E4’s Skins was a controversial exploration of adolescent life and during its seven series it explored eating disorders, familial dysfunction, bipolar, depression, sexuality, addiction and death. All of these are brave issues to look upon but Skins dealt with each brilliantly. Its anthology narrative meant that the ensemble cast was replaced biennially, resulting in frustrating conclusions but fresher dynamics.
Series one and two featured the first generation of Tony, Michelle, Sid, Cassie, Chris, Maxxie, Anwar, Jal, Effy and Sketch. Skins hit the ground running in its very first episode by showing a typical student house party awash in sex, drink and drugs. It was a show aimed at teenagers about teenagers and as such its appeal heightened instantly. The characters were all engaging, though some were served better than others. Tony was a prick but audiences loved him regardless; Sid was hapless but loveable; Cassie was cooky but endearing; Maxxie and Anwar infused humour.
Amongst its strongest stories were Tony’s accident, the trip to Russia, Chris’ unfortunate death, Mad Twatter stalking Sid, and Cassie’s bulimia. In a mixture of humour and heart, the first generation captured this instantly.
The second generation took over for the third and fourth series and included Effy, Freddie, Cook, Pandora, JJ, Naomi, Emily, Katy and Thomas. Like the first generation, all of these characters were instantly endearing. Effy was mysterious and dangerous; JJ was tough beneath a bumbling exterior; Cook was a jack-the-lad who was fiercely loyal to his friends; Pandora was cooky as fuck and brought real humour to the foray; Katy was a bitch initially who later mellowed; Emily managed to break free from her twin’s shadow and spread her wings.
The second generation is renowned for its exploration of teen sexuality, in particular that of Naomi and Emily – or ‘Naomily’. The depth of their pairing resulted in perhaps Skins’ greatest overall story. Explored throughout the third series, their relationship prospered into one which fans clamoured for and one which, despite the bleakness of series four, resulted in a rare happy ending.
Next we come to the third and final generation, comprising of Franky, Mini, Alo, Rich, Liv, Grace, Nick, Matty and Alex. Whilst the first and second cast gelled instantly with audiences, unfortunately the third didn’t, and ratings began to fall. These were equally compelling characters, it just took a while for them to become compelling. Regarded as strange due to her androgynous appearance, Franky was instantly a character audiences empathised with; Mini was a bitch, but we later learnt she reserved deep insecurities; Alo was loveable and ever the optimist; Rich was initially off-putting due to his depth in heavy metal subculture but he was one to whom we later warmed too; Grace was cooky; Matty was mysterious; and Nick was a happy-go-lucky everyman.
Like I said, their introduction was lacklustre, but their final series was probably the best series of the entire run. After a trip to Morocco results in the death of Grace, the sixth series expertly showcases a multitude of reactions to her death and death in general. Some genuinely heartbreaking scenes included her father and Rich realising she was dead, her ghost haunting the characters throughout the series, and Rich painstakingly saying a final goodbye to her.
Alas one final series was commissioned to say goodbye. Billed as a celebration of the series, only a handful of past characters returned for three dreary tales. In them we learned that Sid and Cassie had reunited only to later part ways, that Cook was still on the run, and that Naomi died of cancer. Like a lot of fans, I like to forget that this series even exists. I still can’t believe that Naomily were torn apart.
But aside from the seventh series, Skins was breathtakingly wondrous. It was controversial but endearing.