What is your childhood trauma?
One TV series I’ve really become addicted to this year is Skins.
I remember over a year ago when I was in London I saw all these posters for it and there was this general buzz about it being controversial (which always hightens my interest).
And it is pretty controversial, actually! All these attractive 17-year-olds are running around doing lots of adult things in adult places.
But this is not why the show is worth watching. It’s a lot of fun but the characters are likeable, and the storylines are deeply engaging.
I think one of its strongest (and in others’ opinions maybe weakest) points is that the writers only feed us a little snippet of what each character is going through in each episode. This is a result of the episodes usually revolving around one or two characters each week. By the time the focus returns to each character (having rotated through a number of them) a lot seems to have changed along the way.
This is pretty appealing to me because often series can be overwrought and lengthy as they knuckle out why everything happens.
With Skins you are forced to connect the dots; to allow for the idea that a lot can happen offscreen, and still know just what has hapened.
For example, in a Season One episode, “Michelle”, we get a glimpse into Michelle’s family life. Her mother has just married some dropkick and part of the episode involves Michelle’s acceptance of him as a step-father: nice.
In Season Two, however, when we once again see what Michelle’s neglectful mother has been up to we discover that she has married a different guy again, making Michelle’s ealier attempts seem somewhat futile…
It might seem like this could throw the audience off the course, but it doesn’t. The benign interchanging reality of life is woven through subtley amongst the teeny drama.
Despite this “interreality,” the main drama (like the ongoing love triangle between Sid, Michelle and Tony) doesn’t play out in leaps, skips and bounds. This is perhaps a result of the fact that each of these main characters will share a crossover point in their stories.
Another appealing aspect of this show is that the characters are the age they play (roughly). They have pimples, braces, glasses and a mess of teenage insecurities they bring to the characters.
It has been said before that America is prone to selecting adults well into their mid-twenties and older to play teenagers. I don’t think this really affects the quality of the series (see Buffy), however it often just seems unnecessary. With so many talented young actors floating about, why ignore the fact that these characters can really look the age they play?
One American series which trumps the idea of adults as teens is Freaks and Geeks. In particular, the geeks were played by young actors. This means when school bullies pick on them for not having armpit hair you know it isn’t because the actor is “maintaining” by waxing themselves each month.
Like Skins the series is apt at presenting itself as a thoughtful and emotional drama series, with wisps of witty one-liners embedded throughout.
This is probably why it was axed (because network execs seem to have a lot of difficulty figuring out the difference between their arse and holes in the ground, much less how engaging a series might be: particularly if, in the case of Freaks and Geeks, it wins Emmy awards for its writing).
Fortunately Skins is a British series and looks like it will continue on at least up until a third season is produced.
Freaks and Geeks sadly never saw even a second season so it is refreshing to see that at least one of these engaging teenage series is still developing.
As usual a good series calls for good music. Freaks and Geeks took its cue from the 70’s (as it was set in 1980).
Skins involves a miriad of music from the 60s to present. I include two songs for your listening pleasure. The first, by Adam and the Ants, is played when Chris floats about his house party enjoying the madness.
The second is just in general an awesome song everyone should have and is played in the first episode of Season Two while Tony is riding the bus with Maxxie.