A group of British teenagers living edgy lifestyles while being ignored by authority. Not as bad as it sounds.
+ has more than a few good young actors - actually, some of them are brilliant;
+ cinematography is great;
+ writing is much better than what you'd expect;
+ doesn't talk down at its audience;
+ a lot of thought is put into the soundtrack;
+ a lot of complex characters.
Overall structure of the show:
Each series (or "season") has eight to ten episodes. Each episode focuses in one character (occasionally two) or in the whole ensemble. The show changes its main cast every two series. The first series of each generation is introductory and aims to bring depth to each main character while still advancing parallel plot lines. The second series of each generation is always (always) darker and aims to deconstruct and change characters and established relationships by making them go through complicated (and sometimes extreme) situations.
Review of each series and each generation:
- series one -
It's a very well-constructed series, consistently great from beginning to end. The major setbacks are very few and far between. I could say with some confidence that if you disliked this series, the show just isn't for you, and you can probably stop watching. The episodes show the lives of each character and what sets them apart from their group of friends. Incompetent authority and neglectful parenting are recurring themes.
- series two -
This one is more complicated. As I said before, the second series of each generation is always darker, and this series follows that rule, albeit to a lesser extent than the other even series that follow. In my opinion, it's just as well-constructed as the previous one, and possibly even more emotionally poignant, but not everyone approves of the shift to more dramatic plots. New themes include death, acquired disabilities, stalking etc.
- overall view of generation one -
The first generation has two big qualities that the other two lack: great ensemble dynamic and consistently great writing, both from beginning to end. It's the fan favorite generation for a reason.
I know this makes the other two generations not look so good, but read on.
- series three -
As a lot of people know, the only links this generation has to the previous one are Effy and Pandora, who were minor characters throughout series one and two. The new characters take a bit longer to find their footing when compared to the old ones. This series is good overall, if you ignore the stupidity of a certain episode, and there are some genuinely brilliant moments. Questionable parenting and neglectful authority are still recurring themes, along with complicated and potentially dysfunctional relationships.
- series four -
Another complicated series. It's even darker than series two and, therefore, even more controversial. Some of the themes are death, mental disorders, cheating etc. But the real problem with this series, in my opinion, is that there is a huge contrast in quality between episodes. There are eight of them: four are amazing and four are either so-so or just plain bad. The messy structure and the rushed ending can be explained by an unexpected budget cut – they had to fit ten episodes into eight. Watch it with a grain of salt, appreciate it when it's wonderful and try not to rage when it's awful.
- overall view of generation two -
It is mostly good, occasionally wonderful, and then the budget cut – and a few other things – happened. Try not to compare it to generation one too much. These are very different characters.
- series five -
I've seen a lot of hate towards this one. Most of it stems from attachment to the previous generations, I think, and also because the characters here are very different from the others, as in their lives are not as "edgy", and a lot of people think the absurdity is the charm of Skins. If you get past that and embrace new, interesting takes on old textbook themes, you might like it. It is, in my opinion, the best series out of the six. It is wonderfully structured and written, and I have very few complaints about the choices the creative team made - they managed to bring depth to each character while still developing an interesting ensemble dynamic. Identity is the big theme here.
- series six -
Ironically enough, this might be the worst series. And not as in, "slightly worse than the worst series so far", but as in "much worse than the worst series so far". I have a lot of issues with the general direction they took with this one; to me, it seemed like they were being dark (darker than series two or four) for the sake of being dark, and some story lines were just plain unnecessary, while others felt like rehashes. Believe me, if you dislike the first episodes, you might as well just stop watching altogether, because it gets worse. Guilty over the death of a loved one is the theme here.
- overall view of generation three -
Everything was better than all that came before, and then series six happened. Watch series five and pretend that "Everyone" (5x08) was the generation three finale.
Moral of the story:
Watch series one to five and embrace new characters as they come.
Let's hope series seven will bring Skins some of its dignity back.