Skins (UK) vs. Skins (US): Can Sex, Drugs and Partying Translate Across the Pond?

25 Jan

If you asked me for the past few years what my favorite show was, I would have told you the UK version of Skins. It was raw, filthy, dirty, fun, sometimes shocking but still somehow, human. Most of the time. Don’t ask me about how I feel about the last series (that’s UK speak for season) and what happened to Freddy. I still haven’t recovered. The UK version of Skins was something like I’d never seen before and something I wish they had put on when I was a teenager. Instead I got teen shows such as… actually I can’t even remember. Maybe The Fresh Prince of Bel Air. Let’s just say that TV at that time was highly sanitized. We had nothing like Skins when I was growing up. So I sat there watching the first series like it was a cross between a train wreck and possibly soft core porn and wondering if there really were ever parties like this when I was in high school. Because I went to plenty of parties. But I never saw anything like what I was watching.

I’m always apprehensive when things are remade. I am usually committed to the first incarnation of something. Yes, I know, that’s a preconceived notion. Now when I heard that MTV was making as US version of Skins, I was cautious in feeling any excitement or anticipation, but I believe in giving these things a chance. I just didn’t see how a show so edgy would ever get broadcast in the US without a good deal of sanitizing. Even when BBC America broadcasts the original Skins there are random bits cut out and many words have been bleeped.

I also learned that while the UK Skins takes place in Bristol, which gives the series a definite feel of place, the US Skins seems to take place in “some” American suburb. Now, I’m sure that’s because MTV wanted the teen audience to feel like it could be Anywhere, USA and “this could be their lives,” although I’m not sure if I were sixteen or seventeen again I would want to party that hard and be that much of a slut. Honestly, the feel of the US Skins isn’t real. I felt like I was watching a bunch of kids trying to play at being cool. Maybe it didn’t feel real because I didn’t know the locale – Chicago? Madison? Cleveland? Give us some place. Because I feel like the show is set in no man’s land. Actually, it’s filmed in Canada. And while tons of shows film in Canada, they still do us the courtesy of letting us know the fake US city they are copying. So, the US version in short, falls short of its UK brother.

Dear MTV: we’re not all high watching this show, but I think if I tune in for a second episode I might have to be to make it through.

According to the shows creators, father and son team Bryan Elsley and Jamie Brittain, the pilot episode, “Tony” is nearly an exact copy of the original UK pilot and from there we will see an increasingly substantial change to the storylines. OK… I’m not sure how I feel about that. Why screw up a good thing? Oh wait! Because this is America with TV networks that always have to change things. If you’ve been watching Episodes on Showtime, you will understand exactly what I mean. I can almost hear the meeting with the MTV execs when the decision was made to make the UK gay character Maxxie into a lesbian cheerleader in the US. I’m sure they were very convincing as they discussed the merits of wankability – after all, a lesbian cheerleader could capture that teen male audience! Which is rather ironic since MTV claims Skins is really for adults although we all know the main core of MTV viewers are teenagers.

Now MTV is facing some issues since we, in America, are so….puritanical. Since there are moments with some partial nudity and sexual situations in Skins the Department of Justice is now getting involved because of possible allegations of child pornography. Newsflash to the Department of Justice and American parents: have you looked at your teenagers’ Facebook pages? So, the US Skins is doing well for MTV. Do I think it is as good as the UK version? No. I don’t. Do I blame the writers and producers? No. I blame American sensibilities. Somehow, I just don’t see every teen in American getting horny and going out to party because in one upcoming episode of Skins we might see one seventeen year old guy’s naked ass. No ass can be that inspiring…

Now of course, I’ll have to watch the offending episode 3 just to see if they are going to show it. I personally believe all this hype was created by MTV because they’re afraid their show might not be as great as the original UK version. I, for one, believe that’s a true statement.

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