Sunday, January 30, 2011

Discovering Skins

Do any of you watch Skins?
I had kind of avoided it, because I thought it was just an in-your-face yoof drama, and maybe I’m too old for that kind of thing now. Plus I generally avoid UK drama series, as they can be downbeat, dull, not as sophisticated and slick as US shows, and generally the actors in UK dramas are ugly!
However, I wish someone had told me how good Skins is.
I was intrigued by the trailer for series 5 – it is so cool – and I discovered that BT Vision were showing series 1 to 4, so I thought I’d check it out. I’m so glad I did. I’ve only watched series 3 and 4 so far (as they are going off BT soon) and I get the impression that series 1 and 2 are classics, so I’m looking forward to those too.
Series 3 introduces the ‘second generation’ of characters, a whole new cast, apart from Effy, the sister of Tony (Nicholas Holt) from series 1 and 2. I have to admit, series 3 is a bit of a scene-setter, where we just get to know the characters. There’s utter thug Cook, autistic JJ, young lesbians Naomi and Emily, Emily’s bitchy twin Katy and scatty, alluring Effy. The characters are introduced and we learn what makes them tick. It’s a little lightweight, and only really steps into gear towards the end, particularly in the slightly silly drug-fuelled camping trip episode and the finale, which completely shifts the setting and focuses on the love triangle between good-looking Freddie, and runaway lovers Cook and Effy.
Series 4 is another story, however. I wasn’t prepared for how EPIC it is. It starts off shockingly and gets heavier and heavier. The series opens with a teenage girl stumbling through a club (she bumps into each member of the cast on her way), and she climbs to the top of the club and leaps to her death. It turns out that some of the main cast are involved in supplying the drugs that led to her death, and the truth and consequences unfurl over the series.
Bitchy twin Katy gets her own stunning episode early on, where we learn that she is infertile (she’s had a premature menopause) and then we learn that her family is bankrupt and are evicted. It’s a stunning episode with great guest performances by Ronnie Ancona and John Bishop as Katie’s parents (in the series, actors like Harry Enfield, MacKenzie Crook and Jenny Éclair all have fun grown-up roles), and it delves into the hugely emotional family relationships (the family had disowned daughter Emily for being a lesbian – and they are forced to reunite with her). The moving ending had me in tears!
Things get even heavier from here on in, and we delve headfirst into the relationship between Effy and Freddie – and it soon becomes quite clear that Effy isn’t just an out-of-control teenager, she’s actually suffering from psychotic depression. The storylines all come to a head here, and we get a great character study of Freddie. Freddie’s mother suffered from depression, and the focus quickly turns on his desperate efforts to save his girlfriend from the same fate – and the harrowing realisation that he can’t.
Effy is sectioned and stays in a psychiatric institute for weeks – and when she leaves, the production of the episodes is utterly stunning. You can ‘feel’ her recovery in the episode, you get a true sense of it, you’re right there with the character – it’s extraordinary. You have to see it to believe it. It’s powerful acting and powerful writing. Wow.
A final shout-out to actress Lily Loveless, who plays ‘Naomi Campbell’. With a weaker connection between other characters, the character could have got lost in the storylines, and I think it’s the strength and vulnerability of Lily’s acting that really makes her shine, creating a compelling performance and turning her into my absolute favourite character. She’s in a new lesbian relationship with Emily, and it’s not without it’s huge ups and downs, but the writers make it clear that they love the character and the actress as much as we do. Check out this series – and Naomi’s stunning series finale speech – you won’t regret it.
Oh, and give me Skins over Glee any day.


dave said...

I avoided Skins because the series 1 trailers just made it look like the writers and producers were 16 year olds who wanted to see how 'controversial'they could be.

"Ooh look, we made a tv show with no plot but he said c*nt! How radical are we?"

Mart said...

It definitely seems that way - and the in-your-face drug use also can put people off - it just seems to be trying to be controversial for the sake of it.
But there is some good writing underneath it all and a good heart to it.

quiet on the western front said...

i've been quite fond of it from the start, yes, the drug use is rather blatent and over the top and clearly an attempt at courting controversy

but the first two series were particularly character driven once you've gotten over this

as a whole, i find skins a 'hit' with a few scattered 'miss' episodes that let it down slightly

the bizarrest story is how american sponsors pulled from the american adaption of Skins after the first episode aired and caused a stir, as if no-one had the fore-sight to check out the source material :-/