This week I thought I would reach back a little and review something that isn’t as recent as the previous shows I’ve written about, but still holds its own in terms of how great a show it is. ‘Skins’ is a British drama that first aired on E4 back in 2007, and since then, it has had seven series stemming from it, with each pair of series dedicated to a different group of teenagers who experience love, loss, heartbreak, angst, and everything in-between, all while trying to get through college and receive an education. Many people have mixed feelings about Skins – some say that it was a ground-breaking show that paved the way for more daring story lines on TV with more impact and relevance, while others think it is simply a show that glorifies teenage hedonism and recklessness. I myself am in total agreement with the first group of people – I see Skins as a show that rocked the world of television by being controversial and, ultimately, brave, both with its portrayal of characters and the story lines involved in each season.
Like with any other television show, some aspects of Skins can be a little over-exaggerated – like the heavy drug taking some characters partake in on a regular basis – however, these little blips are greatly overshadowed by the show’s poignant plots and the plights of the characters involved. One of the main storylines that has really shone through since Skins ended involved the first proper lesbian relationship to be seen on the show [unfortunately, Cassie’s momentary lapse into the world of sapphic exploration during series 2 does not count]. Naomi and Emily are revered in the LGBT community because their relationship – which goes from disliking each other to having an awkward friendship to falling hopelessly in love with one another – was refreshingly honest during a time when queer representation in the media was still few and far between. Their interactions are real and believable – from drunken first kisses to eventual arguments about infidelity, their relationship was a beacon for any young gay girls who may have been struggling with accepting who they were and not being ashamed of it.These two aren’t the only gay characters on the show, mind you – series 1 has one of the best gay characters ever seen on Skins, this being Maxxie, who has to not only deal with homophobia from ignorant boys who live in his neighborhood, but also has to wade through the sticky mess of being best friends with Anwar, a Muslim who finds it difficult to accept Maxxie because his sexuality clashes with Anwar’s religious beliefs. Their friendship – and Anwar’s eventual acceptance of Maxxie regardless of his sexual orientation – is yet another reason why Skins is like a breath of fresh air for British TV, even today.
Aside from the fantastic LGBT representation – which extends over all seven seasons – there are plenty of other story arcs and themes running through Skins that cannot be ignored. Mental health is a prominent story line, and is especially moving with Effy, a character who starts off as minor in series 1 but then becomes a main protagonist in series 3 and 4. Series 4 shows Effy progressing into her late teenage years, and we see her begin to suffer from severe psychosis and manic episodes of depression and euphoria, which is both raw and engaging, in terms of the acting and the story itself. Other forms of mental imbalance are also explored, with JJ, again a character from Series 3 and 4, who is autistic and suffers from Asperger’s Syndrome. We see him go through bouts of rage and panic brought on by his autism, and coupled with his reactions to things and how his friends help him cope, it makes for a moving and intense narrative.
Along with sexuality and mental health, Skins covers numerous other social issues that many teenagers face, like relationships, dysfunctional families, eating disorders, substance abuse, and dealing with death. All of this and more makes it not only a riveting and enticing show, but also makes it important in the ways that it can educate people and maybe even help them, while still maintaining humour throughout the show with many moments of complete and utter hilarity.
Skins is an exciting journey for anyone who elects to watch it, and while certain series weren’t as well-received as the others – *cough* series 5 and 6 *cough* – I still believe that it is a brilliant show overall and that watching it is definitely something that you should consider if you haven’t done so already.
5/5 – honestly one of the greatest shows to ever come out of British TV.