There’s one thought that sticks with me throughout every single episode of this “Second Generation” of Skins: was I an uncool teenager? I’m sure I didn’t have that much sex or take that many drugs at 17 years old…
The first episode of Skins Series 4 continues to suggest its team of writers have absolutely no faith in themselves to be able to hold their audience’s attention. So, once again, it’s all about lots of children running around ingesting and selling nondescript powder, and camera work that strays as close as it can to showing off teenage boob.
Every episode. Will there not be one episode in this generation of Skins that does not feature an abundance of sex and drug use? Seriously. That’s all I ask for. Just one episode. Because there have literally been no episodes that have not been absolutely dominated by this behaviour. Series 1 and 2 had their fair share of it, sure, and it took the majority of the first series for it to really find its flow and develop into something palatable. But in Series 2, its creators managed to craft a programme that was very much watchable – even, I daresay, rather engaging and engrossing.
Series 3 was abominable, in pretty much every way. Only Jack O’Connel’s continually excellent performance lifted it above embarassing tedium. With a weak script, a bunch of obnoxious characters and an absolutely astonishing obsession with sideboob and party accessories, it only found its feet in the format-breaking camping-trip episode – and even that relied on the good old magic mushrooms to provide its audiovisual gimmicks. Series 4’s first episode is – oh my god, did you guess it? – about taking drugs and having sex.
I keep watching it. I keep watching this remarkable drivel. Do you know why? Because Skins is tempting. It’s tempting because, every so often, it shows signs of glorious intelligence and exquisite cinematography. Series 4 kicks off with Thomas’ club night, and a girl’s suicide (the nondescript powder is blamed, even though it seems to have made everybody else rather euphoric and far from suicidal). The dawning realisation of what’s happened, through a smog of dry ice and drug-induced sweat, music pumping in the background, camera flicking between faces and the look of sheer horror painted upon them as crowds start to gather around the girl’s body… it’s an amazing scene. A really, really amazing one. Nothing even approaching its quality appears for the rest of the episode.
Instead, we get JJ’s lightweight comedy (oh, hey, let’s laugh at the autistic kid!) and Freddie’s ridiculous facial expressions. To her and the writers’ credit, Lisa Blackwell’s Pandora is an improved character, more wise and less of an impossibility, and Thomas (Merveille Lukeba) has always been an intriguing one. It’s his episode, and an occasionally touching one, if you can manage to invest in his story through the sodden smog of rubbish that stands in its way.
The episode is only really notable for a lack of Effie. But, oh no, she’s back at the end, ready to be the most positively dislikable character in television history once more. (What the creators ended up doing to Effie is a whole different blog post. What the fuck, though? She was such a fascinating entity in the first generation!) I’ll keep watching, I’m sure. But it’ll take some convincing to make me think I’m not going to be cringing all the way through.