Thursday, May 14, 2009

Skins – Season 1 Review

UK Airdate: January 25th – March 22nd 2007

Standing In The Way Of Control: Teen shows aren’t exactly something that are really dying out. As long as they are young audiences, there’s always going to be enthusiastic viewers wanting their usual mix of teen angst, hedonism and cuter than thou totty. American shows such as The OC, One Tree Hill, Gossip Girl and 90210 are continuing that trend in their own style.

In the UK, the decision by E4 to do their own teen show, following subsequent cancellations from shows such as As If and Sugar Rush seemed inevitable. The producers themselves wanted something that would serve as a slight anti-thesis to some of the US counterparts I’ve mentioned, while at the same time, appealing to the same type of an audience.

January 2007 saw the arrival of this series and the opener certainly went its way into introducing the core cast – smooth operator and total bastard, Tony, the seemingly vapid Michelle, geeky Sid, out and proud Maxxie, stoner Chris, level-headed Jal, self-destructive Cassie, mysterious Effy and sex obsessed Anwar, all of whom on paper wouldn’t have appeared to be anything new.

And they’re not but what sets them apart is that unlike US TV, age appropriate actors are better cast in the UK. The reason why these teenagers look like teenagers is because they’re played by actors who are teenagers. Makes things a lot easier in the long run.

The opening episode was fairly standard, surrounding a lot of mishaps in acquiring dope while gate crashing rich bitch Abigail’s party (no, not that one) and legging it when things get out of hand. The gangster Mad Twatter is a weak spot in the episode and his presence in the following two are a dampener (though we can thank Jal’s father for ridding us of him).

What really sets the show apart is its second episode focusing on Cassie (the first fixated on Tony). Dealing with anorexia is a popular theme, especially with teen characters but Hannah Murray’s blistering performance as the troubled girl and her attraction to Sid certainly endeared Cassie in a major way while Jal’s mother issues and burgeoning desire to get into classical music make episode three a solid one. Jal’s chances of musical success are more likely, given the fact that her dopey brothers are spectacularly tone deaf by comparison.

Chris is another engaging character and Joe Dempsie who plays him is probably the strongest male actor on the show. Dealing with his own issues, including opening up to Jal about his younger brother’s death does prove (along with Cassie’s battle with her eating disorder) that the show can have some emotional intelligence and given that a lot of the episodes heavily focus on various parties, it’s a nice contrast. Plus this side of Chris is also a lot better than the one we see when he starts sleeping with his teacher Angie for the remainder of the season.

One of the weakest points of the season is Tony and Sid’s dynamic. Tony clearly uses Sid as a scape goat, an object of ridicule and he even doesn’t mind screwing him and Michelle over in the fifth episode. Sid’s crush on Michelle is understandable but out of the female characters, Michelle might be a bit too vapid to care about. April Pearson who plays Michelle is good in the role, so it’s not really down to her that I’m often less than interested in the character.

Season One’s weakest episode however lies in with the gang’s trip to Russia. It’s not particularly an awful episode – I mean there’s some great conflict over Anwar and Maxxie regarding the latter’s sexuality, you do have a brief encounter between Maxxie and Tony and Jal and Michelle’s drunken antics are funny but it just doesn’t work as brilliantly as the first few episodes.

The last few episodes however are wonderful. There’s something spectacularly satisfying in seeing Michelle beating the crap out of Tony and Sid realising that he’s fallen out of love with Michelle and in with Cassie (hey, Sid/Cassie are the ship in this season whereas as Jal/Chris are Season Two and Emily/Naomi are Season Three). Effy, who in later seasons takes over her brother’s leadership with a new gang gets one of the most interesting episodes of the season. The penultimate episode is interesting because for a fair chunk of it, very little actually happens and when it does, it’s all of a sudden but it serves as an ongoing trend in the last segment of the season to show Tony that there are consequences for messing with people’s lives. His relationships with Sid and Effy are far more engaging than his need to get Michelle back.

The finale is by far, the best one we’ve had from the show. Where else do you see a character mowed down by a bus who survives or with the main gang miming to Wild World? Okay, maybe it’s not that unique but as teen shows go, this might be over hyped to the hills and even occasionally silly at times (Sid in particular gets pissed on a lot – metaphorically and literally in one episode alone). Anwar is probably the most underused character of the bunch, even less so than Abigail or Posh Kenneth. Plus this show has got to be doing something right if it’s able to attract the likes of Arabella Weir, Harry Enfield, Peter Capaldi, Morweena Banks and Neil Morrissey to name a few in the roles of parents on this show.

DVD EXTRAS: I don’t actually own the DVDs, seeing as they’re stripped of the original music used per episode but I do know what the extras entail.

- 9 Unseen Skins episodes (I Mostly Do, Careers Advice, Shoot 'Em Up Bang Bang Props to the Hood, A Friend in Need, Careers Advice II, To Russia With Love..., The Cat & the Duck, Pop and Bye)
11 Video diaries (Jal, Chris, Abigail, Effy, Maxxie, Michelle, Posh Kenneth, Tony, Sid, Anwar and Cassie)
Music video for "Standing in the Way of Control"
Director's cut trailer
- Broadcast trailers


1x01: Tony = 7/10, 1x02: Cassie = 9/10, 1x03: Jal = 8/10,
1x04: Chris = 8/10, 1x05: Sid = 10/10, 1x06: Maxxie And Anwar = 7/10,
1x07: Michelle = 9/10, 1x08: Effy = 10/10, 1x09: Finale = 10/10.

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