Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Adaptation Fail: MTV's Skins

Now that the US version has finished its season (series?)... I think it's time to point out precisely what went wrong.

No, it's not "just" casting.

The pilot was, with a few exceptions to be able to be broadcast (gone was Tony's hilarious comforter), pretty much a shot-for-shot remake. The plot was the same. Yet, it didn't have a lot of the magic... it lacked the bite of the UK original. The little touches. The flair. The joy. It adhered so close, visually, the the UK pilot and was so intent on being a lookalike that it forgot the soul.

It was neutered.

And, for the most part, that trend continued, but only by matching episode-to-episode, UK-to-US, did it become clear just how neutered MTV's Skins truly was. Probably encapsulated best in a comparison of the episodes "Anwar and Maxxie" and "Abbud." Tony sleeping with a lesbian in the American version? It was a "translation" of the UK's Tony kissing Maxxie, a gay male, and even attempting to perform oral sex.

How very American-acceptable (honestly, how was the PTC offended by *this* version of Skins?)

This, literally, showed how the American version had no balls. Sorry, but lesbians kiss on (American) TV all the time (okay, not really, but let me make my point). A horny, straight dude who could pretty much have any girl he wanted making out with the gay guy? While the gay guy was having a crisis about the state of his friendship with "good Muslim boy" Anwar, who essentially ended it over his religion? *That* was translated into Abbud crushing on Tea, the swinging-both-ways-self-proclaimed lesbian. Lame. Especially given how deftly the UK show later handled a lesbian relationship and plotline.

Also, the whole plotline about Anwar seeing a young Russian he mistook for being abused by her father (but was actually her husband) was turned into thinking there was a creepy shadowy man in the wood of Canada.

Maxxie was fun. Tea... not so much.

But way more than Maxxie/Tea, the Cassie/Cadie translation missed the mark. Cassie is probably one of my favorite TV characters (for, and because of, all her many, considerable flaws). She's just... infectious. Despite drug-habits and eating-disorders... wow. Right? "Oh, wow." She just made you smile ever time she was on screen. Because she was that special kind of loopy-hilarious-sad-lovable. America's Cadie is just sad, and was for the entire run.

And I didn't really care about Cadie and Stanley, whereas Cassie and Sid is just magic. Painful, awesome, teenage romance magic.

But, again, this is *not* just about the casting (although, honestly, could they have found a less appealing young teacher for Chris to have an affair with than Anastasia Phillips' Tina?)

I don't know if the American version's writers (which include UK Skins co-creator Bryan Elsley) just wrote it out or couldn't capture the American version of the joy so embodied in those kids in the original version (particularly, the joy of Maxxie and Cassie, but even the Tony's haughty version of joy that led to his end-of-season-one takedown).

Frankly, I think that might be the true missing ingredient. MTV's Skins lacked joy. And without it... everything fell apart. "You shouldn't have to jump for joy" is a lyric from tonight's (baffling, limp) finale.

I wish MTV's attempt at Skins had jumped for joy.

1 comment:

Teri said...

Did you catch any of the webisodes on the MTV site? Some of them, like the girls' poker night and the girls hanging out at Daisy's workplace are, surprisingly, pretty funny. They were apparently shot after the series itself had ended. I have no idea who was responsible for writing or directing them but the series would have been significantly better as a whole if they'd followed the tone of the webisodes instead of the car crash that ended up onscreen.