3 February 2011 | Sweet_Ophelia
This could have been some kind of wonderful... emphasis on 'could'
I hope the American creators of 'Skins' realise how much potential has been wasted on their remake.
The British E4 'Skins', created by Jamie Brittain and Bryan Elsley is fantastic. And what makes the show so great is its versatility. Currently the UK version is in its fifth season with its third remodelled cast.
The American version is a remake of its Pommie counterpart . . . sometimes word-for-word, or shot-for-shot. Heck, they've even recreated the promo photo shoots down to the 'pile-on' cast shot. Yawn. 'Skins' is a show about teenagers. Not your 'Gossip Girl', '90210' and 'O.C.' privileged darlings where fans watch to live vicariously and glimpse the high-life. 'Skins' is all about the relatable. Typical teenagers in typical towns doing typical (if hair-raising) things. The UK version is set in Bristol (the 'meat and potatoes' town of England) while the US version is set in Baltimore (and equally unimpressive slice of suburbia). The brilliance of the show lies in the fact that the teenage characters get up to wicked stunts and tangled loves regardless of their dull surroundings. Because, teenagers will be teenagers no matter where they live. It's no shock that teens living and loving in New York will have some wild adventures. What 'Skins' shows is that teens even in backwoods Noweheresville will get up to the same sorts of shenanigans . . . and often with more significant and profound experiences.
And that's what makes Jamie Brittain and Bryan Elsley's 'Skins' framework so adaptable. You don't need the same characters to tell these stories. All you need is teenagers. Teenagers are the portal through which these tales are told. All the US makers had to do was choose a suitably unremarkable setting (Baltimore – check) and use typical teen stereotypes to base their show around. And Lord knows that the Americans have enough clichés thanks to John Hughes movies – the jock, the princess, the freak, the nerd. . .
Unfortunately MTV wimped out. They took the easy route and, effectively, decided to copy off someone else's homework. For shame!
They have replicated entire episodes. They have taken British characters and changed their names (Sid – Stanley) and tried to fit square pegs into round holes. For shame! And it's even worse because there is every evidence that if MTV had made 'Skins' their own – created their own characters and story lines and used the bare framework of 'teenagers' (hardly worth the copyright!) then this series could have succeeded. Case in point, Tea.
The best thing about the US version is the one character that they made themselves; 'Tea' is played by Sofia Black-D'Elia and she's fabulous. She's a warped cliché – an American cheerleader, but with the twist of also being a lesbian. She is a replacement character from the UK version, 'Tea' as a stand in for the male homosexual character of Maxxie (Mitch Hewer).
Tea's episode was the second one of the season and it was fantastic. Tea as a cheerleader lesbian who is 'out' at school, perhaps even the token homosexual amongst her friends. But at home she keeps her sexuality under-wraps from her Jewish family. Tea's episode had such American flavour – as Tea hangs out at a lesbian Rockabilly dance hall to pick up chicks – it was a flavourful mix of old Americana with a modern twist. The writers even added layers of complications to Tea's already hectic life by introducing an uneasy attraction between her and the show's playboy Lothario, Tony (James Newman). This 'romance' is doomed to be one-sided, though Tony looks to be in determined pursuit of the unattainable.
Tea's second episode was exactly what I wanted from the American version of Skins. I wanted the Yanks to make this show their own. Alas, the third episode, 'Chris', was back to the unoriginal 'been-there-seen- that' of the UK version.
The first season of Skins USA is a dismal failure. But the character of 'Tea' and her Americana-meets-L-Word episode is proof positive that the Yanks can do it! They just have to take a chance – think outside the (British) square, infuse some originality into their version and trust in their writers to come up with something as equally smashing as their Pommie counterparts.