Remember back in the '90s? When kids were stuck home alone, all they had to worry about was a bunch of clumsy cat burglars. Things were so much more innocent back then, weren't they? Nowadays, the stakes are much higher. Mom leaves town for a few days and next thing you know, you're waking up in a mattress covered in sick and fending off the anarchist squatter sleeping in your bathtub. If Skins is an accurate reflection of today's teenagers, then I'll be the first to admit it: Kids these days sure do have it rough.
On tonight's episode of The Most Irresponsible Television Show Ever Made, Chris' mother splits town, leaving him $1000 in an envelope with a hastily scrawled note on the front: "Gone for a few days. Be good. Mom." Chris promptly blows the loot on beer, pizza, "boner pills," and a giant stereo. After throwing a rager at his house, Chris descends into a drug-fueled haze of indeterminate length and awakens to find his fish dead, his toilet gone, and his house uninhabitable. Chris is utterly alone in the world-he's cast out of his house without so much as a shred of clothing-and he turns to Tina, his teacher/love interest for help. She offers him a spare room in her apartment where he can stay temporarily. Meanwhile, Daisy takes Chris to see his dad, and we discover that Chris's hard-partying ways mask some dark secrets from his past-namely, a dead brother named Peter. Last week's episode, which followed sexy-lesbian-cheerleader Tea, was an abrupt departure from the UK Skins, and, in my opinion, the experimentation yielded mixed results. Tonight's episode, like the pilot, was yet another near shot-for-shot remake of the original, but here's the weird thing: I didn't hate it. In fact, of the show's three episodes, I think this may have been the best so far. Maybe it's just that the shock and dismay over this ill-advised adaptation is wearing off. I'm sure that's part of it, but I've got a few other theories.
It's safe to say that the biggest problem with MTV's Skins is the acting, which so far has ranged from mesmerizingly bad to slightly better than adequate. The most egregious offenders are James Newman as Tony and Britne Oldford as Cadie, neither of whom featured prominently in this episode, so maybe that's why it worked relatively well. Coming into this week, I was also skeptical that Jesse Carere could ever be as compelling or charismatic as Joseph Dempsie, who played the original Chris with a manic charm reminiscent of a young Ewan McGregor. His Chris was a hot mess but-at the risk of ending up in a future episode of To Catch a Predator-you can kind of see why his teacher would want to sleep with him. Now, I won't be declaring an inappropriate crush on Jesse Carere anytime soon, but I was pleasantly surprised with his performance tonight. He's got a wobbly voice that seems weirdly perfect for his character; it's like he's there, but never quite there. In the pivotal scene from tonight's episode-the one in which Chris tells Daisy about his dead brother, Peter-Carere thawed my cynical heart ever so slightly. He does the emo bit alright, but he hasn't got the comic panache. To wit, the scene in which he bursts out of his mother's armoire should have been funny, but it fell flat.
Come to think of it, this seems to be true of the US adaptation as a whole: it's okay at the drama, but the jokes rarely land. This could be because of the limitations of the cast, or the difficulty of translating comedy from one culture to another, or some combination thereof. Still, some jokes-like Chris' wild erection pee-transcend national differences.
Another theory as to why I kinda-sorta like this episode is that it's based on one of the strongest installments of the original series. The first episode of UK Skins was one of its weakest. It was basically American Pie with accents and more drugs. The show didn't get interesting until subsequent episodes, and I'd expect that this adaptation will follow the same trajectory. It probably can't ever match the original, but, at its best, it can come close. Tonight's episode was at least a worthy imitation of the original. It begins with slapstick potty humor, veers into domestic melodrama, then lands squarely back in raunchy teen-comedy territory. That's a lot of ground to cover in 40 minutes, and the fact that Skins almost made these wild tonal shifts work gives me a faint glimmer of hope for future episodes.
Chris's mother is the first adult to actually pick up and leave, but her departure is symbolic of a larger parental void on this show. Mostly, the parental absence is a convenient narrative excuse for all the late-night carousing going on, but if this show has any message at all, it's that these kids seem to be on their own in the world. In response to criticism of the show, MTV has argued that Skins has a positive, anti-drug message. This, frankly, is bs. Sure, the kids all have to deal with some kind of consequences from their drug and alcohol use, but this is not exactly an After School Special we're dealing with here. Mostly, it's depressing that literally all they ever talk about is weed, pills, sex, nipples, or masturbation-what, haven't they heard of video games? The problem isn't how much they're drinking or having sex; it's that seems to be all they care about. Still, this is one episode that MTV might be able to claim has a responsible message, even if it's one aimed at parents rather than kids: Abandon your teens and they'll descend into drug-fueled mania. No, it's not exactly Ozzie and Harriet, but it's something.
Ugh, Skins' third episode is the worst episode yet. It's surprising considering how good the last episode was, but this episode just had zero originality. This episode was word-for-word the same episode as the original's only with no heart and horrible acting.
The Tea/Tony/Michelle triangle is the only thing that's keeping me watching right now, but by the looks of the next episode, it doesn't look promising. Just a carbon copy of the Cassie episode, except with an unlikable version of her.
Now that I mention it, Stanley & Caddie have absolutely no chemistry. I know I shouldn't be comparing the UK to the US as much, but if they didn't want me to do that, then they shouldn't have given us an episode that was exactly the same as the original. Poor episode tonight.
The US version of SKINS has the foundation to be great television, but it chooses to live by the "MTV Standard" instead, which is "out of this world" unrealism, and poor believability. About half of the main cast are horrible actors, and the writing could be a hell of a lot better.
There are many strong points in this episode that are executed quite well. They made the character of Chris a flawed one, but compelling and likable just like Tea. Sadly, the strong points in the episode are short lived, and the episode drags a lot in points with stuff that I could of cared less about. As well, the way some of the plot turns early in the episode were executed are poor, and that really had a bad effect on the rest of the episode..
Skins needs a complete overhaul for its realism, a switch up in the casting to include better actors (or maybe some acting lessons), otherwise the little care I have for this program is going to go away.
Chris's mother leaves him, with an envelope full of cash, written on it that she'll be gone for a few days. Tony convinces him to throw a legendary party; trashing the house. In essence, exactly what happened in the UK Skins, occurred in this episode.
Seeing as this episode was once again a copy of the UK version, same as the first episode of this series/season, I must say that I am disappointed in the 'writers', if they even exist at all. So far I am positively certain that the only script changes being made are to change wording to sound like American English. As such, the characters can easily be compared to their British counterparts- the comparison leaves the American MTV actors/actresses appearing emotionless and without a distinguishable identity. For all intensive purposes, the MTV actors may as well be attempting to produce an exact replica of the UK version acting... while failing miserably. Most likely though, is that the unoriginal storyline does not provide them for much basis to create their own character identities. Are remakes ever better than the originals? At least The Office, branched out into some different humour than their UK counterpart/basis.
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