“Skins” is pretty much dead. The controversial MTV show adapted from the British program of the same name continues to lose advertisers and face the wrath of organizations like the Parent Television Council, which labeled it “the most dangerous show for teens.”
Yes, it’s bad when Taco Bell pulls its advertising and is then followed by Wrigley, GM, Subway, Foot Locker, L‘Oréal and Schick, just to name a few.
But isn’t it weird that the most dangerous show for teens is a show teens aren’t watching?
While the American version of “Skins” debuted to an audience of 3.3 million viewers, Monday’s episode garnered fewer than a million.
In a world where sex sells and teens are supposedly drawn to controversial material, why is it that “Skins” is slowly vanishing from our cultural radar? What went wrong?
Problem one: It was incredibly overhyped. Leading up to the premiere of “Skins” was an incredible ad campaign portraying the show as salacious, dripping in pure drama and scandal. Taking notes from the 2008 ad campaign of “Gossip Girl,” which featured the cast in erotic positions accompanied by the phrase “OMFG” or a quote by the Parent Television Council declaring the show “mind-blowingly inappropriate,” commercials for “Skins” depicted raging parties, hookups and the moments before blackout, along with comments ranging from excitement to skepticism from UK fans, even including the “most dangerous show for teens” line from the PTC.
Shortly before the premiere, MTV held a party in honor of the show, which was said to have had an “overwhelming” response. That hype, combined with the built-in fan base and general concept of crazy TV show, sounds like the perfect formula for a hit show.
That leads to problem two: The American version of “Skins” is just not good. At all.
In the debut episode of “Skins,” we follow Tony, a guy whose goal it is to get his friend, Sid, laid. Because, at 16-going-on-17, it’s embarrassing to still be a virgin. Over the course of the episode, the characters trade drugs for sex, crash parties, break out into fights at said parties, overdose on drugs and commit grand theft auto. Fade to black.
That’s a lot of action, but it’s strung together by a cast of wooden actors with blank expressions.
Bryan Elsley, the creator of both versions of “Skins,” recently defended his programs amid controversy with a statement to MTV news:
“The show is written from the perspective of teenagers [and] reflects their world view,” he said, later adding, “‘Skins’ is actually a very serious attempt to get to the roots of young people’s lives…it tries to tell the truth.”
That’s the problem: To say “Skins” is representative of the modern teenager is a pretty egregious statement. While it’s true teenagers live a different life behind closed doors — one that can involve debauchery, drug abuse and sex — what’s found in “Skins” represents the extremes of what can be found in the life of a teenager.
Let’s put it another way: MTV’s content ideology is, partly, to appeal to teens and young adults through programming that depicts their experience. However, the network often does so through a lens — there’s always a point to doing it. Filming a girl on “Made” struggling to reach a goal teaches a lesson about accomplishing one’s dreams. Throwing a bunch of carefully selected strangers into a house to see how they interact started out as a social experiment about tolerance. Filming teenage mothers encourages young people to be careful about sex or risk the consequences.
On “Skins,” there is no point. There’s no emotion between audience and character, no recognition of action and consequence. It’s pure salaciousness, a string of crazy incidents, and without any kind of significance, it’s pointless.
That’s not to say MTV always seeks to make a teachable lesson of their programming; making money is a concern as well. Thus we have “The Jersey Shore.”
When considering other programs about the high school experience, even “Glee,” in all its contrived, overproduced nonsense comes across as more real to viewers. Real issues, like being the only gay guy at school and dealing with the consequences, are addressed in a realistic way, and are rewarded both with viewers and awards: “Glee” won three Golden Globe awards at the recent ceremony.
“Skins” is an interesting experiment. First, it was another stab at adapting a show from one continent to another, something that we all know can work well or fail miserably (i.e. “The Office”). But more importantly, it’s a lesson about the quality of TV teens expect to see. While MTV still stands behind it, one thing is certain: no amount of hype, half-naked kids or edgy music interludes can salvage something that just wasn’t worthy to begin with.
Cailley Hammel is a senior majoring in journalism and communication arts. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.