It looks as if MTV has found itself another hit indeed, with its U.K. adapted series, "Skins" stirring a rise in just about everybody and their… mothers too, in this case.
If the pilot episode was any indication of its "success" – 3.3 million viewers tuned in, including the wary Parents Television Council (PTC) – the executives at Viacom better hold their breath and hope for a miracle tonight, as "Skins" introduces one of its lesbian leads, Tea, in their second episode which airs tonight at 10 p.m. EST.
We all know where this is headed. It begins with "c" and ends with a "y" me.
The PTC continues to make headway on their investigation, claiming that "Skins" violates child pornography laws and sexually exploits minors, with big honchos like Taco Bell, General Motors, Wrigley, and now H&R Block pulling their ads from the time slot and fleeing from what may be a potential "crime" scene.
H&R Block and General Motors called their advertising on the show an accident, contending that neither intended to advertise on the program. A statement from the company said, "This program is not brand right and H&R Block did not select it to be part of our rotation."
Wrigley also testified that they never wanted to endorse content that could offend their consumers, according to NY Daily News.
In reaction to the loss of major advertising companies, MTV told Fox News: "We have an ongoing dialogue with our advertising partners about the best fit for them across our diverse lineup of shows. We know that not every show works for every advertiser. That said, we are confident that 'Skins' will continue to connect with the audience it was created for and that advertisers will take advantage of the opportunity to reach them."
Other leading companies, like Subway, L'Oreal, Foot Locker, and Extra and Orbit chewing gum, are being hard-pressed to follow suit as the president of PTC, Tim Winter, vocalizes the group's intentions to "continue to monitor every broadcast and every rebroadcast of 'Skins' so that we can inform the public which corporations are underwriting underage teen sex, underage teen drug use and underage teen alcohol use."
If that doesn't send companies running, we'll be sure to witness what exactly will in the next ensuing months of broadcast.
Morality in Media, another watchdog organization, is also calling for MTV and Viacom to halt distribution of the series to avoid exploitation of children.
David Carr of The New York Times comments that "'Skins' is nothing new, only a corporate effort to clone a provocative drama that will make MTV less dependent on reality shows and add to the bottom line."
Creator Bryan Elsley spoke in defense of the show to the L.A. Times stating, "In the U.K., 'Skins' is part of drug training programs, it's used in films about gay teenagers coming out, and it's used in an a public health context."
So the question remains. Is "Skins" perpetuating reckless sexual and social behavior amongst teens or discouraging it? Are they displaying wild, prodigal living with an exhortative message or reveling proudly in the debauchery?
Pam Stenzel, author of Nobody Told Me, worries that MTV will not show "the reality of teen's promiscuous behavior… a character getting herpes and dealing with painful sores… a teen having a cervical biopsy and compromised from HPV infection… or a teen girl who will hang herself in her bedroom after 'hooking up' with the wrong guy and being mercilessly bullied."
She explains why "these shows need to be off the air and how they are missing the greater message of consequences and responsibility." Her book explores the teen's relationship with their parents, stating "teens still say that their parents have more influence on their decisions than either media or peers."
Tina Wells, the founder of Buzz Marketing Group, also supports this idea, writing in Huffington Post that ultimately parents have a responsibility to their children, not MTV. "At the end of the day, I believe that hard work of good parenting pays off."
"Instead of wasting time and money suing MTV and making a fuss about the show, let's put that same energy into talking to teenagers around us about the consequences of the decisions they make and how they can do things now to ensure that later on, they've built the lives they want for themselves."
She concludes her article by reminding "consumers that we vote daily for the brands we love and hate when we give or don't give them our money and our time. Nothing speaks in greater volumes than blacking out a network you don't like or not purchasing a product you don't endorse. These things exist because an audience exists."
"Let's not allow TV or the media to raise our children."
Will tonight's episode of "Skins" accomplish what the Parents Television Council sought out to do – tame the beast? Or did it only feed it?
To watch or not to watch; herein lies the question.