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 8½ 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.