Television News: UK Hit “Skins” Coming To America

3/21/2010 Posted by Admin

Television News

UK Hit “Skins” Coming To America

By our guest blogger, Alexandra Cervenak

We Americans tend to enjoy taking British things and making them our own--the original 13 colonies, “The Office,” Simon Cowell. Like NBC’s now comedy institution and Cowell’s first judging gig “Pop Idol,” which became on our shores a little show you might’ve heard of called “American Idol,” another British television show is set to land in the States. Last August, MTV announced it was planning an Americanized version of the popular teen soap “Skins,” and last week we finally got our first unofficial look at the new cast.

For those unfamiliar with the show, “Skins” follows a group of teenagers in Bristol and features enough scenes of explicit drug use, sex and profanity to make “Gossip Girl” look like “Little House on the Prairie.” But unlike its stylized and campy American cousin, “Skins” prides itself on its realism, holding open casting calls to hire actual teenagers to play teenagers, and often employs young, unknown writers. The series, created by the father and son team of Bryan Elsley and Jamie Brittain, premiered in Britain in 2007and has since been nominated for several BAFTA awards and launched the careers of its young actors, most notably Dev Patel, who went on to star in the Oscar winning “Slumdog Millionaire.”

Airing “Skins” in the US can be tricky business--the first three seasons of the show have appeared on BBC America several months after their run in the UK, severely edited (And as it turns out, sometimes subtitled for the trickier to understand British accents). MTV claims it will remain true to the spirit of the original, transferring the action to Baltimore which seems to be a rough approximation of Bristol, itself also a midsized port city. Most importantly, Elsley is on board to write and executive produce the US version and MTV has committed to the same unique production process as the original. And indeed, the photos which have just leaked show a refreshingly gangly and unglamorous teenaged cast, so things seem to be headed in the right direction.

As a devoted follower of the UK version of “Skins” myself, I have mixed feelings about it coming to America, partially because searching for grainy internet videos to keep up with the series as it airs overseas gives me the illusion that I’m on to something hip and cool (I’m not, I share my obsession with probably every 15-year-old in Britain). But despite all its X-rated antics “Skins” is strangely endearing, thanks to the emotional intensity and “realness” of its characters. I watch “Gossip Girl” because it’s an escape into a perfect world where everyone is beautiful and impeccably dressed, but I watch “Skins” because it’s a sometimes heartbreaking reminder of just how deeply you felt everything as a teenager.

So, even if MTV has to dial back on some of the more scandalous aspects of the show to get it aired in the US, if the depth of its characters can survive the translation, I think it could be something worthwhile.

The fourth season of “Skins” just wrapped up March 18 in the UK, but you can watch it over the summer on BBC America. And if you need to catch up from the beginning, the first three seasons are available on DVD and on iTunes, with the fourth set to be released on March 22. As for the US version, no official premiere date is set, but you can be sure my eyes will be peeled.


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