Skins is in for its 5th series (would you believe) in the UK, filming has been taking place, formerly Bristol now in Wales I believe, complete with a raw cast.
The series début got a lot of stick for its ‘realistic’ portrayal of the trials and tribulations of a bunch of hedonistic Brit kids. Back in 2006 I had a work placement in the production company that created the show, I had the job of reading the scripts, sitting in on castings and reviewing the rushes – back then I wasn’t convinced it would take off. What did I know.
When I returned to University it was already a highly anticipated show largely due to the production team tapping in to the social network machine. When it aired I was forced to watch the pilot all over again because I’d talked about it so much since my placement. Apart from the fact I had no idea that the chubby 12-year-old looking guy I had lengthy conversations with (turned out to be the son of the creator and co-creator of the show) Jamie Brittain and boasting that the kid from a film favourite of mine About a Boy was the highlight of my placement, I kept all my reservations about its quality to myself because the hype around it was so impressive.
Then it aired and i found myself defending Skins against the snobby remarks of my peers. I’d championed it this far and it was too late to back down. I comfort myself in the knowledge that did get better, the second series round.
The cast with obvious exceptions in Nicholas Hoult and the adult cast were largely new in the acting game and it showed, which over time became part of the shows traditional appeal. The stories were undoubtedly weak in some places in the first series, sure we weren’t saints, but the majority of us in the real world had missed the boat in the excessive live fast die young mantra. I didn’t even know what a skin was until I started uni. Regardless Skins was [is] a TV drama in the truest sense, more importantly its British and arguably broke the mould in the UK by pulling out all the stops to interact with the flailing target audience TV forgot via the web and introducing new talent in British writing, music and style. It must have done something right, because four years since it hit the screens the show has spawned collected prestigious programming awards including a BAFTA and even spawned an Oscar nominee (and collective winner) in Dev Patel (Anwar) considered for the lead in Slumdog Millionaire because Danny Boyle’s daughter and Skins fan suggested him. It brought the Gossip to the forefront of the British music industry’s and championed the exposure of independent musical talents from across the world.
Did I mention it was British – I stress this because for too long the screens here were inundated with American shows. Albeit a lot of them were of high calibre – but there was something to be had about the dwindling teen audience the UK TV market was missing out on. All these shows were about American teenagers living American lives with Americanisms and shizzle. So essentially Skins was a breath of fresh air, its was also a foundation to tap in to the fantastic creative talent we have here. Since its run it seems producers are jumping on the Brit kids bandwagon – the Inbetweener’s, the Cut and Trinity have all enjoyed success here proving we don’t have to rely on the Yanks to provide coming of age dramas – even if they are very good at it.
So why must it be tampered with? I heard on the grapevine that Skins was going to the US. Great, they’ll get to see how we do things here. British drama’s though scarce and underdeveloped have performed well in translation. The Office, Coupling, Merlin and an array of British movies have had modest success in the States. I’d go even as far to suggest that our Britishness is a deal breaker for showcasing extremities that they otherwise shy away from or tend not to portray in the nonchalant manner we do here.
With the exception of the The Office (we all know what happened there) why remake our great programmes to suit there tastes? Do the networks really undermine their audience so violently ? We receive enough exports from the US and we get it – nothings lost on us, apart from Lost.
Case in point [from top L -R]: Life on Mars. A brilliant show rehashed to suit what probably some big shot suggested would sit well with Americas 1970 era. Cancelled. I fear Ashes to Ashes will surface because they probably have much more to work with the 80s (the US rocked the 80s)
Coupling: not great, but kooky 20 something brits and their awkward nonsense…why rehash it. They already had Friends!
As if: aw man. What a waste, if they just showed the original…
Queer as folk: ok so this did very well in its US format. But they watered it down, the British version was so good and i’m sad they weren’t allowed to enjoy it.
Skins: US may work. I don’t think it will. Even with the original creators at the helm of the US production team (?) its core premise and style is so unique – if anything it will backfire. Skins doesn’t ride on moral justice, its frank depiction of the seedy going ons in the apparent secret life of the average teenager is uncomfortable. It has no interest in focusing on the tiresome subcultures American teens seem to box themselves in. There’s no story where the Jocks Vs the Geeks. It’s just not British.
So then Skins: US just becomes another teen drama, competing against Gossip Girl and 90210. If they do decide to go in the other direction by remaining faithful to the taboo subjects it may come as a breath of fresh air (especially when aimed at kids) and gather a cult following like the Wire did. I’m just not convinced.
*Update the Inbetweener’s as mentioned above is to be remade for the US. I can see this working, because they can do cringe comedy as good as we can, but for the Brit readers they already have something called The life and Hard Times of R.J Berger. Basically R.J embodies all four characters of the inbetweeners teenage stupidity and awkwardness. If your american and your reading this – go watch the Inbetweener’s UK while you can. It’s a brilliant showcase of young comedy here and it’s just funny as hell.