Skins… an end to controversy?

Recently a post I published on 02/01/2009 has been getting an incredible number of hits.

Presumably because it was tagged ‘Skins’, ‘Frankie’ and ‘controversy’, fans of the E4 teen drama are curiously searching for hints and clues for the new series, which kicked off a week ago.

It seems ironic that I wrote a post querying the chaotic series 3 trailer, then wrote and a more positive blog the following year about the penultimate episode of series 4. This change probably came as I worked over the summer on the Skins website. I even got to visit the set in Bristol, and took part in the filming of Series 4, Episode 1. I also enjoyed the new cast in the ‘second phase’ more than I expected to, and was pleasantly surprised when they were all wonderful people too.

So what of the new series then? A common comment on the last series is that it was considered ‘too dark’. Last Thursday’s opener did away with the wild raves and portrayed a more truthful portrayal of what it means to be 16 and an outsider. Even glamourous ‘Mean Girl’ Mini had a party in a bar that featured nicely dressed teenagers, as one would expect from a ‘sweet sixteen party’ – rather than an ecstasy-fuelled romp. Franky, almost underplayed by former child film star Dakota Blue Fanning made for intriguing viewing, with her unsteady social standing creating a mystery around how our ‘gang of eight’ will finally come together as friends in time for series 6. Thankfully we’ve also been spared a love triangle too!

I’m not sure how long this more realistic portrayal of teen angst and social awkwardness will last, but TV series are allowed to descend into fantasy, aren’t they?

 

Another thing about Skins.

A year or so ago I wrote a blog post questioning the content of the trail for the ‘next generation’ of Skins, aka series three. It wasn’t particularly approving, perhaps because I was a tad sensitive about a fireworks-in-a-night-club disaster and the fireworks-in-a-pub-lark of the ad (that debuted a few days later) felt a tad insensitive.

It’s testament to the popularity of the show that according to WordPress, that post was one of my most read.

I haven’t blogged properly for a while. I’ve been busy. And somewhat unmotivated – should I be writing this when I have so many other things to be writing. Personally I think that of course the answer is yes; that if something affects me deeply enough then I should rush to my macbook, flip it open and type away. But then other people might be writing and I’ll be saying nothing new – it’s exactly the same with your typical undergraduate essay. At the end of the day, you do it anyway.

So quickly I’ll address the BBC 6Music debate. What this should tell the BBC is that the station needs development and a bit of TLC – and then more people will tune in. They should consider this publicity as good and gain a bigger picture of what people want and expect. Commercial radio is nothing like BBC radio -and thank goodness for that. Although sometimes I feel that the Radio 1 playlist is too similar to sister station 1Xtra and requires a tad more diversity (which is beginning to seep in again with the likes of Mumford & Sons etc,) oh and requires DJs rather than personalities/TV presenters, for me there should be no question of whether 6Music should stay or go. Of course it should stay, and of course all the people who claim to support it should go out and buy a digital radio (or stick a bookmark to the online player in their browser.)

I shall talk about the plans to axe BBC Blast in a post sometime soon – or will post something on 4Talent’s blog. I have been part of Blast. To be blunt, it would be a disaster for thousands of people like me. Opportunities are hard to come by, Blast vastly multiplies them.

Anyway. Back onto my former topic. At the beginning of tonight’s Effy centred Skins episode, the penultimate of series 4 and the current ‘generation,’ I said to my housemate “I’m not sure if they’ll recommission this.” Not because I think that they shouldn’t, but simply because with each new generation of cast and characters, the concept will become more and more watered down. The original viewers will grow older and perhaps further away as they become less satisfied with characters they no longer consider ‘classics.’ Added to this central characters Naomi and Pandora (sob) have not had their own episodes this year (budget cuts at C4) and fans may be unhappy with this.

Tonights episode was a slow burner. How does one deal with mental illness but retain the usual Skins ‘sheen’? (which is more of a layer of fabulous grime and a hint of smoke.) How do you try and settle the love triangle of Cook-Effy-Freddie once and for all without repeating former narratives? How do you literally make the audience sit up from the calm pace of an occasionally stilted episode and beg for the finale?

In the case of Skins co-creator Jamie Brittain, you take a tip from Dad and you force them to. I still feel slightly dazed, sickened even by the final moments of this evening’s episode. I used ‘sickened’ in place of shock – really I should say shock, but I’m the easily scared type. If you’ve not seen the episode then don’t read on. If you’re not planning on watching and I can’t convince you to then read on and then watch it (4od.)

At the end of the episode we were presented with a typical ‘Freddie-confronts-a-character’ scene. Only, when Freddie tried to leave confronted character’s house (Effy’s creepy counsellor who was somewhat reminiscent of Tony’s admissions tutor in his episode of series 2) The homeowner walked up the stairs towards the tiny landing Freddie could not escape from (locked door) with a pristine, white baseball bat. Cut to white door, frosted glass doorframe. Yells, thuds, bloodsplatter. Silence.

I sat on the sofa watching this and couldn’t move, just for a moment. Although there have been deaths in Skins (the wonderful Chris in series 2, Sid’s father; both beautifully written moments, and of course Sophia in the series opener which I was involved in the filming of,) This however, was something entirely new. There has been an element of choice in the previous deaths with suicide, avoiding medication and hedonistic lifestyles playing a major factor. Murder is something entirely different, a completely original element thrown into the mix and something that could possibly save the series from being known as the least engaging of the four. What was particularly interesting about the last moments of the episode was the trail for the final episode. It seems that Freddie’s 20 year old sister Karen, will be the focus. Karen featured far more heavily in the previous series and I do feel that the final episode will benefit from her return – it also means that the final episode of series 3, which was another love triangle centred episode is unlikely to be repeated in a different format.

I for one will certainly be glued to the TV come next Thursday!