How To Make the American Version of Skins Not Suck

Remember last week when we urged you to watch Skins, and how it's now your new favorite British TV show? Now there is going to be an American version, for those of you who don't speak British. MTV announced yesterday that they are developing a new iteration, to be set in Baltimore. According to Liz Gateley, MTV's SVP of series development, the network has been trying to acquire the rights for years. Original series creators Bryan Elsley and Jamie Brittain are coming along to run the show, and will at least write the pilot.

The history of British-to-American TV series is inconsistent. For every success story, like The Office, there are plenty of misses. Anyone remember the American version of Coupling? NBC wishes they didn't. However, MTV used to have a history of producing edgy original programming, like Undressed, and The State. So we are cautiously optimistic. The fact that the original creators will be in charge is also encouraging, and MTV might be a good fit. But to help ensure Skins' success, we have a few suggestions.

Don't set it in New York or Los Angeles.
The Baltimore Sun is reporting that Skins will at least be set in, if not filmed in, Baltimore, which is a good thing. Setting the show in New York or LA will make it seem too similar to the roughly 99% of teen soaps set there, and will get away from one of the best part about Skins—that it's about middle-class, so-called "normal" teenagers. Teenagers in New York and LA have the maturity level of 25-year-olds everywhere else, and therefore have different sets of issues -- like the need for health insurance and country club memberships.

Air it late at night.
When the British version airs on BBC America, it's heavily censored to the point of distraction. Skins is a show that needs to be able to use bad words and deal honestly with topics like drugs and sex. Airing it at 8 PM will limit its ability to do so. We're not asking for a character to have an abortion (not allowed on American TV), like Jal did in season 2, but we don't want the show to be neutered by the censors, either.

Resist the temptation to put any of MTV's reality stars in it
Laguna Beach and The Hills are heavily scripted, but that doesn't mean that Whitney, Lauren, Kristin or (gasp) Audrina are good actresses. Kristin's appearance on Veronica Mars was the worst performance in the history of that show, and that's saying something on a show that featured Paris Hilton in more than one episode. Skins is a new direction for MTV, and they should stay away from any attempt at "corporate synergy."

In fact, just cast teenagers in the teen roles.
The British version started with a whole new cast in season 3 because the original cast had aged out of their roles. American television is notorious for casting twentysomethings as high school students. That's fine for shows like 90210 or Gossip Girl, but Skins takes its realism much more seriously. We hope this follows through to the casting. Plus, it would be nice to give some young actors a shot. After all, Slumdog Millionaire's Dev Patel got his start on Skins.

Order more than a pilot.
So far, MTV is only committed to produce a pilot. A show like Skins, where every episode is centered around a single character, might need more time to gain traction and develop an audience than a single installment allows. Granted, scripted TV is more expensive to produce than reality shows, but it would be nice to give this show the financial commitment it deserves.

We're pretty sure most of these suggestions have already occurred to Elsley and Brittain. They have a proven track record, and it's likely that the U.S. version of Skins will just feel like a 5th season of the British version. If that turns out to be true, MTV could have a colossal hit on their hands.

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