I was the original target audience for Skins. Aged 18 (just) and in my final year of sixth form college, weekends were a round of pills and parties, underage bars, cheap printed dresses from H&M, and the lengthy university applications that threatened it all. Cue the entrance of smug Tony, Sid and the gang who breezed onto the scene just to confirm we were doing it right. In 2007 Skins caused a stir. Was this really what the nations youth were getting up to? The house parties, the drugs, the casual sex, the breakdowns and intense relationships? The uneasy tension between young adults about to fly the nest and their oblivious suburban parents. The short answer is yes, which was why the series was such a hit – and had my friends and I gossiping right from the beginning. A year later when series two was released I was in my first year of university (I am a year older than the ‘first generation’ of characters). Having escaped parental confines completely we were a wild bunch, and we loved Skins. We would gather together to watch it in our filthy kitchen, drinks and joints in hand – looking for ourselves in the characters.
Skins was a condensed version of what we might get up to across an entire year, I was angry with those who brushed aside the series as being ‘extreme’ and ‘ridiculous’ – of course – it is tv! So yes, some of the storylines and the parties were taken to dizzying heights that we were unlikely to reach, but we were still able to identify with the situations and the characters. Skins felt real, as if someone had shone a light through the grey boredom of Hollyoaks and discovered what was really going on.
One of the breakaway stars of the first two series was Tony’s asinine younger sister Effy. A silent and menacing 14 year old slinking back into the house in rave gear early morning, and changing immediately into her school uniform, Effy Stonem was a force to be reckoned with. Easily the most troubled character in a turbulent sea of teenage angst and growing pains, it came as no surprise that Effy became the focus for the ‘next generation’ in series 3. Kaya Scodelario was mesmerising as the headstrong teenager; socially awkward, fiercely intelligent, and unwilling to take any shit from anyone – while conducting an immense battle with herself.
After a meandering divergence into feature length films (including playing a slightly unconvincing Cathy in Andrea Arnold’s 2011 adaption of Wuthering Heights) Scodelario now returns as young professional Effy in a cut throat corporate world. Skins has grown up.
Two weeks ago I went on a business trip to London and was surprised to find myself on the 28th floor trading office which constitutes my company’s London HQ. For me this was dazzling and slightly unreal; traders barking into phones staring intently at screens full of figures, occasionally glancing up to look out on the Shard dominated London skyline. The money and the adrenaline were flowing, and it felt a long way from the crippling iron grip of the financial crisis. Bearing this in mind I laughed when I saw the advert for ‘Skins Fire’ where Effy appears looking bored and restless in an almost identical London office. Once again Brian Elsley and Jamie Brittain nail it. I can think think of a dozen people I went to university with working a reception job in an industry they would really like to break into, and I can think of a dozen more lucky people who are definitely working in the financial district Effy is in. Bravo Skins creators, you still know exactly what we’re up to. I was even more surprised/delighted when I spotted that one of the locations for filming was the outside of an upmarket bar in Manchester that I have recently frequented.
Skins always represented a bizarre kind of idealism despite the heartbreak and the drama. They had the clothes we couldn’t quite afford, the bigger parties, the cooler flats. And now Effy appears with the almost perfect office and career. But in true Skins style things are not quite right from the start, and the foundations have already been laid for disaster. I can’t wait for the rest of series. I would like to see some of the first generation of characters return, and I think Hannah Murray as Cassie is set to make an appearance. Skins Fire (feeling the echoes of Twin Peaks pre-equal ‘Fire Walk with Me’ in the title here – on a similar messy teen theme) makes me feel less alone in the multiple fuck ups and false starts of my young adult life, just as it did when I was sixth form college kid.