January 18, 2011

New Skins vs Good Skins

There are three traits that my ideal teen drama would embody-- funny, but not corny; thoughtful, but not preachy; edgy, but not try-hard. In my opinion, the UK version of the television show Skins comes fairly close to perfection. When I heard that an American version was in production, I had the expected mixed feelings. What I hoped for was a remake in the spirit of The Office; after watching the first episode, which aired yesterday on MTV, I can say with relative certainty that Skins 2.0 will go the way of Coupling.

To begin, one must point out that AmeriSkins is basically a shot for shot remake of the British version. If you haven't seen the original show, you obviously wouldn't notice this. I can see how it would be tempting to try to birth an American twin to the British hit. In simply adding American accents to the original plots, however, New Skins fails to establish itself as a show with a unique identity. Watching it feels like a blurry photocopy of the original.

As an experiment, I watched the two first episodes, both entitled "Tony," side by side on my computer. Though not identical, sometimes the dialogue would echo itself, first in American English, and then with a Bristol accent. Camera angles were also super similar. Some screencaps to illustrate (original first, then remake):

Old and new Tony; old and new Michelle

Name of a drug dealer on a business card; old man lurkin' Sid/Stanley's nude pics of Michelle

Some girl they mock for having buck teeth (UK)/overbite (US); wandering in suburbia

Some character changes are made for the new series. British-sounding names are Americanized (Sid to Stanley; Cassie to Cadie; and Jal to Daisy, among others). Perhaps the strangest change is the transformation of the UK version's gay male character Maxxie into Tea, a lesbian, for MTV's version. Tea is hot. She is also a cheerleader. When she cheers, she and her squad wear tiny outfits. Their team is called the Polecats. Baby steps I suppose. JK THIS IS RIDICULOUS. Sorry American youth, apparently you aren't ready for a complex and nuanced gay character. Here, have more stereotypes and girls making out!

Also, MTV's version dumbs down a lot of cultural references. In the original, Tony is seen reading Jean-Paul Sartre's La Nausée. The US version shows him reading a generic Book. If you are going to duplicate a show shot-for-shot, why not at least include the cool parts?

Same goes for this change, where a poster in Tony's room is changed from Fellini's to Kubrick's Lolita. Still cool, but definitely much more accessible.

The show was not without redeeming qualities. This sign in the background of this scene made me laugh. It reads, "Juvenile males are a THREAT!"

More often than not, however, I spent my time watching laughing at the show, as opposed to laughing with it. British slang was changed to corny American phrases to avoid conflict with the FCC. Some choice phrases include: dope me into outer space (referring to getting high), bump your brains out (referring to fucking), have you seen his kapuchka? (referring to a character's penis) and the every popular bastion of of teen slang, I only like really great narcotics (self-explanitory, overtly so.)

The show is too good to be marked as campy (a la Glee), and just bad enough to do injustice to the original that it seeks to duplicate. I'll probably watch another episode or two as a form of masochistic procrastination.

79 comments:

  1. I watched the first episode of British Skins. It was a little bit too...much...for my tastes at the time, but not so much so that I won't ever watch another one.

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  2. As a representative of the UK, I'd like to ask America what the hell you're doing?
    I watched US Skins today, I don't get it. Basically what happened was they took Skins, cast less attractive people (aside from Stanley and Tea really), took out all the swearing and the nudity, and made Cassie, sorry Katie or whatever, completely devoid of charm. Cassie wouldn't be slicing up bunnies, ever. I heard that the US version is going to go off in its own direction, and I will watch it out of curiosity, but I can't say I'm impressed so far. Series 5 of UK Skins comes out a week tomorrow though, hope it's better!

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  3. I am holding out hope. I mean, "The Office" was a carbon copy at first, but after a little while it developed its own personality and is still airing!
    So...maybe...

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  4. Rachii is right, Bryan Elsley has said multiple times that the first episode and Chris's episode will be super similar and the reason is for the young American writers to grow into it. Every other episode, especially Tea's, will be original. So, before jumping to mad conclusions, wait until Tea's episode on Monday.

    As a sidenote, I found a lot of the jokes unfunny or trying too hard ("nutbush cafeteria") and I liked Cadie. She wasn't trying to be Cassie, which is good, and I still think she had like... IT.

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  5. I think the big appeal of Skins is that it is very "real" and doesn't sugarcoat (Season 3/4 were my favorite.) America is just can't handle it. I haven't seen the American Skins...I'm scared it is going to be god awful/

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  6. >>>Sorry American youth, apparently you aren't ready for a complex and nuanced gay character. Here, have more stereotypes and girls making out!

    Lesbians can't be complex and nuanced characters? (Or only American, not-named-Naomy-or-Emily lesbians can't?) Just because she's a cheerleader doesn't authomatically mean that she's only there for fanservice. She *might* be, but why jumping to the conclusions after one episode?

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  7. Thanks for your review. Having recently started watching and enjoying the original Skins I didn't have high hopes for the remake (I usually don't). I won't go out of my way to see it. Honestly, when something is good, even if certainly cultural reference might be slightly off, why don't they show the original? It's not like it's THAT confusing and with internet you can figure it out pretty quickly if you're confused at any time.

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  8. Anon- Lesbians can obviously be complex and nuanced. I'm just saying it seems a little, erm, marketing-y to change a gay boy character into a lesbian cheerleader. But, I'm going to watch more episodes! Hoping to be surprised....

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  9. I have yet to see the American version, but am in love with the UK version. Thanks for the review - I'd love to see it for myself.

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  10. It's funny that I came across this piece today...I'm right now watching the last episode of British Skins Season. I absolutely loved it. But I'm not sure if I'm going to watch Season Three since it seems that all the main characters are gone...Are they still as good?

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  11. Aaah, Skins, how you have ruined my beloved home city of Bristol!

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  12. http://www.minorcon.org/skins1.html

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  13. I haven't really been keeping up with the show, but I did watch most of Tea's episode and I really liked it (and her character)! I've only seen the first two episodes of the UK version so I don't have much to compare the US version to, but I thought having a lesbian character was refreshing. It seems that there's always a gay guy on teen dramas like this one (like Degrassi, which has had a ton), but hardly any lesbians. From what I've seen, any non-heterosexual girl is always just "experimenting" or bi-sexual. (I don't watch a lot of TV, though, so maybe there are more lesbian characters out there that I've missed). I'm kind of tired of the typical gay-guy storyline. I don't know why they felt like they needed to change the character so drastically, but I've been enjoying that aspect of the show, anyway.

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  14. I love your oppinions on Skins..and yeah..the US Version is alot to be desired for =\..i feel bad for them though, cuz one of the Original Skins Girls from the UK version called them out on Twitter and said something along the lines of: "Nah mate, Brits did it better"..im pretty sure it was Kaya Scodelario, but yeah. Im kinda glad the show got cancelled cuz to be honest..it was painful watching something that was so brilliant and tasteful and executed beautifully in the UK version to see a watered down Disney type turned show -__-
    And now im hearing theres going to be an Inbetweneers US version! oh lord..Fuck My Life! #FML #FML #FML **epic fail there*

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  15. Skins US isn't worth watching, I'm sorry, but is was really bad compare to the original. It's just a watered down copy. They copied the show and just put less attractive people for the roles, and the took out the swearing and nudity. Tony (US) is quite ugly compare to Tony (US), sorry just had to be said.

    ReplyDelete
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    ReplyDelete
  18. Rachii is right, Bryan Elsley has said multiple times that the first episode and Chris's episode will be super similar and the reason is for the young American writers to grow into it. Every other episode, especially Tea's, will be original. So, before jumping to mad conclusions, wait until Tea's episode on Monday.
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    ReplyDelete
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    ReplyDelete
  26. لاشك ان شركه الحورس تعد افضل شركه خدمات منزليه التي منها (التنظيف/رش مبيدات/مكافحه حشرات/تسليك مجاري/كشف تسربات المياه/تنظيف خزانات..)وعديد من الخدمات التي تلزم البيت او الفله نحن بخدمتك عزيزي العميل.
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    ReplyDelete