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MTV to Show Us Its Skins

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MTV announced today that it’s making its own version of the British teen dramedy Skins, which has been running here on BBC America. I’m both excited and apprehensive. A few thoughts:

* I had hoped a while back, in my recently-neglected Unwanted Programming Advice feature, that HBO or Showtime would make a teen drama of their own, uninhibited by either network squeamishness or pressure to dumb it down. At the time, I noted, Skins was being shopped around for an American remake, so that was a good possibility: the show, at turns raunchily funny and brutally serious, would be the kind of thing a pay cabler could do well without pressure.

* Well, HBO and Showtime didn’t take my advice, but I’m at least glad it wasn’t a broadcast network. MTV has possibilities, but it also makes me nervous—and no, not because I assume anything MTV makes is automatically stupid. It’s made excellent scripted shows in the past, but its strengths have been animation (Beavis and Butt-Head, Daria, Clone High) rather than live-action (Undressed). I’ll have to hope that MTV doesn’t cheap out or try to make its characters too cool.

* One thing that made the British Skins so unusual is that it had writers not much older than the characters, and used a roster of unknown talent. MTV, to try to re-create the magic, says it will also hired unknown teens to write and act. I hope it works, though that seems a little like trying to force lightning to strike twice. (If they do go this route, I suspect that the result will be better if the show has wide freedom to depart from the original—why bother finding fresh talent just to force them to copy an original like Hollywood hacks?)

* That said, with the caveat that remakes are always tricky, I think Skins is the kind of show that’s a good candidate to remake. Namely, because it was good but not perfect, and so there isn’t the anxiety of unmatchable expectations. (I’ve watched only the first 2 seasons; tell me if you think differently of season 3.) Given the chance to reinvent itself, the freedom to handle its sexual content and the talent to make it honest and perceptive rather than sensational and slick, it could be a good show. I’m not sure MTV is the first network I’d have picked to do it, but I’m glad someone is trying. Any Skins fans disagree?

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