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October 8, 2015

'Skins' Series Premiere Recap

by Sandie Angulo Chen, posted Jan 18th 2011 11:10AM
Skins ['Skins' - 'Tony']

Followers of the British series may scoff and declare there's no need for an American version of this show, but I, who is mildly obsessed with the original (which airs on BBC America), encourage my fellow Tony Stonem fans to give this faithful-in-spirit adaptation a shot.

At the very least, it's refreshing to see a teen drama that doesn't focus solely on the melodramatic lives of the rich and privileged.

In case it wasn't clear about three minutes in, this series makes 'Glee,' with its occasional references to losing your virginity, girl-on-girl hook-ups and teen pregnancy, look like a Saturday-morning cartoon.

Like its British source, MTV's 'Skins' shows enough underage sex, drugs, petty crime and all-out rebellion to make some grown-ups shudder. If you're horrified by the first episode, you should stop watching full-stop, because this is, as we pointed out, a pretty damn scary and gritty representation of how thrill-seeking middle-class adolescents can act.

Now that we're all properly warned, let's talk about Tony (James Newman), since he's the alpha male of this ensemble. Creator Bryan Elsley was brilliant not to cast a boy who looks like Nicholas Hoult (the perfectly cast original Tony). Newman and his broad-shouldered, compact, brown-eyed self is never going to be confused with the tall and long-limbed Hoult and his piercing blue eyes, although they do share that necessary smug grin that Tony flashes at pretty much everyone. Newman is convincing as a smooth-talking ringleader who calls his girlfriend Michelle "Nips" because her nipples are "funny" and convinces his best friend Stanley into thinking there's something utterly shameful and embarrassing about reaching 16 a (gasp!) virgin.

The beauty about Tony is that he's a complete narcissist who will do whatever he pleases but whom you still believe cares -- at least a little -- about his friends. And thank goodness for those friends, because unlike Hoult, who was relatively well known with considerable acting chops, Newman is unknown, and for the series to work, the entire cast will have to pull us into rooting for their characters.

Like the original, or more familiar to U.S. audiences, 'Lost,' each episode will follow one central character, giving each actor a shot to shine. This has worked brilliantly for the U.K. 'Skins,' and it should prove successful here if the story-lines are similarly gripping and gradually explain why the kids are definitely not all right.

Of Tony's clique, the most interesting characters are the girls -- Tea (Sofia Black-D'Elia), the beautiful lesbian cheerleader (in the original, the gay friend was Maxxie, a guy, and the stakes seem somewhat lower by having changed the character to a female); Daisy, the sarcastic musician, and Cadie (Britne Oldford), the ethereal junkie who speaks the truth. Michelle aka "Nips" (Rachel Thevenard) was a bit underwhelming, but if she's secretly smart and vulnerable like the original Michelle, then she'll have more to do than vamp and swallow Tony's face in every scene.

The boys have big shoes to fill. In England, the awkward and love-sick Stanley (Daniel Flaherty) character -- called Sid -- became a sympathetic foil to Tony's natural charisma; Chris (here played by Jesse Carere) has the most emotional character arc of the series, and Abbud (Ron Mustafaa), the Muslim friend torn between his conservative family and rebellious friends, was played by Dev Patel, who went on to star in the Oscar-winning drama 'Slumdog Millionaire.' Let's hope the American guys have as good of a go of it.

Big downers in the first episode: the histrionic fathers, especially Tony's dad. That wasn't an annoyed father shouting at his kid; it was downright laughable and caricaturish screeching. Stanley's father also sounded pretty awful on the phone. I'm keeping fingers crossed that some of the other kids have mellower parents, although if it follows the same pattern as the British version, one of Tony's friends will have an absentee mother, and another one a famous father. Also, the students are supposedly from Baltimore, the way the British kids were from Bristol, but there's absolutely nothing of the city in the show, which is rather obviously NOT shot in Baltimore (it's actually Toronto).

Whether this series will hit the mark hinges on how the next couple of episodes develop the rest of the ensemble. The non-stop partying and sexuality will definitely titillate teen viewers, but for grown-ups to stay tuned in, the stories need to reveal more layers to the characters, so they're more than just bored teens looking for someone to shag and something to get high on.

They Said What?: While all the euphemisms for sex and genitalia were quite clever ("Furry City" "ricockulous" and "de-hymenated" were big hits at our house), some of the teen slang could have been completely made up, and I'd have no clue, especially everything Tabitha was saying. It was funny regardless, but do teens really say things like "clitoral" and "Bradulous"? Since none of the teens I know are allowed to watch this, I'm hoping some of you reading will set things straight.

'Skins' airs Mondays, 10PM ET on MTV.

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absolutely awful, laughed at it rather than with it

the new cassie is terrible, same with chris, who was my favourite character

just seems really forced

still think people who haven't seen the original can enjoy it though

im not one of these people who think its crap just because its a remake, i think the new shameless is alright, think that's down to the acting, which is good in shameless and rubbish in this

January 18 2011 at 6:24 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

censorship really really killed it. character development was a less interesting too, dont know if it will survive. but i hope it works out for the group, maybe they can turn it around.

January 18 2011 at 12:58 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

This just makes me want to watch the UK version. The US version is such a FAIL. They missed the entire point of the show. The original picked a city, Bristol, and found the type of kids that were there. The US version is the exact same story and UK characters, it just doesn't work here. The show lends itself to be able to adapt each season, so i'm not sure why they wouldnt pick a US city and the type of kids that live there, instead of just an exact copy of the UK.

and censored? FAIL.

January 18 2011 at 11:55 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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