I have been hearing and reading a lot about the controversial new MTV show “Skins” and I finally watched it for myself – late last night after the kids went to bed. (They can’t hear any of that!)
I’ll give you a plot summary and my thoughts on it but first a primer on the show and the furor that surrounds it. (Skip the bottom for plot summary if you want that first.)
What’s the gist of the show:
“Skins” is a completely scripted drama. (I say completely scripted because there was a lot of debate about how scripted “The Hills” and similar shows on the network are.) It is supposed to depict what is really going on with teens – drugs, sex, rock n roll, oh yeah and lesbianism. Unlike many shows about teens, teens actually play the roles, which has caused MTV some problems. (More on that below.) The show currently airs Mondays at 10 p.m.
So what’s the big deal?
MTV says the content “addresses real-world issues confronting teens in a frank way.” The Parents Television Council, a TV watchdog group, says “Skins” may well be the most dangerous television show for children that we have ever seen.” And then last week came the notion that “Skins” may be trafficking in child pornography since many of the actors are 17 or younger.
With that news many advertisers pulled out.
“MTV’s Skins has already endured an advertiser exodus that has seen Taco Bell, Subway, Wrigley, General Motors, Schick Hydro and H&R Block come out against the show. And that defection was evident during the commercial breaks for the second episode of the show on Monday night, which featured heavy rotation of promos for MTV reality series including Teen Mom 2, the upcoming second season of My Life as Liz and I Used to Be Fat.”
“The episode, which centered on the lesbian identity of Tea (played by Sofia Black D’Elia), also featured MTV’s public service campaign against digital bullying. But the most prevalent advertisers by a wide margin were movie studios. There were multiple spots for Columbia Pictures’ Adam Sandler/Jennifer Aniston comedy Just Go With It, the Leighton Meester thriller The Roommate, DreamWorks SKG’s I Am Number Four, Anthony Hopkins’ horror film The Rite, the Liam Neeson thriller Unknown, Millennium Films’ The Mechanic and James Cameron’s 3D pic Sanctum.”
“The second episode also featured multiple spots for hyper-caffeinated beverage Red Bull and acne treatment Zeno. Gaming companies, known for following young audiences in spite of controversial programming, were represented by a single spot for PlayStation’s Dead Space 2. But there was a telltale sign of the well-documented advertiser defection from Skins: multiple direct-response ads for Celtrixia, a topical cream that purports to banish stretch marks.”
“The show attracted only about half the total viewers it did from its premiere last week.”
“Skins‘ second episode Monday scored 1.6 million viewers, compared to 3.3 million the previous week, one of MTV’s biggest series debuts ever.”
“Among viewers in MTV’s key 12 to 34 demo, it drew a 1.6 rating. For its premiere last week, Skins had a 3.4.”
So did parents intercept their teens and not let them watch or did the teens simply not think it was that good?
“MTV usually loves controversy to swirl around its programming, but with the new show “Skins,” some network honchos are worried they may have gone too far….”
“Officially, the network is sticking to a statement that it has ‘confidence [‘Skins’] will continue to connect with the audience it was created for and that advertisers will take advantage of the opportunity to reach them.’ ”
“However, a source inside MTV said Wednesday, ‘It would have been far simpler if we had found older actors who look like young teens, just to avoid some of the legal problems we may face.’ ”
“Already, upcoming ‘Skins’ episodes have been somewhat toned down, with hopes of both keeping its target audience of 12- to 34-year-olds while luring back those lost advertisers.”
So what actually happens in an episode of “Skins?” Well I watched it last night so you wouldn’t have to and here’s what I saw that might concern a parent (I’m leaving out less important parts of the storyline.):
First, I would like to point out that although the show airs on TV at 10p.m., I had to fill in my birth year to watch it on the computer. (Because kids would never make up a fake year, and how old do you have to be to access the show? And why do you have to be a certain age on the computer if anybody who’s awake at 10 can watch it on TV?)
3 mins 36 sec in: We see girl strip down, girl take mysterious blue pill, girl leave house in very large winter coat, girl go to bar with fake ID, girl brings home girl and seemingly have sex in her bed. (Where is the parental supervision? They showed the parents yelling at her coming in and saying good-by to her when she left. Hey parents here’s a tip, always ask to see the outfit under the big winter coat.)
Next morning, girls make lots of jokes about “eating.”
9 mins in: Guy asks girl to tell classmates she’s having sex with his friend because he’s embarrassed he’s a virgin.
(I gave up on noting the time.) Then pressuring the lesbian girl to show her boobs at the football game.
School counselor/teacher made out to be a loser.
Drinking airline bottles of booze at school in the hallway.
Parents not listening. Girl talks to senile grandmother. Girl masturbating. (Grandma watches her.)
Creepy other Dad checking out the girl.
Smoking and drinking (looks like vodka! not beer or wine coolers!) on a merry go round in a playground.
Girl tries out what appears to be painful, and quick sex with a guy.
Grandma tells her about her lesbian love.
Best I can tell a scary drug dealer looking for his drugs that were stolen approaches girl at her house.
At end of show girl hangs up on both boy and girl she had sex with that week and dances to some music.
The best thing I can say about the show is they have some great music and what I think is shag dancing – but I can’t imagine kids across America are doing the shag. The acting is great but I wouldn’t want my kids watching it, and I wouldn’t watch it because it would only depress me about what my kids may face in the future.
It was definitely explicit about what was going on even if you didn’t see boobs or genitals per se. You knew what they were doing.
So that’s the skinny on “Skins.” Have your teens watched it? Have you watched it? What did you think? Should they have used actors over 18? Should they tone it down? Does it promote those types of behaviors? Will it influence teens to do these things or is just reflecting what they are already doing?