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Posted at 9:45 AM ET, 01/25/2011

MTV: 'Skins' is old-fashioned TV series

By Lisa de Moraes

[This blog post has been updated]


Cast of "Skins" on MTV. (MTV)

Viacom-owned MTV has responded to all those people -- and advertisers -- out there who have their undies in a bunch over its sexy teen drama "Skins," which employs "actors" as young as age 15.

Turns out, "'Skins," which is an adaptation of the British show of same name, is really "a very simple and in fact rather old fashioned television series," about "intensely moral" teens, the show's creator Bryan Elsley said in a statement, which MTV posted on its web site, under MTV "News."

Advertisers, on whom this appears to be lost, have been bailing out on the show since, word got out late last week that MTV suits had attended a meeting to discuss whether the new show ran afoul of anti-kiddie porn laws.

Makeup company L'Oreal is the latest in a list of advertisers who have decided using "Skins" as a vehicle to attract young consumers falls deeply into their Life is Too Short category -- the list also includes General Motors, Subway sandwich chain, and fast-food chain Taco Bell, among others.

Monday night's second episode showed signs of the controversy; lots of promos for other MTV shows, and a telltale "bottom-feeder" ad or two -- those are direct response ads with those toll-free phone numbers for purchasing some product that is going to revolutionize your life.

In fairness, there were also a bunch of ads for flicks hoping to attract MTV's young audience,

So, settle into your comfy chair, because here's the rest of Elsley's statement, and calling it long-ish is like calling "Skins" is a very simple and old-fashioned TV show:

['Skins' is ] about the lives and loves of teenagers, how they get through high school, how they deal with their friends, and also how they circumnavigate some of the complications of sex, relationships, educations, parents, drugs and alcohol. The show is written from the perspective of teenagers, reflects their world view, and this has caused a degree of controversy both in the UK and the USA.

In the UK, viewers and commentators very quickly realized that although there are some sensational aspects to the show, Skins is actually a very serious attempt to get to the roots of young people's lives. It deals with relationships, parents, death, illness, mental health issues, the consequences of drug use and sexual activity. It is just that these are characterized from the point of view of the many young people who write the show and has a very straightforward approach to their experiences; it tries to tell the truth. Sometimes that truth can be a little painful to adults and parents


Still with us? Cause there's more. He continued:

Consequences do flow from incorrect or selfish behavior but in the show, these are shown to be unexpected, hard to predict, and more to do with the loss of friendship than anything else, which in any context, is a disastrous outcome.

We proceed from the idea, not that teenagers are inherently likely to misbehave, but rather that they are intensely moral and disposed to make judgments on their own and others' behaviour. Sometimes, but not always, they get things wrong. In this teenagers are remarkably similar to adults. Their morals may not be the same as those of their parents and teachers, but they are nevertheless, highly developed and active in their world.

When viewers have taken the time to watch the show in a little more depth, they are less concerned about the behavior of the characters. Teenagers can be loyal, supportive, dedicated, focused, and capable of making informed value judgments about their lives. In the pilot episode of 'Skins', it's possibly easy to overlook the story wherein a young boy sets off to a party to sell drugs and have sex, but in fact, does neither of these things, because, he senses that he has been manipulated by friends and does not feel ready to have sex with someone he does not know properly.

Skins is a traditionally made television series which has won countless international awards and gained a worldwide audience for stories about the joy, misery and challenges of being a teenager. The show has been used in anti-drug campaigns, has drawn praise for its portrayal of mental health issues and explorations of bereavement, sexuality, bullying and gender stereotyping.

I have lost count of the letters we have been sent by viewers who tell us that they have been able to approach their parents or teachers with their difficulties after watching the show. It is something that we take a great deal of pride in and which can unfortunately be eclipsed by some of the negative attention.

Our approach is not careless. We've created a supportive and protective environment for everyone working on the show. And of course abide by the law, and give respect to our work colleagues who in this case, are young energetic and exciting people with so much to offer to an imperfect world.

THE END

In case you've missed all the fun over the past several days:

"Skins" debuted two Mondays back. The Los Angeles-based TV watchdog group PTC fired off a letter late last week calling upon the chairman of the U.S. Senate and House judiciary committees, AND the Department of Justice to investigate whether MTV's new scripted series "Skins" is actually kiddie porn in sheep's clothing.

Some of the cast members in the super-sexy teen drama, which debuted last Monday, are as young as 15 - and others are also under age 18, which is that dangerous age, in re child porn.

Meanwhile, TMZ, the popular celebrity ambush TV show and Web site, and entertainment trade publication The Hollywood Reporter have bee making a sort of sport out of creating a master list of advertisers who have pulled out of of the sexy drama.

TMZ, for instance, got the skinny when H&R Block protested it was shocked - shocked - to learn it had an ad in the show. The tax-filing firm told TMZ its ad ran just once and "by mistake as a part of rotation."

Then THR met TMZ's H&R Block and raised it a Subway sandwich chain. And so on and so forth.

Tuesday morning, Wall Street Journal said "I want to play too!" and added L'Oreal to the list.

The sandwich-shop chain told THR it "will not be advertising" in the show going forward, after an ad for the company appeared in last week's unveiling of the controversial new show.

The "Skins" Advertiser Bailout Game began late last week when Taco Bell told The Hollywood Reporter that "upon further review, we've decided that the show is not a fit for our brand and have moved our advertising to other MTV programming."

Yes, Taco Bell: too classy for "Skins."

Following on Taco Bell's footsteps: Wrigley, and GM.

But, of course, as every serious student of TV knows, it's not just about the advertisers who pull out - it's about the advertisers that come in to take their place. Back in the early, edgy days of Fox network, for instance - before it became the home of high school musicals and singing competitions -- when advertisers started pulling their plugs from one of the network's programs because some group had its undies in a bunch over a storyline, network suits would often quietly boast to the press that they had other advertisers waiting in line to take those pulled ads's place. Here's a tip: those bottom feeder ads, and all those MTV promos, suggest the network is still trying to replace some of those bailed-out advertisers.

In its letter of "Skins" outrage, PTC said that in addition to the sexual content on the debut episode, it had clocked 42 depictions and references to drugs and alcohol in the 41-minute premiere episode, which has to be some kind of record.

Before the show even debuted, PTC had already crowned "Skins" the "most dangerous program that has ever been foisted on your children," which has to have boosted the kiddie ratings for the premiere by at least 5 percent.

MTV has run every episode with a TV-MA content rating, meaning it's not suitable for viewers under the age of 17, which has to have boosted its teen (aka 12-to-17-year-old viewers) rating by at least 4 percent.

And a newspaper report - New York Times - detailed a meeting we wish we'd been invited to, in which MTV suits regaled themselves with speculation as to which of them could wind up in the hoosegow if future episodes aired as delivered to MTV by the producers .

Seems the MTV suits in the meeting we wish we'd been invited to had been particularly exercised by Episode No. 3, airing next week - mark it on your calendar. In that episode, a 17-year-old-in-real-life actor, playing a high school student who has taken a strong anti-clothing line and simultaneously experimented with erectile dysfunction drugs, is seen running down a street.

Is this what Elsley meant in that letter he sent to TV critics last month noting the show's young, unknown actors, "are making the characters their own and demanding that their voices to heard"?

"On January 17, the Viacom-owned cable network MTV aired a teenager-based drama, 'Skins.' The episode included all manner of foul language, illegal drug use, illegal activity as well as thoroughly pervasive sexual content. Moreover, future episodes promise much more of the same," PTC said in a yeasty letter is claims to have "sent to Committee Chairmen Patrick Leahy and Lamar Smith" as well as "the rest of the Judiciary Committee members, Attorney General Eric Holder and Federal Communications Committee Chairman Julius Genachowski."

"It is clear," PTC continued, "that Viacom has knowingly produced material that may well be in violation of any or all of the following federal statutes:

18 U.S.C. § 1466A (2008) Obscene Visual Representations of the Sexual Abuse of Children

18 U.S.C. § 2251 (2008) Sexual Exploitation of Children

18 U.S.C. § 2252 (2008) Relating to Material Involving the Sexual Exploitation of Minors

..and, who can forget:

18 U.S.C. § 2252A (2008) Relating to Material Constituting or Containing Child Pornography."

By Lisa de Moraes  | January 25, 2011; 9:45 AM ET
Categories:  TV News  
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Comments

I fully support the right of MTV to produce whatever kind of filth it desires to, under the First Amendment. And I fully support the right of parents to threaten boycotts of companies who sponsor said filth. Freedom of expression is a two-way street. MTV can make it, but not with my money. End of story.

Posted by: linguist64 | January 24, 2011 3:14 PM | Report abuse

Does anyone know if you can catch this show on the TVDevo website? I know they offer a lot of live and recorded shows, but not sure if this one is on it too??

Posted by: meganbrod | January 24, 2011 5:48 PM | Report abuse

Just to clarify, H&R Block was never an advertiser of Skins. The ad ran by mistake as part of a rotation. We took immediate steps to make sure it didn't happen again.

Bottom-line: H&R Block never selected Skins as part of the company's ad rotation.

Posted by: KateONeillRauber | January 24, 2011 6:38 PM | Report abuse

MTV's Skins is just the American version of the British TV show Skins which ran for four seasons and did not destroy England.
Yes there is a lot of drug use, sex, partial nudity etc, but thats how us humans live.
Americans are such prudes.

Posted by: MarilynManson | January 25, 2011 8:39 AM | Report abuse

Just to clarify, I have never used H&R Block and don't plan to, but I was thinking about having a SubWay sandwich today and now will not.

I fully support the right of MTV to make whatever kind of "filth" it desires to, under the First Amendment. And I fully support the right of people who think it results in interesting TV to boycott stupid advertisers who decline to sponsor it. Boycotting is a two-way street. Organizations of crazy right-wing parents can sponsor boycotts but doing so attracts the interested attention of myself and millions of others to the boycotted shows. End of story.

Posted by: BTinSF | January 25, 2011 11:51 AM | Report abuse

Americans are not just prudes, they are in complete denial. One of the main reasons they are so appalled by this show is that they refuse to believe their children are doing these things. I have seen the first couple seasons of the british skins, available through netflix, and it was pretty realistic. But the show is not glorifying teenage sex, drinking and drug use. It is just portraying things that are already happening. I don't really understand the big deal. You have shows like "breaking bad", which is about people cooking and selling meth. It also has a number of scenes of cooking and shooting heroin. If you don't know how, this show will pretty much teach you all you need to know to become a heroin user. Where is the uproar about that? Is that behavior okay because they are adults? Yet you have one series showing teenagers doing things that teenagers actually do, and everyone goes crazy. This show does not only show these behaviors, it shows a number of things that can happen as a result of these behaviors. It is not condoning these things, or recommending that teenagers go out and do them. It is simply portraying true life. Maybe parents today could learn a thing or two by watching this show. I think that reality shows such as "Jersey Shore" are much more damaging. They may be adults in that show, but that only makes it worse. These "adults" go out drinking to extremes, sleeping with random people, engaging in physical fights, and they get PAID to do it!! They live these glamorous lives, and act like complete morons. If anything, the fact that they're adults only makes it worse!! GROW UP!

Posted by: allij420 | January 25, 2011 11:51 AM | Report abuse

Americans are not just prudes, they are in complete denial. One of the main reasons they are so appalled by this show is that they refuse to believe their children are doing these things. I have seen the first couple seasons of the british skins, available through netflix, and it was pretty realistic. But the show is not glorifying teenage sex, drinking and drug use. It is just portraying things that are already happening. I don't really understand the big deal. You have shows like "breaking bad", which is about people cooking and selling meth. It also has a number of scenes of cooking and shooting heroin. If you don't know how, this show will pretty much teach you all you need to know to become a heroin user. Where is the uproar about that? Is that behavior okay because they are adults? Yet you have one series showing teenagers doing things that teenagers actually do, and everyone goes crazy. This show does not only show these behaviors, it shows a number of things that can happen as a result of these behaviors. It is not condoning these things, or recommending that teenagers go out and do them. It is simply portraying true life. Maybe parents today could learn a thing or two by watching this show. I think that reality shows such as "Jersey Shore" are much more damaging. They may be adults in that show, but they sure don't act like it. These "adults" go out drinking to extremes, sleeping with random people, engaging in physical fights, and they get PAID to do it!! They live these glamorous lives, and act like complete morons. If anything, the fact that they're adults only makes it worse!! GROW UP!

Posted by: allij420 | January 25, 2011 11:52 AM | Report abuse

lol @ Americans

Posted by: brickerd | January 25, 2011 12:20 PM | Report abuse

My 18-y-o son, a college freshman with autism, would never watch this show - he really is a prude.

OTOH, if the 13-y-o showed the slightest interest, DH or I would sit down and watch it with him. And then we'd discuss it. That boy needs a full-body, spray-on, non-removable-until-he's-18 condom. And he's heard exactly that statement from both his parents - he was *really* embarrassed to hear the word "condom" from me, his mom, but at least he'll talk about anything (and everything!) with his dad.

Posted by: SueMc | January 25, 2011 6:46 PM | Report abuse

problems with the United States, is that, they are afraid to clean up their act. to keep letting the filth from all angles to keep going on and the crime from high up and down, to continue, nothing will get better. nothing gets better, their will be a "cleansing" on this place called "Grandmother Earth".

Posted by: marycom | January 26, 2011 4:18 AM | Report abuse

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