We reached the third episode of Skins on Monday night, the one The New York Times highlighted as the hour that demonstrates just how much MTV has miscalculated the degree of controversy the network can court without losing both advertisers and viewers.
The central plot line this week was — well, there’s no way around this: It was a tale of Chris’ penis. His aroused member consistently entered the room before he did, the result of him having “dropped a couple” of Viagra-like pills… and this was before he discovered that his neglectful mom had left him home alone for the weekend with an envelope containing $1,000 in cash and the cheery note, “Be gone for a few days, be good!”
Of course, this being Skins, Chris took the money and used it to be “bad” — to throw a big, messy party, at which his under-age friends got loaded, vomited, and shagged a lot, not necessarily in that order. In between bouts of tiresome decadence, Skins tried to winch up some sympathy for Chris. At one point, he drinks a cup of milk and gets a perfect milk moustache on his upper lip; it’s a visual cue for us to think of him as a vulnerable child, one who should be consuming milk ‘n’ cookies, not erectile dysfunction pills and (in a later scene) an “Estronet: Oral Contraception” pill. Awww, poor child…
Our hearts were also meant to go out to Chris when he began talking about his brother Peter — a brother about whom none of his Skins chums have ever heard. As soon as Chris ran into a graveyard, you kinda knew what was going to happen: he’d visit a headstone upon which was carved the name “Peter.”
Even if it weren’t being shown on MTV, home of skillfully made reality shows about adolescent life such as Teen Mom and skillfully made cartoon reality shows such as Jersey Shore, Skins would come off mawkish and unbelievable on its own terms as scripted drama. I didn’t believe for a second that a naked Chris, locked out of his house, would run down the middle of his suburban street (it’s been established that Chris is far too self-conscious a character to do that sort of thing; he’d be more likely to skulk from shrub to tree until someone handed him a towel), or that the first place he’d go to would be school and the teacher he has a crush on. Which only extended the ludicrousness: The comely teacher apparently welcomed him into her classroom, handed him a blanket, and, by the end of the episode, let him sleep at her house, even though, as she says, “I could lose my job over this.” No kiddin’.
It’s no wonder the viewership for Skins dropped steeply — more than 50 percent — between the first and second episodes. MTV’s hype for a disappointing product can only turn off consumers. Unless there’s a surge in watchers for this week’s episode, it’s beginning to look as though the young people who’ve sampled Skins are a lot smarter than the young characters on Skins.