Reboots and revivals may be all the rage in TV land right now but Skins – which celebrates the tenth anniversary of its E4 debut today – won’t be getting the same treatment any time soon, according to the show’s co-creator Bryan Elsley.
“I think it belongs where it is” he tells RadioTimes.com, explaining that it was “quite a big thing for us to do” to bring back characters from the first and second generations for a series of three farewell films – Skins Fire, Skins Pure and Skins Rise in 2013.
“They were kind of our farewell to teenage years. The members of the first generation of skins are in their late twenties now, some of them are married, one or two of them have children, time moves on and so does television drama.”
Elsley is quite proud of the little E4 series that could, recalling his days on the “ramshackle” comedy drama about a group of teenagers in Bristol with fondness.
“There was a rawness about it which I’d love to say was deliberate but it was basically bsed on the fact that the actors had never acted before, the writers had never written before, everyone was young and we made it as well as we could”, he says.
Skins gave us some of Britain’s brightest TV industry stars, with Academy Award nominee Dev Patel and BAFTA winning writers like Jack Thorne finding their feet on the production.
Bailey, Joe Dempsie, Hannah Murray, Larissa Wilson, Dev Patel, Mitch Hewer, Nicholas Hoult and April Pearson were the leading stars of the first generation Skins cast from 2007 to 2008
Elsley’s son, Jamie Brittain, collaborated with his father to create the series and says it offered a training ground like no other for young writers who were eager to get into the industry.
“We were kind of given a safety net where we could write and come up with basically whatever story we wanted to tell” Brittain, who was the inspiration for Sid Jenkins, explains. “We were left alone to do that with more experienced people popping in along the way. Someone like Bryan was able to come in and help us make it into a viable show so the people who paid for the scripts, who were ultimately the channel, didn’t have to worry about giving a script commission to Jamie Brittain, this weird looking kid who clearly hadn’t had a shave in three years.”
“That teaches you to write” he continues, “and I think, we kind of focus on young talent at the moment and new talent and emerging talent and writers from backgrounds different from the standard ones and the problem is that the best way of doing that is to actually pay people to write things that will actually be on television, which is unfortunately nearly impossible to justify economically.”
“I think that’s the saddest thing about Skins not being on any more or not going on for a few more years” he laments. “Even though the show seemed a bit tired maybe in that last generation, we didn’t quite have the energy that we started off with, I think it’s a real shame that we couldn’t perhaps continue along the way and maybe pick up a few more writers as we went.”
April Pearson, aka Michelle of the first generation, believes it was that writing which set the show apart.
“[Bryan] took a lot from Jamie and he took a lot from his peers and how they spoke. It never felt like an older person writing”, she explains. “They definitely implemented that more in the second series where there would be 17 or 18 year olds writing entire episodes with a lot of guidance. They carried that through, throughout the series, and I think that voice really made quite a difference.”
At the time, Pearson didn’t realise how much of an impact the series was having: “I thought we were just making a cool TV show” she admits, fondly recalling days spent attempting to break world records for the most people snogging in the same place on T4 on the beach and filming with a group of people who felt more like friends than co-workers.
Skins’ influence extended far further than any of its cast or creators could have imagined, and far beyond the infamous ‘Skins parties’ it hit the headlines for allegedly inspiring. The show started conversations about issues like eating disorders, race, identity, religion and sexuality.
“This seems silly now but I have letters from young people who wrote to me and told me they’d come out to their parents after watching Skins. It seems in this day and age that that shouldn’t be so hard but even 10 years ago that was quite a big thing and I was always very touched by those letters”, says Elsley.
“Kids used to write to me and say that they’d go and watch it with their grandparents because watching it with their parents wasn’t really acceptable and would be terrible, but watching it with their grandparents was kind of sort of OK. I always used to get a laugh thinking about these kids sitting around with their grannies and granddads.”
Perhaps that’s why a certain proportion of Twitter went into meltdown when rumours of an 8th series began circulating.
“Do you know what happened there? Someone went on my Instagram account, which I think had one picture of my dog on it, and knocked up a picture which was like, Skins 8 question mark on a black background”, Brittain reveals.
“If Skins was coming back and I decided to leak news of it to them Riddler style on my Instagram account, which I don’t use, I would get in SO MUCH trouble”, he laughs.
He’s not opposed to the idea of bringing the series back, though. “I think we maybe will one day, there’s no plans for that at the moment. I think things tend to sort of come back don’t they?” he muses.
“Things manage to come back to life on another platform and I wouldn’t be against that at all, I’d enjoy it. Whether or not it would be Skins the new cast or whether it would be getting those guys back, apart from anything else, some of them don’t act any more. I imagine Dev Patel’s calendar… I mean it would be cool to get Dev Patel to play Anwar again” he says, while admitting he didn’t see the Lion star’s rapid ascent to stardom coming.
“I thought he would do well” Brittain explains, “but I didn’t think he’d accelerate that quickly.”
Elsley is remarkably proud of what the young Skins cast and creatives went on to achieve, though he refuses to take any credit for their hard work.
“They were actually very hard working young people, tremendous characters and just the best kind of young person you could hope to meet. Without ever being goody two shoes or anything like that, they were just tremendous fun.”
“It was pure fun” he says of his time on the series, “every minute”.
All 7 seasons of Skins are available to watch now on All 4