Over the years, America has “borrowed” many television ideas from the Brits. The UK has have given the US hits like The Office and Dancing With the Stars and some that got lost in translation, like Coupling. Unfortunately, I believe the latest import will fall into the latter category.
For a show that centers around youths coming of age in South England, Skins has developed a cult following stateside, a cult following that is none too happy about the news MTV is reworking the show to create an American version of Skins.
UK Skins is known for its brutal portrayal of sex and drugs in teenagers’ lives. With the less strict censorship in England, Skins has free reign to depict teenage dramas in all their gritty glory. The show also goes outside the box, hiring writers and actors the same ages as the characters they are writing for and portraying, in fact the average age of the writing staff is 21. Skins also made headlines for the decision to hire unknown actors. The most famous of the original cast was Nicholas Hoult (Tony), better known as the adorable little kid in the Hugh Grant movie About a Boy. The most innovative move Skins made was the decision to replace the cast every two seasons, thus avoiding those awkward college years that are the death of almost every teen drama.
Whether it was one of these moves, or a combination of them all, Skins was an instant and critical hit. Critics praised its fresh take on a dying genre and its handling of storylines dealing with everything from death to homosexuality. It has gone on to win various prestigious awards and has been nominated for even more, including Best Drama at the 2008 Rose d’Or ceremony (won) and Best Drama Series at the British Academy Television Awards 2008 (nominated); feats that American teen dramas could only dream of.
So, what magic ingredients are MTV keeping in this translation? MTV certainly doesn’t have the freedom to show ‘everything’ , as they did in the UK, so MTV will be stuck showing sex, drugs, and crude language the same way as every American teen drama; as PG as possible. MTV has made the decision to stay true to UK Skins by using young, unknown talent and writers. However, how much writing they actually need is debatable.
MTV recently released the trailer for their show, which debuts in January, and from the ad it seems it has recreated the first episode of the original Skins virtually shot for shot. MTV kept the same characters, changing a few names, and in the case of the celebrated gay male, Maxxie, the gender. From what I can tell from the trailer, even the dialogue of the US version is the same as the UK version—only the accents are different.
So, with all these similarities between the shows, the question has to be asked, why even bother? They could have just as easily edited out the salacious content and aired the original version. It wouldn’t have been good, but it would have been better than what this US version seems to be. It’s a recreation, only without the gritty realism and to the American ear, the adorable British accents, so you might as well just watch the original.