Series One of Skins

There are TV shows that, if you just watch whatever episode happens to be on the air right now, might strike you as kind of gratuitous — but if you watch the episodes in sequence and in the right spirit, turn out to have literary depth. E.g. there are scenes in the seventh episode whose full impact depends on remembering a scene in the first episode that only lasted a few seconds, etc. And you end up as invested in the characters as you do when reading fiction.

“Skins” was created by Bryan Elsley and Jamie Brittain, a father-and-son TV writing team, which is interesting because the show’s treatment of teenager-parent relationships is one of its strengths. All the parents are grotesque yet vulnerable. From a parent’s perspective, the most frightening thing about Effie in Series One is not that she sneaks out every night, without her parents knowing, in order to take recreational drugs around people operating heavy machinery. What’s most frightening about her is that she never speaks.

Generally the show is clever at characterizing people by what they’re not doing. In the second episode, for example, Cassie never eats, even though she’s always toying with food, and seemingly about to eat – this becomes very attention-getting.

In this interview, Brittain says that “Series One was light,” although I would qualify this claim by saying that some of the later episodes in Series One are “light” the way David Lynch movies are “light.” But like a lot of writing I like, the series progresses from humorous to dark in an organic kind of way, so it has lots of humanity. By the end of the series, I was definitely rooting for Sid and Cassie to get together.

The Grinning in Your Paradise blog describes the first few series of “Skins” as “more-or-less what would happen if the best night out you ever had as a teenager, and the worst night out you ever had as a teenager, kept happening over and over again. Sometimes simultaneously.”

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