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Skins Vol. 1

By Billy Gil | Posted: 07 Jan 2009

Street 1/13/09
BBC Video
$39.98 three-DVD set, NR.

BBC’s “Skins” is a perfect point of entry into British programming for young viewers — witty, hip and quite British.

“Skins” focuses on a group of Bristol teens from diverse backgrounds: Tony’s blessed with blue eyes, confidence and Rufus Wainwright’s singing voice; Cassie’s an addict and a head case; Maxxie is gay; Anwar is Pakistani. If these descriptions sound a bit superficial, they are indicative of the characters written, but these young actors do quite a bit with these rough sketches, particularly Slumdog Millionaire’s Dev Patel as Anwar and Mike Bailey as the nerdy, virginal Sid.

It’s kind of not believable that these kids would be friends in real life, but the show is convincing enough. Suspending disbelief is pretty much standard practice for teen dramas.

“Skins” is advertised as a sort of British “Gossip Girl,” and like America’s favorite scripted teen drama, it is thimble-deep but impeccably constructed. The difference is British storytelling sensibility — it’s not focused on cheap thrills but rather on realistic stretches of less action punctuated by climactic sequences, and quirky choices that stay in your memory, such as the way Cassie perfectly arranges Sid’s french fries in episode two.

It’s also a nice touch that each of the nine episodes of season one presented in this set focuses on one or two characters specifically, while the other seven or so central characters revolve around them. It gives viewers a chance to experience each character from his or her own standpoint and maintains interest beyond the “what happens next?” mentality of American TV.

The first two seasons of the show focus on the same characters, while the show’s third season, starting to air this month on British channel E4, will refocus on a new group of kids, with only a few holdovers, while the old characters head off to college. It’s sort of like the Menudo of British teen dramas.

It’s also worth noting that, like many British shows of this nature, there is copious nudity and foul language. Cheers to that.

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