Snow falls lightly over a middle-class neighborhood in Baltimore as a young girl approaches - staggers, more precisely - her home. Out all night, boozing and whatever else, she needs a ruse to get into her house, past her parents who are just waking up. Her brother, Tony (James Newman), however, jacks up the stereo and distracts his father, while she sneaks in.
That's your intro to "Skins" - exactly the same as the first episode of the British series from which this is adapted. "Skins" - the word refers to rolling papers for pot but a sexual double meaning is implied as well - is an ensemble drama about a group of high-school teens. They're groping their way through life, not to mention drugs, sex, relationships, identity, family dysfunction, sexual orientation, abandonment and death.
Each episode focuses on one character (played by newcomers). Monday night is Tony's turn, as he plots to help a friend lose his virginity. Next up, Tea (Sofia Black-D'Elia), a lesbian who can't forge close relationships.
MY SAY Yeah, most parents will be scandalized but few kids will be; they've already absorbed everything else pop culture has to offer, and the gauntlet they'll throw down is: Tell me something I don't already know. An average episode of "Two and a Half Men" has more double entendres, sexual or otherwise, than a full hour of "Skins" (with a straight face, MTV calls the hormonal heat here "subtextual"). "Superbad" or "Deuce Bigelow" would make it blush. There is plenty of vulgar language, but nothing that would make Snooki snicker.
As for heightened teen drama?
"DeGrassi" . . . "Pretty Little Liars" . . . Take your pick. Get past all of the MTV manufactured-for-ratings notoriety and what have you got? Not all that much, at least in the early going. Keep an eye, though, on leads Black-D'Elia and Newman, who have real breakout potential.
BOTTOM LINE This is based on a 4-year-old British series, and the date of expiration for most things teen is four months. Consequently, "Skins" is a bit clunky and even dated at times. Nor does it feel all that grounded in the real world, where it badly wants to be.