I was soon to be turning 14 years old when I first watched Skins, around three years after it first aired. Looking back, I probably should not have been watching it, considering the amount of swearing, drugs, and general rampant debauchery in the first season. Well, in every season.
The first ever season of Skins ran from January to March 2007, surrounding characters Tony, Michelle, Sid, Cassie, Maxxie, Anwar, Chris and Jal. Five more main series and one following Cassie, Effy and Cook in later life followed.
However, for those who watched Skins, as part of what I like to see as E4’s ‘Holy Trinity’ of Skins, The Inbetweeners and Misfits, it was that first season that stood out. For my just-turned-teenage self, the sex, drugs and rock and roll portrayed the world half of me wanted to inhabit, and the other half was scared to fall into.
Having re-watched the first series on a spur of the moment (and taken two days to finish all nine episodes), it is amazing how quickly the feelings come back. Of course, watching at nearly 21 is very different to 14. Certain characteristics are less believable, certain elements more questionable. Tony just comes across as too much of a complete dickhead, and way too manipulative for it to be completely believable.
The pangs of nostalgia cannot be questioned, however. What Skins represented for myself, and for so many other teenagers, was the representation of everything we wished we could do, and everything we did not wish to admit.
The unconventional way in which it tackled some hard-hitting issues, such as mental health, parental relationships and sexuality, allowed them to be laid bare in an entirely new fashion to a teenage audience.
What Skins captured most effectively was the teenage imagination, and desire to escape. All the clichés about being misunderstood and wanting to run away can be used here, but for some it was true. Teenage angst or not, it resonated.
“That escape on a Saturday night that Skins captured so intensely was what a lot of teenagers remember most fondly”
Teenage house parties started for me at around 14 (which is early, I admit); I remember going to my then-best friend’s house for his sister’s party, having a couple of cans of cider around infinitely cooler and infinitely drunker 16-year olds, and feeling like a king. This is what is was all about, never mind how much we must have stood out, or how worlds apart we must have seemed.
It never got to the level of Skins, with drugs being passed around and innumerable strangers going at it in any private room, but that escape on a Saturday night (once I hit 16, mind) that Skins captured so intensely was what a lot of teenagers remember most fondly.
Despite it’s obvious exaggerations looking back, Skins seemed to capture reality, or, at least, reality’s problems and fears. The fears of inadequacy, of not being able to admit your feelings, of having to deal with family stuff. Seeing these people on screen deal with it made it seem more acceptable to you watching at home.
As a TV show, it wasn’t the best written or the best made, granted. However, it had some moments that teenagers at that time remember vividly. Tony’s accident is an obvious example. Chris going to his dad’s after his mum leaves, another. Cassie dancing on the bench while overdosing. Sid finally realising he loves Cassie, and her sitting down on that same bench next to him.
Cassie’s character stands out from that first season of Skins. Hannah Murray portrays mental health issues, and eating disorders with a level of maturity which gave Cassie an eminently human touch. When Sid rejects her in his fruitless pursuit of Michelle, you feel for her. The vindictive streak she is given in the second season does not suit her, in my opinion.
Skins is a reminder of a simpler time, much like The Inbetweeners. A time where GSCE’s where the most worrying thing on the horizon, running around London on weekends with your best friends, wishing to be older but not wanting this to end.
As I approach my 21st birthday, coming to the end of my undergraduate degree and even closer to impending adulthood, reminiscing about what it felt to watch Skins gives you a slight reminder of being a teenager.
Having watched the next two ‘generations’ of Skins, I don’t think the magic of the first season was really captured again, despite having their moments. That being said, that may be because they were the framework in which Skins was seen, at least by myself.
So I shall raise a can of K Cider/White Lightning/Strongbow (heaven forbid) to Skins, a show that was funny, emotionally gripping, and generally downright mental.
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Media Sourced from Digital Spy & Channel 4.