tells has uneven breasts, and is best friends with his lackey Sid, the dork of the group who wears glasses and a knit cap at all times and is, tragically, still a virgin. Each episode highlights a different member of the entire group and the various trials they face; one has an eating disorder, one has parents who are getting divorced, one is gay and his best friend has trouble accepting that, one is abandoned by his mother, and the list goes on with nearly every teen drama staple touched upon, including having an affair with a teacher and crushing on your best friend’s girl. And of course there is plenty of drinking, drug use, and explicit sex scenes to both keep you entertained and wonder what the parents in Bristol are doing, since raising their kids is obviously not a priority.

The second season tones down the shock factor a bit and focuses more on heavy emotional issues, allowing the show to shine as a teen drama rather than a teen soap opera. Tony is recovering from a major accident that leaves him both mentally and physically impaired, causing a struggle for Michelle and Sid who both want to stand by his side while he recovers, but also feel the need to live their own lives. The entire gang is preparing for exams and to go on to university, which causes tension as they realize they’re all growing up and some will be moving on and others will be left behind. There’s even the death of one of the major players to deal with, which is felt and processed deftly by each of the other characters.

There is a third season of Skins that brings in a new generation, lead by Tony’s hard-partying younger sister, Effy, but it’s not out on DVD yet. I’ll probably rent it once it’s available, though I’m sort of disappointed that I won’t get to see where the first generation of Skins is going. While I kind of disliked them and resented their hedonistic lifestyles in the first season, they grew on me in Season 2 when they proved they were capable of doing more than getting high and emotionally manipulating each other. Perhaps in a few years there will be a reunion for the first generation and we can see what they’re like when they actually are adults. Though after witnessing the debauchery of their unsupervised adolescence, would anyone want to see them survive the normal things in life like finding a job, struggling to make ends meet, or getting married? While their teenage way of life may have been unrealistic, there’s no denying it was a lot more entertaining than watching Tony try to get a mortgage will ever be.

1 comment:

  1. Wonderful post. You did a great job. Keep focusing on your next blog.