If one had to select one program of the modern day that truly defines human folly in all its self-regarding glory, there could surely be no better show than Skins. Beloved by idiots and aspiring idiots alike, Channel 4’s painfully successful teen series, charting the adventures of a clique of preening, alternative bastards, is the crowning triumph of a culture of dime-store creativity and disposable thoughts, a veritable Sistine Chapel dedicated to heavy-handed mediocrity. In fact, it’s less a television show, more a kind of multiplatform virus, capable of infecting anyone below a certain IQ threshold.
Upon first becoming aware of Skins all those years ago, I think we all experienced a minor yet disconcerting shudder, but it still wasn’t clear exactly what had befallen. If there’s any comparable situation, it must feel rather like those who recalled chuckling at that crazy Adolf in the town square of 1920s Munich, while huddling down in war torn Europe two decades later. Sure, a series in which the awkward kid from About a Boy played a converse-wearing sociopath, commanding his mind-numbingly irritating droogs (all with their very own ‘identities’) through a set of banal shindigs was obviously a bad idea. But, of course, it would stay tucked away in the furthest reaches of the TV guide, impotent and laughable, vainly shrieking Beth Ditto out of the screen before every other ad-break. Once relegated to the backwaters of late night E4, Hollyoaks’ smug little brother now reigns supreme as the lynchpin of C4’s 2011 Spring schedule/apocalypse event, fully decked out in skinny jeans and a Paramour t-shirt.
The new series, it is fair to say, might actually outrank World War Two on the global crisis scale. Now, obviously, that’s a glib and possibly offensive exaggeration – rationally, I know that – but (and here’s the rub), it doesn’t seem like one when you’re actually sitting through an episode. It apparently stars a fifteen year old version of Le Roux, one who, despite being a miniature doppelganger of a pop-star, is mysteriously persecuted wherever she goes. Unfortunately, she’s so unreasonably, unjustifiably awkward – flouncing out of rooms on the slightest provocation, delivering torrid self-pitying speeches to groups of bemused partygoers – that one can’t help but root for her tormentors. It must be the first series in history in which one actively wants to bully the protagonist. Having been snubbed by the Queen Bee of her new college, Le Roux is forced to align herself with a pair of pariahs: a heavy metal fan and his best pal, for whom the writers neglected to produce any identity beyond ‘ginger’. The snubbing itself is made rather more unconvincing by the fact that said Queen Bee seems to be voiced by Gareth Keenan, which must surely be a hindrance to social hegemony even in Bristol.
This being Skins, of course, one necessarily expects a degree of misconceived social analysis to go along with the compelling characters. The show was always down with the issues (sometimes dealing with up to 60 or 70 issues each episode) but never before were these problems – being deafened by an overly ‘metal’ vinyl record – entirely invented for the purposes of the show. It’s like being water-boarded by the contents of a pretentious and delusional teenager’s twitter feed.
One minor ray of hope is that even former fans of the show, who happily burned countless tedious hours into their retinas, have branded the new episodes awful. They’ll probably just be replaced by a breed of sleeker, more evolved idiot but, hey, any tiny victory is worth celebrating. It might not be the end, nor the beginning of the end, but it might just be the end of the beginning.