Sunday, 30 May 2010


An Amazon 4-star review
Whatever happened to the greatest drama series on television ever?

I am, as you all know, referring to Skins series 3, a program I have watched more than any other and even written a 16000 word review/recap of it. It was a series that reached out and touched people. Like Glee, it transcended its target demographic. It was important television and Series 4 was the most anticipated (by me anyway) program ever since the moon landing.

And then we got Skins series 4 which was like being slapped with a wet piece of cod. It wasn’t all bad, not by a long way, and did have some good stuff. But what it didn’t have was the magic of Series 3. So, what happened? And I should add that in my attempt to find out, we’ll doing serious spoilers, so if you aren’t already familiar with it, you’d be best off reading another review.

It opened promisingly if grimly. Sophia, a girl unknown to us wanders through a heaving club, walking by or bumping into our friends. After walking past a snogging Naomi and Emily  she climbs onto a balcony and jumps off. The first two episode are about the aftermath. When Naomi lies to the police in front of Emily, Emily starts digging into what really happened. What she finds out shatters her relationship with Naomi, even though they’ve just moved in together, and they spend the rest of the series in a living hell as Emily is full of anger and resentment and Naomi is full of guilt and self-pity.

Thomas, who had been running the club night is expelled from Roundview by the new ruthless head who speaks softly and carries a bull-pizzle whip with which to lash recalcitrant students. Actually that’s a metaphor, or maybe just a fantasy of mine. Thomas then undergoes his own journey into the heart of darkness by foolishly if understandably (she’s hot, she’s talented, she’s from the Congo, and she wants him anyway) having sex with his minister’s daughter and then, stupidly, tells Pandora who won’t, at Effy’s urging, forgive him.

So far, so glum.

On the other hand, Katie 4king Fitch comes up trumps. When her family starts to collapse around her due to her father’s incompetent financial dealings, it’s Katie who holds everything together even to the extent of getting them to movie in with Naomi and Emily. What do you think, Mysterious Voice-over from The Weakest Link? “Well Ian, from the weakest player in the last round, Katie has become the strongest in this one.” Thank you, sir. Katie, unlike some of our characters, is growing up and doing a good job it it.

The next biggest surprise is Cook. An even bigger one is his mother who is just as selfish a monster as his father was in series 3. Except she’s a millionaire conceptual artist who has loud sex within the hearing of Cook and his 10 year old half-brother. Cook comes to learn that his actions have consequences which he finally faces up to and it appears that he too is beginning to grow up. Sadly it doesn’t last.

Thank god we get some well-earned light relief with JJ falling in love with a single mother who cute and pretty and bright enough to realise that a gentle 18 year old who flirts with old ladies at a checkout is a better bet than her chav ex-boyfriend. There are lots of funny scenes and painful ones too, plus an encounter with JJ’s quiet father who has always thought that JJ would do just fine even while he tolerates JJ’s mum dragging him to see dopy shrinks. And it has a happy end.

Meanwhile, Freddie and Effy (my two least favourite characters) are living in a haze of drugs, sex, and madness. Freddie blames his father for his mother’s suicide and when Effy develops similar symptoms he can’t cope. This leaves Effy at the mercy of an obsessive psycho-shrink who makes her even worse and who, when it seems she’s out of his clutches, murders Freddie and Series 4 jumps the shark. Madness is a serious and important subject and it was right to tackle it in Skins. But what they should not have done was to introduce a genuinely homicidal psychologist into the mix and reduce it to cheapest and crudest of melodrama. More than anything else, this ruined series 4 for me. And getting his comeuppance from Cook didn’t help any either.

And so to the last episodes when loose ends are tied up and relationships are resolved. Like you, I desperately wanted Naomi and Emily to get back together properly and if they hadn’t I would probably have destroyed the television set and stalked the writers with a baseball bat. That’s another metaphor; I wouldn’t really. So, no surprise, they did get back together with lots of crying and some kissing (not enough). Thomas, in the space of five minutes is seen running by a coach who tells him he’s international class and fixes him up with a sports scholarship at Harvard. Wow! And they say fairy tales don’t happen. Pandora, who was always cleverer than she admitted to be, has got several squillion A*s and a history to scholarship to- Oh, you’ll never guess.

Outside the party in Freddie’s shed where all this has been happening, lurks psycho-shrink who is followed home by Cook who finds, all neatly laid out in the living room, the evidence that his best mate has been murdered. Violence is about to ensue when the credits come up.

Great cast, great acting, great adult guest stars, and some bloody horrible plot developments. Still, we’ll always have Skins 3.

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