SKINS: Thursday 27th January, E4, 10pm ALERT ME
The last series might have been one of Skins‘ darkest outings yet (a drug-induced leap for death in episode one, anyone?) but the first episode of the fifth series may leave you wondering if you’ve accidentally tuned in to the sequel of Mean Girls. In tonightâs opener, Dakota Blue Richards (who made her film debut in 2007 with The Golden Compass) plays focal character Franky â an albeit more androgynous and left-field version of Lindsay Lohanâs Cady â while Freya Mavorâs portrayal of queen bee/queen bitch Mini is both a dead ringer for Mean Girlsâ Regina George and enough to drag up painful memories of your own school bully. Thereâs even a handful of dippy/fun-loving sidekicks who dutifully follow their leader (although watch out Mini! One of these girls quickly develops a back bone).
Mean Girls comparisons aside, the new âthird generation castâ promise to bring a lighter tone to proceedings. It will be interesting to see what the fans make of it – after all Skins has made its name as a slice of edgy, slightly forbidden, but totally unrestrained viewing. Certainly in episode one this is evident, there are mud fights, mobility scooter chases (donât worry, no OAPâs were harmed in the process â itâs Franky who climbs aboard) and tattooed profanity encouraging teachers. The latter involves an eccentric English master ripping open his shirt to reveal a tattoo of Charlotte Bronteâs face on his chest, and proclaiming: âThis is the original punk, Charlotte f**king Bronte!â?
Episode one is a tale of a new girl trying to fit in, failing and reverting back to oddness with some new-found outsider friends. Socially awkward Franky is new to Bristol and with her boyish haircut and asexual style she is automatically the target for bullies (we are led to believe she has no interest in make-up or appearance, which of course means ignoring her carefully put together threads and never-out-of-place slicked back hair). In a classic case of keeping your enemies close, ringleader Mini brings Franky into her circle and discovers the reason for her leaving her last school in Oxford: a charming âFranky hasnât got a fannyâ? bully campaign. Franky swears Mini to secrecy, but we can all guess how that one pans out…
Now, being honest: this is Skins, and as such there are there are some pretty clichÃ©d and unconvincing scenes. You feel particularly for Sebastian De Souza as âmysterious strangerâ Matty who has to walk up to a hysterical BB gun-wielding Franky and tell her âyouâre beautifulâ?. Cringe. The gay foster dad set-up also seems more of a parody than a genuine representation: seeing her off to school, âdad oneâ says, âjust try to blend in.â? Frankyâs ironically placed response? ââ¦ Bye dadsâ?. Having said that, there are some excellent moments, including one in which Franky calls one dad a âdick splashâ? before her other dad chastises her by saying âFranky. Only I can call him thatâ?.
On the plus side, if any of the characters at first glance seem one dimensional, then the Skins format of focusing on one central character each episode ensures that there should be some depth and meaning to their stories as the series develops. New comedy duo Alo and Rich â a farm boy âporn connoisseurâ and raving metalhead respectively â are on hand to provide some laughs, and even if there are parts of the show that donât quite pass off as one hundred per cent convincing, who cares? Itâs Skins: itâs meant to be a âheightenedâ portrayal of adolescence. And as long as itâs young, fun and disobedient â teens (and slightly ashamed older viewers) will love it.
EPISODE ONE: DOES IT PASS THE SKINS TEST?
Drugs taken: Of course.
Nudity/embarrassing scenes: One solitary bum. Could try harder.
Swearing: Covers all bases, including the âCâ word. Standard.
Juvenile delinquency: Plenty. See shop-lifting and the aforementioned.
Verdict: Encouraging signs of Skins-worthiness. Pass.