In the next instalment of the ‘Late to the Show’ series, Luke Addison looks at the first generation of Skins….
Having recently discussed the show with a friend of mine, I decided to revisit each generation of Skins once more, before the final iteration airs in July, supposedly wrapping up some of the stories from years gone by. Here’s the first of three articles in my Skins series of ‘Late to the Show’…
Skins was the first show created for E4, and along with it, the start of a crude, semi-realistic portrayal of teenage life, with the likes of The Inbetweeners and Fresh Meat following. It was unlike any other show being televised at the time, with the show deciding to take a rather sombre and gritty look at teenage life, highlighting the issues teenager’s face as well as the parties, casual sex and violence many adults think their children regularly partake in.
The first generation has a main cast of seven, with a large supporting cast of regularly appearing characters, the likes of Nicholas Hoult’s (About a Boy, X-Men: First Class) Tony, Dev Patel’s (Slumdog Millionaire) Anwar and Joe Dempsie’s (Game of Thrones) Chris all playing their parts over the two seasons.
Tony is the not so lovable asshole who manipulates the group – at least at first – to entertain himself and to stop life being dull, Michelle is his girlfriend and often in the middle of his little schemes, as is Sid, the group’s virgin and Tony’s best friend and moral compass. Anwar is the apparently confused Muslim, ingesting pork, alcohol and various drugs, whilst being best friends with Maxxie, an openly gay lad who prides himself on who he is. Jal is the daughter of a famous musician who’s long since retired, following in his musical footsteps by excelling at the clarinet, whilst also being the sensible one of the group. Chris is the fun-loving, says yes to everything, almost jester-esque one that lives for the moment and is seemingly always off his head on something, but in a lovable way, you know? Finally, Cassie is the young girl with some serious issues including self-harm and an eating disorder to boot, which blend into a weird, eccentric personality that’ll remind you of Luna Lovegood from Harry Potter.
Whilst the show takes a different approach to an ensemble cast, allowing each character to have their own episode within the series, each fits within the greater story, so much so that apart from a few weak episodes – Cassie’s, if I’m honest – you won’t find the manner of direction disjointed or annoying.
I mentioned Cassie just now, and I feel like I’m the only one to ever criticise her. I don’t know exactly what it is, but she grates on me. Her storyline with Sid is one of the more frustrating ones of the two seasons, with how quickly she falls in love with him, to how quickly she abandons him (twice). Maybe it’s just me, but that’s the actions of a bitch as much as it is of someone with clear mental issues, but that could be the cynical young man showing. That’s not to say she’s not an interesting character, because she is, but I would have preferred more Maxxie screen-time instead, as personally he was a much more interesting character, at least compared with how most gay teenagers are portrayed on television nowadays – unfortunately for me, I’m going to reference the guy on Glee as an example, therefore acknowledging that I’ve had the “pleasure” of watching that show.
Throughout my second viewing of watching the first generation of Skins, I was trying to figure out whom I considered to be the most interesting character. The show is certainly the Tony/Sid/Michelle show, with their love triangle dominating throughout the two seasons, which makes me lean towards Sid or Tony, but both Maxxie and Chris are entertaining for other reasons; Chris’s comic relief and hidden sadness; Maxxie’s struggle for his friends and family to accept him for who he is, as well as his loyalty to Anwar.
The show is often criticised for being an unrealistic portrayal of teen life, and whilst the latter generations do seem to go off the rails a slight bit, the first isn’t far off the mark. Whilst I’m not pretending that every teenager is off consuming copious amounts of drugs, sleeping with unknown partners every weekend and engaging in questionable relationships with their teachers, the friendships, the loyalty and the issues, fights and tension, relationships and hard life choices are portrayed down to a tee, for the most part.
The show certainly doesn’t push any boundaries with some of its plot choices – the ridiculous end to the first season, for example (simple road safety people!) but it’s decent enough to keep you watching, if for nothing else than to see what ridiculous party the cast will be going to next (maybe I look in the wrong places, but I never find parties like that in my backwater part of England) and what stupid situation they’ll find themselves in next, be it ‘stealing’ from a drug dealer, getting pregnant or becoming a drug dealing, sexual throwaway.
I’ve tried my best to avoid spoilers in this article, but be warned, the next three paragraphs are going to be full of them, so read on at your peril.
Favourite moment of the first generation: This is a difficult one, as there are a lot of fantastic parts of the series, but there’s also few standout parts. The first is the end of the first season, after Tony has been hit by the bus because he didn’t look both ways – silly boy – and Sid is singing the Skins version of Cat Stevens’ Wild World. I’m still listening to it two days after watching the episode. The second is the opening scene of the second season, with a fantastically choreographed dance scene with Maxxie and two non-descript dancers. The third is between Tony and Sid in the final episode of season two, where they’re standing outside the airport. After all the things they’ve been through as friends, they’re closer than ever and parting ways for what could be the last time. Rather touching.
Least favourite moment of the first generation: Anything to do with Cassie. From the off in the first episode I could tell she was going to frustrate and grate on me, and oh boy did she manage that. I’m not sure I could pick just one moment, but if I had to, it’d be the cold and uncaring way she treats Jal towards the end of the second season – “I’ve had my pain Jal, yours is in the post.” – completely unwarranted and lashing out due to her own pain. If you couldn’t tell, I really don’t like Cassie.
Most depressing moment of the first generation: Either Chris’s death or his funeral. Chris being rushed into hospital to then be shown recovering was a dick move by the show, even more so when he died in the very same episode which opened up with him laughing and joking – and punching Sid, quite hilariously – the final suckerpunch coming with his struggle to remember Jal’s name, before remembering in his final moments, her name being his final word.
The last episode of the show as a whole was depressing, with the group receiving their results and going their separate ways. However, the focus of the episode was on Chris’ funeral, which, with a moving speech by Jal, was definitely a fitting send-off for him.
Would I recommend this to you? Yeah, if you’re of an age where you consider your friends to be family, your life being lived for the weekend and you like drama of a teenage variety, although if I’m honest, some of the themes are definitely adult in nature.
As a whole, if you can relate to the characters, the first generation and its events will impact you more than you’d think. But with the morose, dark drama is a lining of good, wholesome food, with plenty of sex, alcohol and drugs to inspire you to enjoy yourself a little bit more, and in my case, I have spent more time in the pub of late. Maybe they’re connected?
Luke Addison is an aspiring film journalist with a passion for all things television and film. Follow him on Twitter @Novo_Slev.