Aug 9, 2008

Skins



I've admitted already that I'm actually a teenager trapped in the body of a 27-year-old. This means I watch teenage TV series with a passion. Having said that, I have to mention that I divide all teenage shows into two groups: a) My So-Called Life, and b) everything else. You see, My So-Called Life is probably my favorite TV show ever, of any genre, and it just happens to be a teenage show as well. So, it must be noted that I don't actually expect any other teenage series to ever live up to it, but if that's the elusive 10, at least I can use it for comparison. That doesn't mean I don't enjoy other shows, though! I do, I just have to forgive their imperfections and shortcomings.
Skins is a British show that, of course, follows the lives of a group of friends who are 16 when season 1 starts. There are two seasons so far (the third will have a completely new set of characters), and in each season every episode is named after and focuses on one of the characters (although there are story lines that span several episodes). There's Tony, the good-looking, super-intelligent, ambitious but manipulative boy who is brilliant at everything and gets whatever he wants. His girlfriend is the beautiful, popular, but insecure Michelle, who is worried that Tony doesn't really love her. Sid, Tony's best friend, is in love with Michelle, shy, always in Tony's shadow, not really good at anything. Also, he's a virgin, and in the very first episode, he is supposed to lose his virginity to Cassie. Cassie is anorexic, has a lot of psychological problems, and agrees to sleep with Sid only to do her friend Michelle a favor, but ends up falling in love with him. Jal, is a serious girl who plays the clarinet. Chris, is a party animal from a broken home, who has a crush on their psychology teacher. Maxxie is gay and has problems with his best friend Anwar, because Anwar is Muslim and is afraid of what his family is going to say about having a gay friend.
I don't actually know what I thought about the show. The characters were cliched, the plots were unrealistic. At least, that's not how I lived when I was a teenager... Okay, yes, teenage life does typically imply a certain amount of sex and drugs, but this was really over the top...
The writing was mostly okay, but at times it was truly appalling. For instance, there is an episode set in Russia (a school trip), in which Chris manages to have sex with the psychology teacher, Tony tries to seduce Maxxie just out of boredom, and Anwar tries to rescue a Russian girl from her violent husband. Now trust me, I have literally seen porn films with better, more convincing, less corny scripts than this episode.
Why did I see all 19 episodes then?
The answer is simple: Tony. The character of Tony was absolutely wonderfully written, and the boy who plays him – Nicholas Hoult – that boy will go far! Or at least he should. Without giving too much of the plot away, I'll just say that there is a huge twist at the end of season 1, so in season 2 tables have turned for Tony and he is facing a really rough time. It's amazing how convincingly young Mr. Hoult pulls off the change. I was mesmerized by his acting, and missed him in every scene that didn't feature him.
So, it's not all bad. It's quite fun, and it's all you expect a teenage show to be, no more and no less. It does have some really stupid bits, but then sometimes it really dazzles you. The one thing that is consistently dazzling is the soundtrack – Tricky, Elliott Smith, Feist, Portishead, Low - they all chime in, always at the exact perfect moment to break your heart.
Not to mention season 1 finale. You see, I'm generally good at liking things, I'm not a hater by nature. But the song Wild World was one of the rare things I hated with a passion. Ever since I was little I thought it must be one of the stupidest, corniest songs ever written. After Skins though, I absolutely adore it. See season 1 of Skins, if for nothing else, then for that ending. I don't know who came up with the idea for it, but it's genius, and it transcends the little teen show it's in. Trust me. It will fill your heart with beauty.

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