E4’s Skins is a show with hidden beauty, but is its shock content enough to deter buyers?
The answer is a reluctant yes.
The first installment of the Skins box-set is a flash of greatness. For those unfamiliar with the show’s structure, each episode is dedicated to a single character’s journey over a period of days representing a flashpoint in said character’s life (with the exception of the final episode, which focuses on all characters). Neat, huh? Well the structure of Skins is not the only good thing to expect.
Acting is superb, with Nicholas Hoult (About a Boy) and Dev Patel (Slumdog Millionaire), among other charms, being cast. The writing is perfect, synthesizing the right amount of comedy, drama, tension and action. Each episode is a gem (especially “Effy”, “Sid” and “Maxxie and Anwar”), earning the series no less than five stars.
Ye viewers be warned, for here the fart jokes begin. Yes, Skins’ humour takes a plunge into low-brow territory and the show loses its flair overnight. Characters begin to make unsubstantiated decisions, and I did, on several occasions, find myself shouting “No, no, you idiot!” at the silver screen. Nobody deserves the indignity of that, but Episode 1 of the new series, quite sadly, warranted such a reaction. The series takes a dark turn when one of the gang is killed off (I won’t say which… spoilers!), leaving a bitter aftertaste in our mouths.
That’s not to say that the show doesn’t still have its beauty, no no, but that beauty is hidden under a skin of wise-cracks, darkness, poor character construction and, well, arse.
Nonetheless some episodes are well worth watching – “Sketch” in particular, though “Sid” and “Cassie” are good too – but these don’t make up for the rest. I’m afraid Series 2 of Skins is only half as good as its former self.
Series 3 sees a whole cast of new characters, with the exception of Effy (the younger sister of Tony, Nicholas Hoult, upon whom the show becomes based). But does this mean the show’s humour improves? Somewhat. Its dark edge is still there? A little. Is that a bad thing? Well, that depends on the individual.
While Series 3 has its highlights – “JJ”, “Effy” and “Katy and Emily” – its quality is more inconsistent, and it’s characters are unconvincingly changeable from episode to episode, likely due to the multitude of writers. The series ends on a dull note, missing out on the full-cast all-out finales of the previous series. Better than Series 2, but still not quite there.
Series 4 is where it gets interesting, focusing on Effy’s struggle after her devil-may-care attitude to life in the first two series. The show delves from darkness into pitch black, as it addresses death, drug-induced psychotic depression, alienation, and lastly murder. But all is not bleak – Skins finally loses its toilet humour, and begins to become more consistent.
Overall, Series 4 is the next best series after Series 1 – but don’t watch it in a good mood. There’s no hiding that at this point, the show is depressing, getting progressively darker with each episode – and progressively better.
Overall Skins is an inspired if inconsistent show, but it is well worth your time. However series 2 and 3 are sadly lacking. My suggestion would be to buy series 1 and 4, skipping the two in between. Or, if you’re a fan of comedy over drama, settle only for the first.
Overall Rating: ★★★½