Showing Skins: MTV Gets It Right For Once

On Monday MTV premiered their latest play on the field of scripted dramas. The show is a remake of the popular U.K. show SKINS. The series follows the lives a group of teenagers who like to “explore” the boundaries of social behavior with everything from drugs to illicit sex. When it was announced that MTV was going to create an American version, it was met with less than stellar responses. People were convinced that the network was going to water down the show, and I’ll be honest, I felt this way too. But guess what, we were all wrong.

Except for taking out the full frontal nudity and the many variations of the word “fuck,” the show is pretty much script for script the same program as its U.K. counterpart. And since it’s the same show, as you might imagine, it’s been met with the response worthy of such a vulgar series. Thanks to outrage from parents groups across the board, the fire the show lit under MTV was so bad that Taco Bell pulled their sponsorship of the series. But that’s not the part I take issue with.

On Wednesday, The New York Times‘ Brian Stelter put out an article pointing out the fact that many executives and parents group alike are concerned with the possibility that the show violates child pornography laws. Let that sink in for a moment. A massive corporation (Viacom) thinks they quite possibly put out a product that may violate arguably one of the vilest crimes in the nation. Does anyone else find that to be one of the most ludicrous things they’ve read?

The scene in question features 17 year old actor Jesse Carere, playing the character of Chris Collins (the American equivalent of Chris Miles in the U.K. series) running down the street naked with his hands over his junk. It’s a carbon copy of a scene in the fourth episode of the U.K. series.

United Stated federal law classifies child pornography as “any visual depiction of a minor engaged in sexually explicit conduct.” The key phrase there is “sexually explicit.”  I invite every executive at the network, every parent group member, everyone who thinks this scene violates U.S. law to head on over to Netflix and watch the episode in question, then come back to me and dare to argue that the scene is sexually explicit in any way. The scene serves a comedic purpose, not a sexual one. There is nothing arousing about Chris being locked out of his house bare ass naked, it’s just sad & a little bit funny.

The controversy the show is being surrounded in is not what bothers me, frankly I would’ve been worried if there weren’t any. What bothers me is the length some people are willing to go to get their way. Child pornography is a very serious accusation, and if your going to make it, you better be able to back yourself up. There is no leg to stand on in this case.

MTV has done everything right with the airing of the show. It airs at 10pm, with an advisory warning before each episode, and a TV-MA tag. There is nothing else a network can do beyond that point. If any children watch the show, that is a failure of the parents, not the network.

Frankly, it’s refreshing to see a network, especially one like MTV take such a large risk on a show like SKINS. I’ll be the first to admit, I wasn’t the biggest fan of the series when I watched it on Monday, but I commend the people involved with it. MTV has pushed the envelope before, and this time the envelope is pushing back.

Jessica Bennett of Newsweek had a great quote in her review which said “Skins’ may be the most realistic show on television.” Granted, the show exists in more of a hyper-reality, but her point is clear. SKINS pulls no punches, and looks to expose a world that many people refuse to admit exists.

The beauty of many cable network is that they don’t have to adhere to many of the rules set by the FCC that plague broadcast networks. MTV is merely joining the ranks of FX, AMC and TNT which have already come to the realization of how relaxed their boundaries truly are. SKINS is nothing more than a natural progression in an ever expanding scale of social acceptance.

MTV in the last decade has become known for nothing more than uninspired, brain numbing reality television. And while SKINS isn’t an original idea, it’s certainly a step in the right direction. How dare these people treat the show like the black plague. Be mad, keep your kids from the show (which you should), do whatever you deem necessary to exercise your right to assembly, but don’t blindly use laws like child pornography to stop someone else from exercising their right to free speech, especially when your case is flawed from the beginning by definition.

This is not a defense of the artist, or the art in a question. This is an outrage against those who think it’s OK to use the threat of arrest as a method of protest. The worst part, is that if the “unnamed source” is true, than executives at the network have already ordered cuts to the series.

SKINS scored some of MTV’s highest ratings since Jersey Shore, it’s not going anywhere anytime soon. But it scored those ratings because of its crass nature, and willingness to be true to itself. MTV has a win on their hands, they of all people should not be caving (which I still don’t believe they are, I’ve never trusted “unnamed sources”) to a group of people, that frankly wouldn’t watch the show anyway.

SKINS airs Mondays at 10pm on MTV.

From a young age, TV guru Merrill Barr has been obsessed with the small screen. And one day he decided to put that obsession to good use.

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