Recently I mentioned that a number of British series had been Americanized and were premiering on US television in January. One of those shows was Skins, a Channel 4 program given a makeover by MTV. Well, if you haven’t heard, the Parent’s Television Council has stirred up quite a hornet’s nest by requesting a federal investigation calling Skins nothing less than child pornography. This accusation has prompted advertising sponsor Taco Bell to withdraw it’s commercials from the show. But MTV is refusing to tone it down and can only be relishing the boost in ratings that comes with such attention. If you search online, you will be bombarded with opinions from all sides of this matter.
Back in May, I wrote about teenagers and Skins was the inspiration behind that post. http://britishtelly.wordpress.com/2010/05/26/kids-today/ It wasn’t my favorite show, but I gave it a chance and found merit in many of the characters and grew to care about them. I hadn’t intended on watching the American version at all, especially since my viewing time is limited anyway. But since this whole kerfuffle has taken place, I took it upon myself to watch the MTV pilot episode online so that I could compare and knowledgeably comment.
The first episodes of both versions are quite identical in storyline, characters (the British gay character is traded out for an American lesbian) and sensibility. But the British version is edgier – more profanity, more nudity, and more intense partying. Maybe the American version would have hit me harder if I’d seen it first but it just seemed a little watered down to me. Even the characters are less vibrant. Tony (the leader of the pack, if you like) is far more charismatic and cruel in the UK version. Cassie, the anorexic, free spirit in the original, has been reincarnated into a more subdued, less insightful Cadie. To allow the show it’s full impact, it would probably be better suited to a channel like Showtime, not basic cable where swear words are beeped out.
These comparisons still aren’t fair because I haven’t watched any more of the MTV series to see how these characters will develop – and I probably won’t because I have other viewing priorities. To be honest, I’m going to favor the British version anyway because it is British. But I do think the parent’s group has overreacted. I watched the show with the understanding that it’s an entertainment program portraying a heightened version of some teens’ experiences (most who happen to have very immature and dysfunctional parents by the way). I’m not here to get into an argument about censorship or responsible parenting. I searched for public reactions of a similar degree when the UK version premiered in 2007, but found very little – just objections to a promotional poster with the stars of the show posing on a bed half-dressed or less.
As I’ve observed before, it seems to come down to differences in opinions about sexuality and morality. Most parents, no matter what country they’re from, want to see their teens behaving like they do on Skins. But while denying that our children will grow up and do “grown-up” things may be comforting for awhile, it’s got to be unhealthy in the long run.