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Tuesday, Oct 21, 2014

MTV's 'Skins' Veers a Little Too Close to the Edge for Comfort

  • (Photo: MTV)
    MTV's "Skins" premiered Monday to a wave a criticism. The Parents Television Council called lawmakers to open an investigation regarding child pornography and exploitation.
January 21, 2011|11:00 am

Adapted from a hit British teen drama, “Skins” is already on the rocks with accusations of child pornography and exploitation. The youngest actor on set is just 15 years old.

Taco Bell has pulled all of their advertising from the program. Spokesman Rob Poetsch told FOX411 on Thursday, “Upon further review, we’ve decided that the show is not a fit for our brand and have moved our advertising to other MTV programming.”

On Monday, 3.3 million viewers tuned in to the premiere of MTV’s highly anticipated new series “Skins,” beating out “Jersey Shore’s” debut in 2009 by 1.9 million.

But Viacom executives have ordered producers to tone down the explicit content or make changes, according to The New York Times. Executives are worried they might be faced with criminal prosecution and possibly jail time if the episodes are broadcast without changes.

The Times revealed that the executives met to discuss whether the show might violate federal law regarding the sexual depiction and presentation of minors.

Parents Television Council called “Skins” “the most dangerous show for children we have ever seen.”

“The [premiere] episode included all manner of foul language, illegal drug use, illegal activity, as well as thoroughly pervasive sexual content,” the PTC said. “Moreover, future episodes promise much more of the same.”

PTC counted 42 depictions and references to drugs and alcohol in the first episode when the run-time was only 41 minutes, excluding commercials. The conservative media watchdog called on lawmakers to investigate Viacom and MTV for the production of the material.

Bryan Elsley, the co-creator of the controversial new series, responded to the criticism in an interview with The Los Angeles Times: “Skins is definitely not the most dangerous program ever on television. People should just watch the show and see if they feel it’s really as bad as they think.”

“Skins is not about how crazy teenagers are – it’s about how great they are,” he continued. “It’s about the fact that it’s great to be 17. At the end of the day, I think that’s why people get so hepped up. Those of us who aren’t 17 anymore get a bit jealous.”

Sex, drugs, teenage angst, and high school insecurities – putting all jealousy aside of those “great” 17-year-old times, “Skins” has been criticized by several viewers for a lack of originality and difference from the original UK sensation; not to mention the level of reality between American teens today and MTV’s version, who are more closely aligned to the network's “Real World” than the actual real world.

Jeannie Kedas, an MTV spokeswoman, released a statement on Thursday, defending the new series. “Skins is a show that addresses real-world issues confronting teens in a frank way. We review all of our shows and work with all of our producers on an ongoing basis to ensure our shows comply with laws and community standards.”

“We are confident that the episodes of Skins will not only comply with all applicable legal requirements, but also with our responsibilities to our viewers,” Kedas assured. “We also have taken numerous steps to alert viewers to the strong subject matter so that they can choose for themselves whether it is appropriate.”

The steps taken: “Skins” is rated TV-MA, unsuitable for audiences under 17. And the show broadcasts at 10 p.m., “traditionally a time when younger viewers are not watching.”

Exactly how young are we talking about? In a tech savvy age of smart phones and WiFi tablets, even our toddlers are up past 10 p.m., able to bypass the parental controls, turn on the television sets and set the TiVo to record.

Focus on the Family’s Plugged In Online hashes a thorough review of the show, agreeing with Richard Lawson, the “Defamer” on gawker.com, “who best captured what was especially bothersome about the show by nailing down the idea that Skins defames the very people it’s supposed to attract.”

Lawson stated that the show presents “the thesis that kids really are as adults supposedly see them – messy jumbles of extremes with very little shading in between, lacking in kindness, decorum, and any sense of responsibility or consequence. It’s a pretty bleak and unfair characterization. Teenagers are dumb, yes, but they’re not monsters. I wish television and movies would stop trying to tell us they are.”

Plugged In Online pointed to studies that show sexual promiscuity and overall drug use among real teens have actually gone down over the last decade while responsibility and charity have gone up.

“While the kids on Skins live for the next party, today’s youth are working harder than ever at school and plotting out their college course load and future careers.”

MTV states that “Skins teeters on the edge of acceptability all the time. But along the way, it stumbles across depth and truth – honing in on the difficulties and complications of young people’s lives.” Let’s hope that our next generation of teens won’t veer too close to that edge but instead learn from the depth and truth of the show – whatever that may be.

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