American teen dramas have nothing on the BBC's adolescent program Skins. There’s illicit sex, drugs and music – all in the first episode.
The Brit teens all attend the same high school, even though Cassie (Hannah Murray) spends more time at a clinic for her eating disorder than she does in class. Tony (Nicholas Hoult) is the group leader. He's a charming seducer and a complete wanker. His girlfriend Michelle (April Pearson) is clueless and in love with him and Tony's best friend Sid (Mike Bailey) is hopelessly in love with her. Jal (Larissa Wilson) tends to be the closest to an adult in most situations; while Chris (Joseph Dempsie) persistently pursues a relationship with his psych teacher. Maxxie (Mitch Hewer) and Anwar (Dev Patel) are best friends even though Max is gay and Anwar is Muslim. Together, these kids party, fight and get in and out of some fairly serious trouble.
The characters are very diverse. It is often surprising they are even friends. But they are and that is one of the things that make this show so interesting. Each episode shares a character's name and that person is the focus of the chapter. The first of the nine episodes belongs to Tony of course. But even though the teens are pretending to be adults, something always happens to remind viewers they are still just kids.
The actors portraying the teens are very good. In fact, they are actually teenagers unlike most of their American counterparts. Their performances convincingly cover a wide spectrum, including pain, anger, fear, joy and various levels of intoxication. It’s unfortunate the cast will be replaced every two years; but it may also save the show from the droning experienced when following the characters on to the institutions of higher learning.
Volume one is the complete first season of the series. The DVD bonus features are on the third disc. There are 11 video diaries recorded by the characters, which act as snapshots of each person's personality, and nine ancillary storylines. Most of the unused footage is amusing, particularly the "careers office" sections.