Saturday, 20 March 2010

Why is 'Skins' so shit?

I hung on to the fourth series of Skins until the end, hoping desperately that it would get better, or that any of the dozen half-written storylines would be brought to a conclusion. More fool me. Up until this series, Skins was more-or-less what would happen if the best night out you ever had as a teenager, and the worst night out you ever had as a teenager, kept happening over and over again. Sometimes simultaneously.

This series was obviously supposed to be darker. Naomi slept with a girl who then killed herself. Effy descended into a suicidal downward spiral and had her boyfriend beaten to death by her therapist.

I found it hard to care about any of this though. Unlike the first set of characters, it was difficult to sympathise with this lot, who just spent their time being awful to each other then unconvincingly saying “I love you, man” at the end of each episode. So Freddie was beaten to a pulp by a rogue medical professional with a baseball bat. But he was no big loss; he only spent his time masturbating and smoking weed anyway. None of them were engaged at all with the wider world. Even the pretence that Naomi was the one with a social conscience who, like, gives a shit about important stuff, was dropped pretty early. So what is Skins trying to say? Head writer and co-creator Brian Elsley says:

Skins is a show made with love and respect for you and your lives by people who try to be close to that. Is it supposed to be realistic? No. Can it be funny all the time? No. Should it be depressing? No. But it should say something important; that being young can be so fantastic, and such a disaster at the same time. And that you are not alone. Somewhere, there is a person experiencing the same things as you; whether they are stupidly hilarious or just terrible. Finally: That the way adults see you is not all you are. That is Skins.

Yes, being a teenager is good and shit at the same time. These characters, though, are only ever allowed by the writers to express themselves through sex and violence, which I think does a disservice to young people. Angry? Get high. Sad? Fuck someone. Had a bad day? Beat the shit out of a stranger.

There are lots of shots of mopey teenagers trekking across Bristol while quirky “anti-folk” music plays in the background, very little actual dialogue or plot progression in a given episode. As Effy's depression got worse, Freddie's response was only, “Effy, enough of the heavy shit, yeah?” Brilliant, he's useless. It's OK though, because he loves her so much. We know this because he filled a book up with the words “I love her” and nothing else.

At least the adult characters are, generally, two dimensional caricatures that don't demand to be taken seriously. The Sixth Form director obsessed with results, the doctor who, whenever JJ tells him about feeling worried or angry, just replies “Don't,” the jaded parents played by almost every middle-aged British comedian. This is pretty good satire. But the kids.... urgh.

Maybe I'm just getting older, and don't get it any more.


  1. Some of it is infected with the same sort of virus as Hollyoaks; everyone has to be good looking. Everyone has to be getting tonnes of sex, or else why they aren't becomes a plot device until things are normalised and they get some. Everyone has to be individual, wearing clothes like no one else in the group. And nudity has to be suggested everywhere.

    I don't think Skins really goes deeper than that.

  2. It is FUCKING shit, and Series 5 is just as bad! Crapola!