Monday, May 16, 2011

do you like the new skins better than the old skins?

I’m reviewing skins season 5 even though I never watched the final episode, because even though I love the new bunch of characters to bits, the storylines started to drive me nuts.

I think the acting talent is GREAT (I’m surprised every week by how good the actors are, considering all of them except Dakota Blue Richards have never acted professionally before). I actually cried in every episode. Two actors in particular took the cake for me. The first is the gorgeous Freya Mavor (from our very own Edinburgh) who plays Minnie, who shattered my heart the most when, under pressure from her rugby-captain boyfriend to have sex (for the first time), spends a whole scene contorting herself into different positions from a magazine article about “pleasing your man”. The pain and fear evident on her face during this scene depicted the pressure on teenage girls to be sexually competent even though they may be virgins, and sensitively reveal the secret insecurities of a girl who is otherwise the most popular and beautiful girl at school.

the new kids on the Bristol block
The other was Laya Lewis – but I can’t tell if I loved her acting, or just loved her character, or both. She has guts – she gets what she wants when she wants it, but she’s also humble enough to admit when she’s wrong and loves her friends enough to apologise (like when she sleeps with her best friend Minni’s boyfriend). There were a bunch of other turtly ahhsome moments – Nick bailing from his position as rugby captain when he realized the pressure of the role was turning him into someone he didn’t like, or Rich and Grace being too self-conscious to tell each other that they like each other for ages (awww! Loved it.)

But, I couldn't help but feel the screenwriters are running out of ideas - majorly. I mean, it has been five years and viewers are still watching kids feel alienated by their angry parents, get wasted, and come to sort of resolution about it, followed by speech about what they’ve learned and how they need to change. (Ok sure - that actually is a pretty real set of circumstances that probably happens to most teens but I don’t really want to spend an hour watching it on TV every week for that long). There was some variation – like I said, Minni’s episode was heart wrenching and sensitively complex and focused on her own insecurity rather than her parents (though there was the suggestion that her relationship with her promiscuous mother wasn’t great). But for the most part, each ep was about angry, overbearing and largely absent parents versus headstrong and oppressed teenagers, all culminating in the teens learning some level of humility and/or way of moving forward on their own terms...which is fine and good - but it was a recurring theme almost every week. 

Also, even though skins has always tended to focus each episode around a story of a different character, I feel like previous seasons did this in a way which highlighted individual stories while still continuing the other characters’ stories at the same time. Earlier seasons seemed to entwine the character’s stories together reasonably convincingly – season 5, however, seemed to focus so intently on one or two characters each week that the stories became isolated and somewhat contrived. Even though the scene where metal-head Rich watches Grace’s ballet performance and finds beauty in something other than metal (and other than himself, essentially) was effective in terms of its meaning, we don’t know enough about these characters by the time their episodes come around for it to be as emotionally affective as when, for example, Chris’ mother bails on him in Season 1.

Nevertheless, I’m still looking forward to Season 6. The screenwriters have set up a lot of interesting material to be explored (for example I hope they explore the Frankie’s family situation – she is adopted by gay male parents) and since the acting can only get better, I’m sure it will be just as melodramatic in the endearing way that skins always is – especially if the actors have some meatier scripts to work with. 

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