For the new series of Skins to succeed it needs to act like a kid again
There were excited whispers last week when Bryan Elsley, creator of Skins, revealed that there was a chance that the iconic show was to return.
Remember The Gossip’s Standing in the Way of Control blaring out from television sets as the first trailer premiered in 2007? It was an explosion of cross-cutting of heavy drinking and scantily clad teenagers. A plethora of drugs, riotous house parties and copious amounts of a) squirty cream, b) foam and c) vomit.
Watching that trailer, we knew that the show was going to cause some head-shaking from the middle-aged, middle classes. Neil Gorridge, who directed a number of episodes claimed during an interview with the Guardian that it was the responsibility of the show to “shock the Daily Mail”. Whilst shocking the aforementioned publication is hardly difficult, the show definitely knew which buttons to push. Whilst it was no more controversial than shows such as Nathan Barley or Shameless, it still caused mild uproar, as concerned parents across the land joined forces to have the orgy-inspired trailers banned from the air. All to protect their precious teenagers.
All the fuss attracted attention, obviously. Parents wanted to see what filth sullied their darling children. Other curious adults wanted to see what the cool kids were up to these days, and whether all the uproar was worth it. It turned out that the drama/comedy appealed to more than just teenagers, and the show gained some credibility. And that’s where it all went wrong.
Swaggering around like the most handsome boy in sixth form, Skins was getting a little big for its boots. Knowing full well that grown ups were watching, the series began to show off its celebrity friends. Whilst some cameos added real value to the show, such as Bill Bailey playing Maxxie’s dad or Peter Capaldi as the perpetually pissed off father of hopeless Sid, some of them were just awkward. Neil Morrisey naked is not something your average 16-year-old wants to see. Will Young, lovely as he may seem, was never cool so why did he pop in? And whilst Guardian readers may appreciate Dawn O’Porter’s journalistic abilities, how many teenagers know who she is? These were friendly, middle-class faces, for an older audience to enjoy. Who was showing up for the original audience? The show was pulling plenty of tricks out of its sleeves, but these tricks weren’t for kids.
The show started to seem like it had been thought up by grey-suited media types who haven’t been (or even spoken to) a teenager in years. Whilst there were a few ground-breaking moments in the show, such as Umar, a Muslim, struggling to come to terms with his best friends homosexuality, or Jal’s decision to abort the baby of her now-dead boyfriend, things spun out pretty swiftly.
When Skins knew what it was, it was fantastic. An edgier version of Hollyoaks with a better soundtrack
Whilst the writers were living vicariously through scenes of coffin tipping, motorbike rides through Morocco, gang wars over pool tables, maybe audiences were growing exhausted with the ridiculous drama? In an attempt to keep Skins fresh and exciting, we had a whole new cast every two seasons, with a whole new set of problems. Forget getting emotionally involved with a character, nobody wants to see them go off to uni or get a job or something as pedestrian as that. So, the writers threw in new cast members and flightier story lines with crazier consequences, more sex and more violence. It was moving away from its original intent, losing the plot and losing fans, the young and the old.
When Skins knew what it was, it was fantastic. An edgier version of Hollyoaks with a better soundtrack, added drugs and machiavellian characters that weren’t all perma-tanned and vacant behind the eyes. However, with the indulgence of cameo appearances that were clearly intended to please older audiences and an insistence to renew a cast just as audiences became emotionally invested, the show stopped being cheeky and fun. It became a joke, and audiences, the older and the younger ones all started to switch off.
If Skins is to return, it needs to stay true to that which initially made it great. Honest narratives, showcasing new acting talent whilst exploring issues that real teenagers are faced with. It needs to put away the fake ID and stop trying to be so darn grown up and just enjoy being a teenager whilst it can.
Image: Company Pictures