TV review: MTV replaces shock value for sex appeal in U.S. version of ‘Skins’

By Heather Ah San

After watching the pilot episode of the U.K. television show “Skins,” I expected the new MTV version to be lewd, shocking and crazy, but maybe with a little less potty-mouthed.

But the only thing shocking about the MTV version is that it isn’t shocking at all. And thanks to American censorship, what little potty-mouthed comments there were are obnoxiously bleeped out. (Seriously, what’s the point?)

The British version, which premiered in 2007, follows a group of teenagers in Bristol, South West England. The show is known for controversial plotlines concerning sex, substance abuse, dysfunctional families and mental illness.

In the pilot episode of both the British version and the American version, we follow Tony, the charming, handsome and almost narcissistic popular boy who uses his charm and sexuality to manipulate other people. Tony is obsessed with trying to help his friend — Sid in the U.K. version, Stanley in the U.S. version — lose his virginity.

The Sid/Stanley character is slightly different in the two shows, though he is still the lovable underdog who we root for. British Sid is a little bit more nerdy and homely, while American Stanley seems perpetually high or asleep, and he is more attractive.

As the show continues, I noticed some of the obvious character changes. The character Maxxie, the adorable gay dancer, has been switched to the pretty and feminine lesbian cheerleader Tea.

The British character Cassie, who agrees to help Sid pop his cherry, is now Cadie. But Cassie, who reminds me of a drugged up Luna Lovegood, is much more lovable, sweet, and adorably absent-minded in the British version than the American Cadie, who is kind of sociopathic, wild and anything but likable.

Much of the quirk that makes the British “Skins” so engaging is lost in the American version. The drug dealer who sells to Sid is still intimidating, but without the crowbar mustache and the circus-like attire, the character loses all his humor.

The British version, unlike the American version, isn’t afraid to cast unattractive, even somewhat ugly cast members. The teenagers have zits and hair issues like real teenagers have. But in the American version almost every character is unbelievably attractive, not to mention they all dress like they’re on the red carpet.

The main difference between the two shows is the censorship. The MTV version obnoxiously, and not-so-artfully, censors all the swearing, nudity and graphic subject matter from the show. Even when the teenagers are talking about sex, they use creepy euphemisms, and use words like penis and vagina as sparingly as they can.

My problem with the new “Skins” isn’t necessarily the censorship and the new characters. The characters in the British version are much more dynamic, flawed and interesting, while all of the American characters are perfect, even though they’re supposed to be messy and leading screwed-up lives. And the quirkiness that made the British version humorous is completely lost in the American version so far.

“Skins” U.S. might be shocking for mothers across America, but the plot and subject matter are really no different or more shocking than shows like “Gossip Girl” or any reality show on TV right now.

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