Even if I hadn't watched the far superior British version of Skins, I still think I'd be underwhelmed by the MTV version of the series based solely on the premiere. The cast is filled with unlikeable stars who only say salacious things in an attempt to get a reaction from the viewing public. On a network that glamorizes teen pregnancy and random beach hookups, they're going to have to try a lot harder.
I was worried that the show would make a lot of changes from the UK version, such making everyone totally beautiful and giving them all fancy cars and basically turning this into MTV's Gossip Girl, and to their credit, they didn't. The show remains predominantly faithful to the original (at least in tone), but with a cast of kids who really can't act or sell this material with any sense of realism, the show just comes across as dull. They can't really show nudity and the cuss words are bleeped out, so the "edgy show" just seems bland and watered-down. What is the point if you aren't going to push the envelope? The commercials made it look good and trashy, but the content does not live up to the hype.
It really doesn't help that I can't stand the kid they found to play Tony. James Newman lacks the sort of cool demeanor that this character needs to have in order to pull off the crazy stuff he does. He's not really hot, so I find it weird that all the girls in choir would be gaga for him, or that his circle of friends would worship him. I just spent the entire episode wanting to smack him, while I found his British counterpart somewhat charming.
The girls, for the most part, seem okay, with the exception of Cadie. I loved Cassie from the original UK series; she had this sense of other-worldliness and a likably spacey quality. Here, the character is trying too hard to be quirky. I miss the ethereal, drug-addled trainwreck. But maybe in time these women will settle into their roles? Perhaps they, like the show itself, are trying to create a vibe that is impossible to truly pull off on a network that is going to sanitize many of the things that would make a show like this sexy in the first place.
I also have to wonder what's going to happen to this show in the long run. Will it be like the UK version, where they completely change the cast every two years? The constant cast refreshes did indeed work on MTV's Undressed, so it isn't completely implausible. But will anyone still be watching it at that point? I know I won't. I'd even rather tune in to the equally banal The Hard Times of RJ Berger the next time I want to hear nerdy teenagers talk about their penises. And assuming U.S. Skins sticks with UK storylines, there's some hard-hitting material coming down the pike that I'm not sure these characters are going to be able to pull it off. Maybe the producers should watch a few episodes of Degrassi or Pretty Little Liars to see how teen shows that tackle all kinds of issues actually do it, and do it well.
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