American version of ‘Skins’ destined to disappoint?

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By Lane Roberts

For those of us who know and love the English phenomenon Skins, the prospect of an American version was exciting and, frankly, frightening. The Skins we know is sexy, risqué, and well, everything that the U.S. will not air on television.

As I anxiously awaited the Jan. 17 premiere, I’ll admit I was among those who were skeptical of MTV’s ability to recreate the near perfection of U.K. Skins.

To those who are unfamiliar, Skins follows the lives of a group of teens as they face the challenge of growing up and learning about love and life with little adult supervision (and a lot of partying).

There’s Tony, the attractive, intelligent womanizer and his best friend (and foil) Stanley (Sid in the U.K. version). Then, there is his girlfriend Michelle, who always seems to forgive him despite his constantly wandering eyes and Cadie (Cassie), an eccentric girl who is sent to many different doctors by her parents to be given more drugs to cure a variety of mental illnesses.

Chris is the party animal, while Tea is a cool and confident lesbian. Daisy (Jal) is a talented musician and Abbud (Anwar) is the devout Muslim with a crazy side. Finally, Eura (Effy) is Tony’s little sister who, like him, is beautiful, magnetic, and manipulative.

Other than the Americanized names, the biggest change is the replacement of the lovable, gay, tap-dancing Maxxie with the lesbian cheerleader, Tea.

Although hopefully not just a ratings ploy, after watching her episode, I am not very optimistic. She is hot and a cheerleader.  When she cheers, she and her squad wear tiny outfits. Oh, and their team is called the Polecats.

To make matters worse, she is introduced with jokes about how she gets a rise from getting groped by her teammates, which proves that writers are not interested in dealing with the serious side of sexual identity. Sorry America, guess you’re not ready for a complex gay character. U.S. version of Skins falls short, at the most basic level, with its dialogue. Creators replace witty British sayings with corny American phrases that are stiff and awkward and appear forced. Maybe the problem is that there is no plausible way to rewrite a script that has “wanker” or “tosser” as every fifth word.

But if writers really want us to believe that this is a realistic portrayal of American teens, they are going to have to actually sound like American teens. I, for one, cannot remember the last time I heard someone use the word “reckon.”

Despite my disappointment with the first few episodes, I’m still holding out hope that MTV can make Skins a breakthrough series (like its predecessor) that focuses on youth.

However, to do so they need to deviate from Skins 1.0 long enough to give this version its own unique voice. Otherwise, you’re probably better off just buying the British DVDs.

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