- Buy the DVD
Reviewed by Will Harris
ou know, it’s funny: I didn’t request “Skins: Volume 4” (even though I’ve loved the show since its first series), and I didn’t have any immediate plans to review it (I also loved the second series, but Ross Ruediger tackled Series Three for us, and I hadn’t had a chance to play catch-up), but as soon as all of the controversy began to erupt over MTV’s American adaptation for being terribly, terribly naughty, I felt it was my duty as a TV critic to step in and say, “Look, you stupid bastards, have you not seen the original British version? My God, it’s so much worse!” When I say “worse,” of course, I’m referring to the ostensibly outrageous goings-on within the teenaged cast of characters and not the actual quality of the show, which has consistently earned four-star ratings from Bullz-Eye.
Thankfully, it only took a bit of online research beyond Mr. Ruediger’s review to determine exactly what’s gone on since I last checked in on the show. Quite a bit has changed, actually, as “Skins” disposed of the majority of its cast in favor of a new crop of kids, not unlike a more risqué “DeGrassi.” Indeed, the only real holdover is Effy (Kaya Scodelario), who first appeared in Series One – she’s Tony’s little sister – but has since transformed into a leading character. Tagging along is her friend Pandora (Lisa Backwell), who was introduced in Series Two but didn’t really get a proper exploration ‘til Series Three. Ironically, though, the character who means the most to Series Four is one who only appears in the first episode: her name is Amber, and within moments of her introduction, she has leapt to her death whilst high on MDMA.( And to think I referred to the second series as the show’s dark period…) It is Amber’s suicide which sets Series Four into motion, with the “Skins” gang – which, in addition to Effy and Pandora, also includes Thomas, Emily, Naomi, Cook, Katie, Freddie, and JJ – being questioned by police in connection with her death, and the event causes a considerable amount of introspection through the series.
As ever, one doesn’t want to start detailing too many specific plot developments, particularly since those who are only just learning of “Skins” through the American version should really come into the show and experience it with limited spoilers. Of the character spotlight episodes (which, really, is every episode except for the finale), the most fascinating is arguably “Katie,” which takes a touching look at how an intelligent, level-headed teenage girl deals with a diagnosis of a lifetime of infertility. Maybe I’m being unfair, but I just picture MTV showing the character going, “Woo-hoo, I’ll never get pregnant, time for a sex party,” then dealing with the repercussions. Here, however, Katie (Megan Prescott) goes into a bit of a depression over the realization of what the future holds for her, which makes for a highly poignant episode. The sweetest of the bunch, meanwhile, is “JJ,” but, really, an episode featuring the title character serenading his girl with a ukulele version of Spandau Ballet’s “True” was always going to defeat all other contenders in the field.
Effy continues to be one of the most complicated of the bunch, which is part of the reason why her episode ties with “Freddie” as the strongest of Series Four. It’s somewhat surprising that Effy manages to make it through the series, given her battles with addiction and depression in these episodes, but it’s not nearly as surprising as what happens when Freddie sets off to confront her therapist about his treatment methods. To say that I was blindsided by the end of the episode doesn’t even come close to describing my reaction.
All told, Series Four of “Skins” is as strong as those which precede it, disconcerting viewers as much for what it shows on the screen as for the realization that it approximates reality more than any other television drama. The American version was always going to be fighting an uphill battle to match its British counterpart, and this set coupled with what we’ve seen on MTV’s take on the show only serves to underline the point.
Special Features: As with virtually all BBC series, this set is chock full of bonus material. In addition to commentaries scattered throughout the three discs, there are also “Skins” shorts and behind-the-scenes looks at each of the episodes which feature insights from the cast and crew.