You know, I actually almost gave up on Skins after the first episode. It's a British TV show now airing on BBC America (confession: BBCA is actually one of the reasons I upgraded my cable package) about a group of teenagers living in Bristol, England. The ringleader of the group is Tony (played by Nicholas Hoult, that kid from About a Boy!?), who's popular and manipulative and used to getting his own way. He's actually kind of a...mean girl?
The first episode is pretty much just all about the things he cares about: sex, drugs, partying, and getting people to do whatever he wants. All with British accents and slang half of which I couldn't really understand (BBC America actually subtitles some of the dialogue to help us Americans out). The episode ends with the whole gang somehow stealing a car and driving it in into a harbor and...not getting in trouble for it. (Well, except for the part where a crapload of drugs that wasn't paid for ends up lost in the water too.) I can't say I actually know what British teenagers are like but I was a nerd in high school and I just felt like it was all kind of too much.
But I decided to stick it out for another episode, and I'm really glad I did. The show does have some ongoing plotlines but each episode focuses on just one or two of the characters, and the tone of the show kind of changes to fit. The second episode is about Cassie, who's sweet and kind of spacey (she seems to begin every other sentence with "Oh wow") and who's just returned from a stint of treatment for an eating disorder. The episode has sort of a dreamy, indie film feel to it, and the ending was actually kind of moving. Cassie also has a crush on Sid, the endearingly hapless sidekick to Tony who's in love with Michelle, Tony's girlfriend and is oblivious to Cassie's feelings. She's my favorite so far and I can see Sid and Cassie being the couple to root for.
The third episode is Jal's. She's very straightforward and smart and is a hugely talented clarinetist, but struggles to get respect from her rap artist father and wannabe brothers. They do love her though, as the boys end up in the hospital going after the drug dealers that smash her clarinet and her father replaces said worth-thousands clarinet just in time for a national music competition. Jal's probably got the best head on her shoulders out of everyone and isn't afraid to call people out for dumb behavior (which there's kind of a lot of) but she can also be really supportive of her friends, as seen in the fourth episode, featuring Chris, the group's sort of class clown and party animal.
I've heard Skins described as being similar to Gossip Girl but I don't know that that's a really accurate statement. Gossip Girl is so much about New York and the world that they live in--the gossip and scandal and money and fashion. Skins, on the other hand, is definitely not glamorous. These teens are all kind of screwed up in their own ways and find themselves in really crazy, messy situations (sometimes literally--these kids can trash houses like nobody's business), but somehow their lives seem a little closer to average. So while it's a very different show from Gossip Girl, I think people could really enjoy both. Check it out on BBC America on Sundays (it also reruns throughout the week).
Word of warning though--along with the drugs and alcohol and language, there's kind of a lot of nudity, the likes of which we never get on American shows. I'd heard that Europeans were more relaxed about these things but I'm pretty surprised at what they can get away with...
Here's a video trailer:
Lots more at http://www.youtube.com/skinsbbcamerica.