We at TV Fiends had an emergency meeting called last night. Employees who could not make it to One TV Fiends Plaza in the Pine Valley section of Northern Virginia were conference-called and video-called in. The tension in the air was thick. Most employees didn’t know why a company-wide meeting had been called so hastily, and just about everyone was jittering with nervousness.
Then our beloved editor and publisher, Jenn (the Anna Wintour of blogging), stepped behind the podium — in the midst of palpable tension — and made the announcement: “MTV’s Skins has been cancelled … I repeat … MTV’s Skins has been cancelled …”
She couldn’t even finish the rest of her statement because the cheering in the Tami Roman Bad Reality TV Choices Memorial Auditorium was just too loud. The nightmare is over. We repeat … MTV’s Skins has been cancelled.
We despised MTV’s Skins. It was likely the most dastardly and dreadful scripted-television show of the season. It was just awful.
The Parents Television Council hated MTV’s Skins because it thought the show offered and exemplified coarsened values to America’s youth. We didn’t care much about that — that wasn’t our objection to MTV’s Skins. If parents are parenting — i.e., concerning themselves with what is going on in the lives of their children — the terrible mores highlighted and glorified on MTV’s Skins wouldn’t tar the eyes of youngsters. We’re not huge fans of censoring things on television at 10 p.m. to protect children who shouldn’t be watching television at that time anyway. We’re huge fans of parents acting like grown-ups, people charged with leading their particular children into productive lives.
Our issue with MTV’s version of the runaway British hit Skins was that it was just plain badly done television.
We have made our views plain about the homophobic treatment the gay male character Maxxie received in the U.S. version of this show (click here to read our view on MTV’s handling of the gay Skins character for American audiences). We won’t rehash that column — mainly because we don’t need to.
The MTV’s American version of Skins was so flawed, we don’t need to hurl old venom on it.
The British version of Skins is a transcendent television program. It is almost flawless. It is daring and brave, gritty and engrossing. It is a raw and enlightening view of life as lived by an engaging group of British teenagers. The acting was truly treated by the cast as an art form.
The creators of Skins didn’t follow that same formula when they brought the show to the U.S. The American version was a tired, rehash of the British version. At times dialogue from the British version was superimposed over the American scripts almost word for word. One of the great things about the British Skins was how it felt so true to life for the characters. The British Skins may not be a window into the lives of British teenagers, but the important thing was that the writers made the show feel as if it was. By using the same scripts in America that were designed for a British set-piece, MTV and Skins‘ writers doomed the show from the beginning.
The American version of Skins never felt … well … American enough.
But the withering scripts weren’t the show’s only problem on this side of the Atlantic. The casting was just not good for MTV’s version of Skins.
The first thing we saw when we watched the very first episode of the British Skins was Nicholas Hoult playing Tony Stonem. We couldn’t take our eyes off Hoult as Tony. Tony is designed to be an uber-charismatic figure. That theme worked on the British Skins because Hoult himself is uber-charismatic. He commands attention when he is on the screen.
The American actor who played MTV’s Tony Snyder, James Newman, didn’t match his British counterpart. Hoult played British Tony as a perfectly magnetic chap. The American Tony was played like a slimy used-car salesman.
Even at his worst moments, we rooted for British Tony. The American Tony? At his worst moments, we wanted him to go to jail.
And without a strong Tony to play against, the rest of the cast foundered. It never gelled. That may be because the actors weren’t good — or it may because the quarterback of the show didn’t/couldn’t set up his supporting players to look like true professionals.
With the exception of the actor playing Chris, Jesse Carere, no on the cast of the American Skins was the least bit compelling.
Jenn does not like when we praise the American actor who portrayed Chris. We understand why. The British Chris was amazing. By the end of his run on the British Skins, the Chris character was the one the audience had become the most emotionally connected to. The American Chris got the North American audience nowhere near that tied to his character. But as the American cast went, Carere, by far, turned in the best performance.
Every other case member? We don’t care if they ever work in show business again? Not because we are being hateful (we admit when we are doing that). No, we don’t care because their time on MTV’s American Skins didn’t give us a reason to want to see them in anything else — ever.
But what really almost pushed us into a murderous rage was the last episode of the American Skins. The last episode of the British version of Skins was among the most compelling and daring writing we have seen in a television teenage drama. We won’t give it away, because we want people to feel the same shock we did — we’ll just say it was damn good. We didn’t expect it. We desperately wanted to see more. We were excited to start the second season to see what would happen next.
How did we feel about the American Skins final episode? We’ll put it this way: We were part of the cheering throng when Jenn announced the show was dead. The last episode was a disgusting hot mess that NO ONE should ever watch — quite fitting to put that nasty cherry on the top of this disappointing, trash-worthy Sundae.
Jenn wondered why we spent every week watching a television program we hated so much. Honestly, we wondered why we were watching it, too. We just loved the British show so much, we were hoping at some magic moment the American version would find a way to right the ship. We really wanted it to happen. It never did.
Now MTV’s version of Skins is cancelled.
We are happy that we can again repeat Jenn’s beautiful words: MTV’s Skins has been cancelled.