PopCornucopia is all about free associative pop culture tidbits as they strike my fancy, just like kernels of corn exploding into fullness at a random and unpredictable pace. And of course, the cornucopia is the horn of plenty.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

The skinny on Skins USA

If ya don't know Skins, ya need to get with the program. One of the best teenage shows. Ever. You might have caught it on BBC America. Well now, the beloved UK show has been adapted for US audiences on MTV.

Here's the preview they just posted for the show:

You can tell from watching this preview that they've lifted nearly the entire plotline from the first episode of the original. If you know anything about skins you can see it clear as crystal.

If you don't here's a link to part one of the first episode of the source. You WILL get addicted.


What are they going to do about the nudity? And the swearing? If they copy the Russia ep, where would they go instead?

First glance, the Tony is not even half as captivating as Nicholas Hoult. Mitch Hewer's dancing is irreplaceable. And if Maxxie's corresponding character is lesbian, the big gay night out joke just doesn't have the same resonance or application. Nor does the Maxxie/Anwar friendship. What do they do instead? Will there be a strong girl anchor like Jal (one of my faves)?

I am usually one to love UK versions of stuff, and suspicious of US adaptations. Take Coupling for example. Brill UK version. Only Gina Bellman can do loopy Jane the way she's supposed to be done.

And the mastery of Davenport and his rants is unparalleled. Not to mention, the Coupling MVP Jeff. Richard Coyle was so evidently crucial when season 4 was Jeffless and far worse off for it.

Same goes for The Office. Now I've seen some US The Office and while it's developed into its own thing, I could not get into initially because of the very fact that they had so shamelessly lifted the plots from the original. Right down to the gag with the stapler in the jello. I have to say there is also a difference in the length of TV season. A full season in the UK can be anywhere from 6-10 episodes or something like that, I think. Whereas in the US a season is generally upwards of 20 episodes. While this can allow for deeper development or more involved storylines, I feel it is often a grave weakness of US shows. They can drag out things, there's a lot more filler, and sometimes they just don't know when to stop a goddamn show while the going is good. Best bet is to just take the ideas and the premise but create all new characters, like Skins UK itself does every two seasons. P.S. looking forward--but also a bit terrified--for Skins generation 3.

These adaptations always feel sort of like vegetarian meat. Or sugar substitute. Made to look and taste like the real thing, which is fine if you can't have the original, but these days, if you can get your hands on the real deal--thank god for DVD's, YouTube and Netflix why settle for something ersatz? Head to head, it's just never going to be as satisfying. For some more commentary on US-UK adaptations go here and here(What? They're adapting Shameless too? Another great show, most likely unnecessarily adapted).

You know what I can't find on US region DVD? Green Wing. Now that is a great UK show. More on that for another post.

At any rate, I've been meaning to write more on the original skins series for a while now. It is a really great portrayal of teenage life. Sex, drugs, recklessness? How is this a good representation, you ask? Well its probably closer to what a lot of teenagers are up to (or want to be up to)than most of us want to think. And even though I was the goodiest of two shoes as a teenager, I know there's another kind of teenage being. Sure I was always up until 2 in the morning, but it was usually poring over a textbook rather than pouring a shot down my gullet. What I love about Skins is that it takes a lot of teenage predilections to the edge. It's what sometimes many of us fantasize our teenage years being about. Representationally speaking, it also has an eclectic cast, without entirely tokenizing thanks to the excellent writing and charisma of the actors. Part of what makes it compelling is its deliberate obvious contradictions of stereotypes. Antithesis within individual characters. In a later season, for example *spoiler alert* autistic JJ parties hard with the rest of 'em and eventually gets himself some ass too. And even though Jal (my fave girl) strives to work hard in music and has got it together, she is also eventually involved with at-first-glance-useless-layabout Chris, by whom she becomes impregnated.

But the best thing about Skins is its character development. The formula of focusing on a different character each week but continuing to interweave other characters into the plot advancement, building the character's relationships with each other, and the group chemistry are what make this show special.

I do have one thing that bothers and beguiles me about the show. Everybody is extremely conventionally attractive. There isn't a kid in the bunch that doesn't look picture perfect. Even the ones who are supposed to be awkward (e.g. Pandora, Sid, JJ) I guess that's why it translates well to MTV. That's my criticism of the original show too. The show is strangely about skin, and fixation on bodies, and with all the body image issues teenagers go through this is really only covered in Cassie's twisted eating disorder storyline. And perhaps it's too literal, but would it be too much to have a character with bad skin? A regular proactiv user with acne? Or psoriasis like Neil Schwieber(see 8:01)? In the end though, that's not the point of skins. The elements of surreality in the show are part of what remind us that this is exactly what makes the show so wonderful. It's the bittersweetly glamorous messy teenage life with the cool kooky yet sexy friends we all wish we could have in an alternate universe. And indeed what saves Skins from being sheer escapist flash is it's wonderful emotional core that anchors all the chaotic glittery swirl.

But if you want to something that deals directly with body image and teenage life in a more down-to-earthy, heartfelt way I have to advocate that you check out Huge. Nikki Blonsky's Will is fantastic, and its a show that has an honest feel and some real engagement on these issues that isn't completely whack. Plus, there are some cute references to French new wave cinema. Entire first season is available on Hulu:

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Monday, October 18, 2010

An Ass Pen? Whiteness fodder for comedians of color.

Exhibit A (a.k.a. another excuse to pimp out Kondabolu):

Exhibit B (reference at 3:54):