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I have read quite a lot about this, and seen references in other media to Skins, so I eventually decided to give it a try when it showed up on Netflix.
Now, I've seen the entire UK Shameless, Teachers, and several other full-on British series of similar nature, so I'm familiar with the genre and UK filmmaking style. I quite like the different UK sensibility and viewpoint on society.
That said, Skins doesn't seem like it's anything other than indulgent wanking. I can't see anyone "identifying" with the characters, and while there might be the occasional thematic that addresses something UK teens experience, the manner in which scripts are written makes it come out horrendous.
Virtually everyone is an idiot, A-hole, stupid beyond belief, or living in such a contrived situation as to beggar the imagination. And it's not like Shameless or such, where there's plainly a point to the madness (and the writers are self-aware of the caricatures being shown).
Rather, there's this earnestness that "Things Could Be This Way For Someone, So Pay Attention!" Everyone is just so inordinately awful, and awfully stupid, that not even the most screwed-up teenager is going to find this relatable. This goes way beyond "Adults are Useless" into "Adults only ever do the absolute stupidest things, all the time, every single time, and are so clueless that you wonder how society still functions with idiots like these everywhere." And of course, the teens are even worse.
Maybe it's being an American, but the whole first set (season 1 & 2) is utterly moronic and distasteful. It's not insightful. It's just cringeworthy. You don't feel sorry for anyone, there's no empathy or connection to characters. All you see is people (both adults and teens) being incredibly stupid, selfish, or borderline sociopathic. It's not entertaining (in any sense) at all. It can't even invoke a Lord of the Flies-style attitude. That would require the teens be something that's not a complete waste of space.
The only thing I can see that might make this attractive to teens is that it's so... juvenile. And I don't mean that as a compliment. It applies to the production, writing, directing, and storylines.
When you could literally nuke the entire cast, top-to-bottom, and not invoke any real empathy other than "Thank God they're all gone", you know the series has a problem.
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