SKINS — in praise of, 10 years later.
Skins began the same year I was to take my GCSE’s, I was 15 years old, living in Spain and attending a private British school. My whole life mirrored that of my peers in the UK, except we were always a little out of touch, a tiny bit left behind in terms of culture and trends. Then Skins happened.
Teen-centric television is big business, but we grew up being forced to watch tanned 30 something’s pretending to be high school students in the OC and One Tree Hill. We didn’t have anything to reflect our own fairly rubbish existence. No Imogen Heap soundtracked heartbreak, pool parties or cotillon balls could make us forget our shit wet snogs or getting told off in assembly for wearing our ties too short (does anybody actually know the origins of this?).
Admittedly the show was too self aware, and became a monster in the years that followed the original cast, but to dismiss the show as bubblegum or meaningless is to discredit how brilliantly it captured being a crap British teen. Here’s why:
- ) The first advertisement for Skins was genius. Young writhing bodies at a house party dressed head to toe in Topshop fluoro. Cake is smeared, boys are shirtless on tiny bikes and there’s loads of saliva swapping. It tells you nothing about the show except here’s a fucking incredible party and if you watch the show you’ll be invited. Just like that, we were all hooked. Watch below to really feel get those nostalgia synapses firing.
2.) The music. Skins was smack bang in the epicentre of the ‘Nu Rave’ phenomenon which took over every student night, indie disco and house party between 2006–2008. Maybe this is a tiny footnote in music history but for that short time red jeans, plaid shirts and glow sticks worn through peoples hideous gauged ears were inescapable. I like to think of this Klaxons fuelled era as the last age of innocence. The people who chose music for Skins chose wisely and delivered us an achingly ‘of it’s time’ playlist featuring Bloc Party, Yeah Yeah Yeah’s, Roots Manuva and The Young Knives. I also personally believe that Skins was the platform singlehandedly responsible for Foal’s success.
3.) The often dad joke quality of the humour. The script writers had the perfect balance of universally funny material whilst still managing to speak to a younger audience. The cast were all fairly unknowns but they still kept the show credible with our favourite British comedy actors. “Look that’s Harry Enfield”, cried everyones mum’s and dads as we tried to shuffle them out of the room before any mammoth shags or MDMA ingestion might happen on screen. Danny Dyer peaked in his career as ‘Malcolm’, Michelle’s unbearable step dad. Watch here to relive this television MAGIC.
4.) Issues, but not too many. Here’s the thing, most teen centred television is too, fucking, serious. Every storyline is drug addiction, alcoholism, girl’s barfing cream cakes up in secret and self harming whilst everyone around them seem to be completely oblivious. Teenagers are impressionable, yes and vulnerable but the majority of the time these plot devices are used cheaply. Either too much shock value or too preachy, Skins used humour to make us want to watch these teenagers make mistakes and still feel okay afterwards. Lighten up a fucking bit. Yeah they killed off Chris and that was absolutely horrendous (I still cry at that episode), and Cassie’s anorexia was nightmarish, but enough humour was slathered on to make us also appreciate her crimped hair and fab taste in socks. Life is consistently shit, but it’s also important to laugh at it.
5.) The WORST slang in history. My friends and I take far too much delight in quoting Skins in all its cringe worthy glory. I don’t think anybody on earth has ever referred to marijuana as ‘spliff’. (SPLIFF, not A spliff, just spliff.) The dialogue is trying too hard, I don’t really know anyone who spoke the way these characters do but it’s so hard not to love it.
6) None of them are THAT attractive, which felt good because neither were we at 16. We didn’t have instagram heroes to look up to, we had NME magazine of course, and Myspace. It was mad refreshing to see people on TV with acne bumps and braces and bitten fingernails.
7.) FLIP PHONES. Not an iPhone to be seen, not one if I remember correctly. Which feels so nostalgic and beautifully reminiscent of talking about the show with your friends on MSN. I yearn for this simpler time, of flip phones and none of the cast member’s being on Game of Thrones.
Not too long ago I re-watched series 1 & 2 of Skins for an entire weekend, in my friend’s living room. We sat with takeaway boxes and laughed and cried and were way too young to be feeling so old. Skins represents a time of being free of student debt and illegally drinking behind Spar. If there’s a time you can remember more fondly than when you were passing back a fake ID through the railings of a club, then you’re lying. Long live Skins, I love ya.