Almost Skinny

by Amy Zidell

Before MTV's regurgitated show Skins gets pulled off the air, I am prompted to share my thoughts on the show. Aside from any controversy about inappropriate content, which Sean Hannity, Bill O'Reilly, and Greta Van Susteren thoroughly covered, artistically, the U.S. show is a not-so-good facsimile of the BBC U.K. show Skins.

Being familiar with the British Skins I knew the subject matter of the show was completely inappropriate material for young people to watch. I even mentioned this to friends and family with teens, as the marketing does tend to pitch to that young set. The subject matter is edgy and exaggerated, however, I think the Parents Television Council describing the show as the, "most dangerous program that has ever been foisted on your children," is a bit extreme. I don't know what previews they had access to, but that does not describe the U.K. show I watched. In any case, there are these great technological devices that allow you to change channels or turn televisions off.

I watched the first set of classmates of the BBC Skins on one of my favorite channels BBC America. I love British comedies, British dramas, and British cars. I love tea. I love pubs and stout. I recently discovered that I had a British nanny for some time as an infant, so perhaps that's why I have such great affinity for things British. Whether I missed the promos, or the show stopped airing after the initial batch of characters graduated, the next generation of misfit teens didn't have the same staying power for me.

Even at that, it would be far better than the U.S. version. I caught an episode of U.S. Skins while flipping through the channels. I recalled clearly the U.K. version of this same episode, which may have been the pilot. However, the U.S. casting is way off. In the original U.K. version, the strapping ringleader, Tony, is believable as the Machiavellian character. The U.S. version of Tony is physically too slight in stature compared to the rest of the cast. Take the frequent smirk away, and you would have a meek figure typically portrayed as the subject of bullying. It just does not work. Of course, when comparing the two, the U.S. version falls short. With the lead so off-cast, the U.S. show misses much of what clicked so well in the U.K. version. Perhaps viewing with virgin eyes the casting works, but I do rather doubt it. When importing entertainment, there should be more to it than substituting different dialects. Although, had MTV done just that Skins might have caught on.

All the publicity did get me to tune in though, to see how the American version of Skins turned out. It really has been decades since I've watched MTV, even though during my teen years MTV was ground breaking and so mesmerizing. Who can forget the early Golden Earring video?

If Skins is cancelled, it will be due to the show not capturing its audience, not because of any controversy. An online story on Fox News indicates the show lost almost half its viewers for the second episode. While some advertisers may have dropped the program due to the controversy, others will drop it due to low ratings. Lose enough viewers bye-bye advertisers; lose enough advertisers bye-bye show.

[Final Note]
Greta Van Susteren wondered what was going on in the minds of Viacom executives and board members? Perhaps The Parents Television Council's uproar will result in enhanced studio supervision of productions where child and young performers are involved. Young performers must be protected from all manner of exploitation, not just as a matter of working conditions, such as the hours they can be on set, but also in the character of the environments they work in.

[Additional notes]

Some commentary against this show suggest there are not consequences for the abhorrent behavior of the teen charactes. Based on the UK version of the show, this is a patently incorrect assertion. There are numerous negative effects experienced by the charactes from hospitalizations, family disruptions, personal strife, unplanned pregnancies, health concerns, stress, negative academic effects, and many many more! I believe a critical watching of the program could not be viewed as a positive endorsement of the displayed behaviors. [Tags]
MTV, Skins, BBC, Viacom, Fox News, Parents Television Council, ratings, advertisers, Taco Bell

Copyright © 1995 - 2011 Amy Zidell. All rights reserved. No portion of the contents of this Web Site, including but not limited to, any articles, images or material appearing on or posted on the Web Site may be republished, redisseminated, transmitted, distributed or duplicated in any manner without Amy Zidell's prior written consent.