'Skins' second-episode review: Kiddie porn, kiddie bore, or something more? | EW.com

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'Skins' second-episode review: Kiddie porn, kiddie bore, or something more?

This week on Skins, Tea engaged in some frisky sex with Betty – typical of the sort of semi-explicit acts that have advertisers fleeing the series with increasing frequency. Personally, I was more shocked that Tea would

masturbate to a poster of Audrey Hepburn: Are none of our icons sacred? In its second outing, Skins continued to behave as though it was being boldly daring with lines like, “I screw girls, so what?,” liberal use of the word “s—,” and a scene of two under-age characters chug-a-lugging vodka while spinning around on a playground toy.

More often, however, Skins came off less like its far superior British version and more like a mediocre episode of Degrassi (and not just because MTV’s American-set show is shot in Canada). An early scene on Tuesday night offered a teacher uttering painfully unconvincing dialogue, lecturing students in the lunch room about “serious shenanigans like drugs, alcohol, wrongful sex acts… real bad stuff.” The speech was so stilted, it might have come straight from a press release by the Parents Television Council, which has done so much to stir up controversy about Skins. And that speech is also why the U.S. version of Skins fails artistically: Unlike the British version, which let the viewer make up his or her mind about the behavior onscreen, our Skins tells us that, even though he’s a dweeb, that teacher is speaking the bottom-line truth, that sex and drugs are baaaad.

I realize that what parent-watchdog organizations, scared sponsors, and I are criticizing are different things: They think bad behavior among teens portrayed by actual teens is appalling and perhaps a violation of child pornography laws; I think the crime of MTV’s Americanized version of Skins is that it’s

so prettified and trite.

And mawkish. Take, for example, Tea’s most soul-searching remarks this week:

“Is it too much to ask for someone to be interesting? I just want to be equal!” These were among Tea’s profound thoughts this week, before and after she received words of advice from her dotty grandmother, whose dementia is played for laughs whenever it’s not intended to be a fount of Great Wisdom.

This is where the tone of Skins is most jarring, both in its context as a show about gritty reality (something all teen-audience-aimed shows strive for, because producers, and teens, think that’s what the audience wants most: a concept of authenticity that is cynical and downbeat, a very limited view of reality) and as a scripted compantion-piece to MTV’s biggest current hits, the “reality” shows Jersey Shore and Teen Mom 2.

“Real life sucks!” exclaimed Tea early on in the show. No: Falsely rendered approximations of real life disguised as taboo-shattering television – that sucks. Or more accurately, it sucks that this is the vision of reality that MTV and its audience believes in. Because reality really doesn’t have to suck. Reality can be, in fact, quite joyful and challenging and thought-provoking. MTV should try this angle some time.

Agree? Disagree?

Twitter: @kentucker

For more:

‘Skins’ loses three more advertisers

MTV’s new hit ‘Skins’: Could it be flirting with child pornography?

Originally posted January 24 2011 — 11:12 PM EST

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