DVD Review: “Skins, Volume 1”

Written by DVD Reviews, Television

Anyone who reads my Three Strikes Rule column is aware of how much I love the BBC’s much-hyped drama Skins.  Funny, heartbreaking and painfully accurate, Skins is as much a series about coping with life as it is about being a teenager. It is not the type of show that would get made in the U.S., at least, not without getting watered down by standards. The closest thing the networks have to Skins is Gossip Girl, yet the comparisons stop with the description of a show about wild teenagers.  Whereas the CW’s popular series details the life of upper-class New York preppies, Skins focuses on middle class kids in London.  The English kids don’t waltz into any bar they want; they don’t go shopping to cure their woes.  Instead these blue collar students struggle to get by in a world that doesn’t take them seriously, even though the crap they’re dealing with is serious.

If you’ve seen the episodes broadcast on BBC America and you think you’ve seen it all, think again.  Skins Volume 1 collects every episode from Season One on three DVDs in their original, unedited form.  Since England doesn’t seem to have a problem with language, the depiction of teenage debauchery and, in a couple cases, full frontal nudity, the viewers overseas get to watch Skins as was originally intended by the show’s producers.  What’s more, the picture quality on this DVD set is, like, a hundred times better than what you see on BBC America.  Shot in hi-def, the video is crisp and vivid.  I don’t know why it is, but whenever I watch something on BBC America, the video looks like it’s second generation 16 mm film that’s been trampled over by a football crowd, thrown in a dusty canister and stored in the network’s basement until they decide to air it one or two years later for American audiences.  Someone really should look into why the picture quality on that network is so crappy.

I digress.

Nudity and picture quality aside, the real reason you should look into Skins Volume 1 is the writing and acting on this show.  Although there is a large group of friends who make up the show, each episode chooses one or two characters as the focus while the rest become supporting actors.  It is rare that a show would allow every member of its ensemble to have a feature episode; this is certainly a method that would never go over in the states (save for Lost).  However, with this strong of a cast the producers have nothing to worry about.  I can’t recall an assembly of teenage actors who were as capable as the group from Skins.  Standouts are include Nicholas Hoult as the manipulative Tony, Mike Bailey as the nerdy Sid, Hannah Murray as the tragic Cassie who is battling an eating disorder (she will break your heart) and Joe Dempsie as Chris, a party animal who harbors a world of pain after being deserted by his parents.

There are only nine episodes in the first series, so navigating through them is a rather quick affair.  My favorites are “Cassie” (episode 2) and “Chris” (episode 4).  As a bonus to this collection, there are a series of mini-episodes that originally premiered on the Internet.  Each of these shorts ties into the original nine episodes, filling in some of the missing blanks between scenes.

If you’re a fan of this genre or if you simply want to see one of the finest shows on television, you should make an effort to buy or rent Skins Volume 1. In this age of diminished expectations, this is one series that fails to the hype.

Buy Skins Volume 1 (BBC) at Amazon.