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Youth is only Skins deep

Sean O’Grady knows that Skins isn’t true, although he once wished it were

Skins probably carries a disproportionate amount of blame for the misguided expectations that plagued my adolescence. The stories of ten lost teenagers stumbling through a life of booze, drugs and sex became for me what Holden Caulfield was to generations prior – emblems of escape from a world that seemed interminably grey.

Escape that might have been mine had I ever thought to look up from behind my computer screen and go looking for it. I sat, and waited, for a manic pixie dream girl trope to recognise me for the tortured soul I was and whisk me away.


Then I grew up. The writing of Skins got shit (in all likelihood it was shit to begin with and just got shitter) and I moved on. But when I read somewhere that one of the two creators, Jamie Brittain, had returned to the show for a seventh and final series, it struck a nostalgic chord that led me first to Pirate Bay and then to Skins Redux.

The seventh series changes radically in structure from the original incarnation of the show. The 10-episode seasons, each focusing on a different character, are replaced by a six-episode season, with two episodes allotted to three of the cast members from the first and second generations. Effy (Seasons 1-4) is at the centre of Skins Fire, Cassie (Seasons 1-2) of Skins Pure and Cook (Seasons 3-4) stars in Skins Rise.

We find Effy working as a secretary in a London Hedge Fund; by night she studies charts and reports that she brings home from the office. She lives with Naomi (also of seasons three and four) who drinks, smokes weed, and doesn’t pay the rent.

As Effy tries to live out her hypercaptialist fantasy, she is undone by insider trading and a torrid affair. We find Cassie adrift and working a dead-end job in London. And Cook is a drug dealer in Manchester.

As I watch the show and reflect on teenage years that were not so much misspent as misconceived, it occurs to me that the brilliance of the show lies in showing us how hollow the life of a romanticised fuck-up might have been.

However, there is still a latent part of me that idealises the charming (read: sociopathic womaniser) Tony from Seasons One and Two, who could stay out all night and still get near-perfect grades. Skins was never subtle. The dialogue was bad, the plot contrived and the characters were reflections rather than humans.

In hindsight, it is not the sex and partying through which I lived vicariously that made the series good. Rather, it is the hammer that co-creator Jamie Brittain takes to the folly of youth that reveals the hollow and fragile nature of pure hedonism that gives the series an emotional drive in spite of its many flaws.

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