Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Remake Rant: Taking Offense to "Skins" (But Not for the Reasons You'd Think)

Well, today was definitely not a Monday. It was one of those days where you’re so busy that you don’t have time to stop and realize that you were busy. You just happen to look up at the clock and suddenly, it’s almost five.

Days like this are nice and much more preferable to Mondays.

I just feel bad. After all, it’s not really Monday’s fault that it’s a Monday. There are some good things about Mondays. Well, sort of good things. After all, when they’re done, it’s a nice feeling that you’ve got one work day under your belt and there’s only four to go. I’d say that it’s a good night for TV but, alas, since “24” has been cancelled, there’s really not much to watch. I do watch “Gossip Girl” because, well, it’s trashy fun and after a hard day at work on Monday, it’s nice to turn your brain off and watch over-privileged teens try to out-scheme one another.

Last week on Monday, I gave that new MTV series, “Skins” a try. I’m a big fan of the original version that was made over in the UK. For those of you that have never heard of it, it’s an ensemble show about a group of teens in their last year of school in a UK town. There’s drugs, sex, violence and a lot of other things that parents pretend teens don’t do/know about. It’s pretty compelling because each episode is from the viewpoint of a different member of the ensemble and while the story moves forward, you feel like you’re actually part of the group because you know everyone so well.

I have to admit, I was a little disturbed they were remaking it for a U.S. version. This goes along with my puzzlement as to why they’re remaking “Being Human” in the U.S. for the Sci-Fi channel when there’s a perfectly good version on BBC America. And, if you’re wondering why I didn’t spell “Sci-Fi” the way the network does- SyFy- it’s because I think it’s stupid and I refuse to cater to the need to abbreviate something that was already abbreviated, let alone spell it badly.

I simply don’t get the need to remake British shows. It’s one thing if they take a concept and Americanize it. “The Office,” for example, works brilliantly because while they adopted the concept of a humdrum office with a bad boss from the British version, they didn’t try to take exact same characters, plot and situations. Instead, they took ideas from the original version and made it work for an American audience.

I can’t speak for “Being Human” because I haven’t seen the U.S. version. I have, however, seen the British version and it’s very entertaining. In short, it’s about a werewolf, vampire and ghost who live together in a house in London. Here’s what I don’t understand: If it was a French show or a Japanese one or even one from Sweden, I’d understand the remake. Dubbing is a nuisance and it’s nice to hear actors actually…act in a language that the audience can understand without subtitles.

However, last time I checked, English people…spoke English. Certainly the cast of “Being Human” has British accents but that’s the only difference. So, why the remake? This is exactly how I felt after watching “Skins” on MTV. Truth be told, I turned the pilot off 20 minutes in to the episode. I suppose it’s because I was hoping that like “The Office,” they’d take the concept behind “Skins” and Americanize it.

They didn’t. Instead, they changed the names of some of the characters, turned a gay male character into a gay female character and then pretty much blatantly copied the British version. The acting was, for the most part, absolutely terrible. The dialogue didn’t work because an American boy calling his girlfriend “Nips,” because she has weird nipples is just not the same as when a British boy does it. Also, last time I checked, most high school kids didn’t say, “I’ll ring you up,” or “let’s smoke a spliff.” They do in the UK but not in whatever generic East Coast city they in which the U.S. version of the show was set.

In the UK version, they primarily used amateur actors. The main actor in the first two season was the only ‘famous’ one- he was played by Nicholas Hoult who was in “About a Boy” with Hugh Grant. His Tony was a slick-talking, slightly sociopathic charmer who mostly cared only about himself. Yet you could see why his friends were drawn to him and why he was able to get away with everything. In the U.S. version, the Tony was just…awful. He was stilted and ‘pretty’ and overall bland.

I’m picking. I know it. I shouldn’t pick because I only watched 20 minutes of it. It’s just after realizing it was going to be mostly a copy of the British show, I couldn’t help but think I’d rather go back and watch the original episodes which I enjoyed rather than watch a second rate version on MTV.

What’s interesting is the uproar that the show is causing with parents and, as a result, advertisers. Parents don’t like TV shows where teenagers have sex all the time, smoke pot, swear and drink too much. I get that. As a parent, I probably wouldn’t want my younger teens watching something that glorified a partying type of life style. Yet, for the older kids, I’d like to think that, as a parent, I’d raise them to have their own minds and that they’d be able to watch something like “Skins” and not suddenly feel that their magical peer pressure button was being pushed and thus, they, too, had to suddenly go out and hunt down a joint.

Note to parents: If you think a TV show will influence your child, you might be right. However, it has to have something to work with in the first place. If your kid watches “Skins” and then goes out and gets drunk, I can almost guarantee…it’s not the first time. Sorry but that’s the way it works. I was a teen once. I was a boring teen because I had good parents. The worst thing I ever did was steal a small “River Greenway” sign from a bike post along a walking trail when I was 15 with my friends.

Then, I felt so guilty, I went back and returned it. That’s a true story. Yes, I was pathetic. My friends and I used to go buy a two liter of Mountain Dew and a box of ice-cream sandwiches and then go eat/drink at the park. That was our naughty indulgence. Have I mentioned that I was a pathetic teen? Then again, I didn’t have shows like “Skins” to influence me.

Anyway, long story short, while I understand parents finding the content of “Skins” offensive, there is a thing called a remote control that changes the channel. Also, make sure your kids have enough common sense to not want to replicate the behavior on the show. I’m sure there are surveys that show that overprotective parents end up with more rebellious children than parents who have a little more trust in their kids. Of course, I may have made that up but it seems like common sense to me.

Besides, to me, what’s more offensive is the bad remake of a perfectly good show? Also, I’m offended that MTV found something offensive about the Britishness of the original show and thus felt they had to remake it. What’s so bad about the Brits, huh?

I might be taking that a little personally. I’m also ranting. My apologies.

But I feel better now.

Happy Wednesday!

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