After my braintwin gymble succumbed, it became apparent that I might as well watch nine measly episodes (oh, British television! so much easier to catch up on!).
From the very first episode, I found the show strangely addictive. I couldn't figure out why, as I hadn't really seen anything particularly special about the pilot, but I had been entertained, and I craved another episode soon afterward. I woke up the next morning wanting to return to the world of Skins.
The world of Skins is that of eight teenagers (16-18) attending college (not college like we call it, but something in between secondary school and university, if I have it right) in Bristol. One of the strengths of the show is that the characters are very diverse and distinct; the pilot manages to introduce them all without confusion. Let me tell you about them; to learn even more, click the link to see each character's video diary to get a better sense of who they are.
Tony: Tony is charismatic, and you want to like him, but it's incredibly difficult because he's...kind of evil. The actor, Nicholas Hoult, was in About a Boy, which I've never seen, but he's got that Cillian Murphy-esque face that makes him look really devious. But Tony's one of the more complex characters in the series, and watching his arc and getting to know him is both fascinating and frightening, because, well, I said he's kind of evil. He can be a real bastard, but he also does really twisted things in the name of helping people.
Michelle: Tony's very pretty girlfriend. She adores Tony, but Tony is...Tony, as you can see above. At first, she seems like just a pretty girl, but she grows during the course of the season.
Sid: Tony's best mate...but in love with Michelle. Now, wait, wait, wait. I know you've seen this story a thousand times before, but let me tell you: you've never seen it like it's done on Skins. See, Sid is the nice guy of the group, the yin to Tony's yang, but that doesn't mean he can't be kind of a dick sometimes, albeit unintentionally. In the pilot, he gets to know Cassie, and there's some sparkage there that confuses the situation.
Cassie: Wispy anorexic blonde, generally people's favorite character. Cassie is like River but a little more lucid...a little too lucid. She's slightly off-kilter, but she's grown good at faking happiness. She's constantly breaking into mile-wide smiles and saying "Wow," and it's heartbreaking because you know she's hurting inside. At times, it almost feels like the actress is overplaying her until you realize she's not; that's just how Cassie is.
Chris: Sort of a doof, really into drugs. He fancies his psychology teacher, Angie, and let's just say she doesn't mind the attention.
Jal: Michelle's best friend. Unlike the previous characters, she's black (I almost wrote African-American, which...ha!). She's probably the most decent, caring member of the group.
Maxxie: Unlike the previous characters, he's gay. Openly gay, with no gay angst. Also, he's an artist.
Anwar: Unlike the previous characters, he's Muslim. Not a very good one, though, because while he does his prayers, he also drinks and does drugs and does all sorts of non-Muslim things. He's a sex-obsessed twat, generally.
The wonderful thing is that all the actors are actual teenagers. As far as I can tell, the oldest one is 19, and it shows. They all look really young, and they act young. And the actors really inhabit their characters; everything feels and sounds natural.
Another neat thing is that with the exception of the premiere and the finale, which are ensemble pieces, each episode focuses on a different character, and that's how we get to learn a bit more about what makes them tick. There's always more to them that meets the eye. Plus, each episode comes accompanied with a sort of minisode that is very entertaining.
spadada describes Skins as "The N: After Dark," and although the only show I've ever watched on The N (besides Daria, of course) is Radio Free Roscoe, I can see that as being an apt description. Skins has the sort of emotional honesty that you don't normally see in teen dramas. I think the reason dramas about adolescence are so popular is because it's such an intermediary stage of life, where you're in between child and adult, trying to figure out who you are, which means ripe storytelling opportunities. On Skins, teens are real people as complicated as any adult. Surprisingly enough, the most apt comparator to Skins that I can think of is Friday Night Lights. It's like FNL minus the football plus nudity and cursing. Both shows have an artful shooting/editing style to them. Both shows have those raw moments that you don't expect to have captured in a television show. Both shows have multilayered teen characters. Skins is more character-driven, though, since it doesn't have football drama to help it along. And it's much funnier.
The main flaw in the show, however, is the portrayal of the parents. Because...they all kind of suck, and it gets kind of repetitive and cliché if every single character has all this crazy family drama. Everyone has a different flavor of family drama, though, and it comes in different degrees.
I stayed up an extra hour to watch the finale last night. That's the kind of show this is. I accidentally spoiled myself for the final scene and decided I did not want to wait an entire day to get to it. The show has a lovely way of ending episodes on beginnings. I was quite pleased to call the ending of "Jal" (the third episode), not knowing how much longer it was until the end but seeing the perfect note on which to end...and the show took that perfect note. It leaves you with a feeling of hope, a feeling that these crazy kids will persevere.