Channel 4 courted for U.S. version of Skins

A British TV show depicting teenagers doing drugs and having sex, which arguably has helped to raise the creative bar on Channel 4, is about to be unleashed on the international market.


"Skins," a cult hit with Blighty's 16- to 24-year-olds, is a latenight dramedy about the lives of a group of worldly, middle-class 16- and 17-year-olds made by U.K. shingle Company Pictures.


Now in its third season, (only not really) its ratings have dipped a bit, but local versions have been optioned in Spain to Curazo TV and in Romania to MediaPro Distribution.


There is speculation that U.S. webheads also are considering making a version of "Skins."


"There has been interest from a couple of U.S. networks to adapt the format," Channel 4's acquisitions head Jeff Ford says.


Created by veteran British scriptwriter Brian Elsley and his son James, "Skins" employs a writing team mostly in its early 20s; one episode of the current run is written by an 18-year-old.


The cast is largely made up of faces new to TV. The exception is "About a Boy" star Nicholas Hoult, who plays cool Tony, a budding alpha-male whose confidence is undermined by a car crash.


"One reason why the audience has taken to 'Skins' is because it doesn't preach," Channel 4's head of scheduling Rosemary Newell says.


While figures for the second season, which bowed Feb. 11 on spinoff, youth-skewed web E4 (each episode is repeated a few days later on Channel 4), are down year-on-year despite an intense marketing campaign, the show remains one of the channel's biggest draws, ahead of established E4 fare like "Friends."


The first season of "Skins" averaged 1.1 million across its nine episodes, a good audience for a U.K. digital channel.


The second run debuted with 884,000 viewers, which translates into a multichannel audience share of 5.9%. For the week beginning March 16, viewers had dropped to 709,000.


" 'Skins' success shouldn't be measured only by ratings," E4 head Angela Jain insists. "It is an utterly channel-defining show that totally chimes with our audience."


In any case, Channel 4 claims the figures underestimate the true size of the "Skins" audience because a lot of viewers are watching via the station's on-demand portal, 4OD.


Undoubtedly the program has won the approval of Brit TV professionals. Earlier this year it won the prize for best drama series at the Broadcast awards. "Skins" is nominated at next month's TV BAFTAs in the same category.


The company is developing a third season, but with budgets tight and Channel 4 in the midst of deliberations over its long-term strategy, the future of an expensive show like "Skins" -- despite its iconic status -- is not guaranteed.


Yet with advertisers keen to reach teenagers, it is perhaps not surprising that the skein has been exported to more than 100 territories as a completed show. But can "Skins" translate to overseas auds?


"NBC is planning to make 'Father Ted' (a surreal Channel 4 sitcom lampooning the Catholic Church)," Ford says. "If they can do 'Father Ted,' I can't see why 'Skins' can't be reversioned for the U.S.


The question is whether a U.S. version of "Skins" could retain the essence of the U.K. show that makes it unique. 'The Office' (which has been adapted successfully for the American market) is edgy, but not in the way 'Skins' is.


"There are things in 'Skins' like young people having sex and doing drugs that make people feel uncomfortable," Ford says. "If HBO or Showtime made a version of 'Skins,' there wouldn't be a problem: A (broadcast) network adaptation would need to be watered down."


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Apr 17, 2008 4:39PM EDT

"There are things in 'Skins' like young people having sex and doing drugs that make people feel uncomfortable," Ford says. This statement makes no reasoning why the program shouldnt be made into an american version. It appeals to the 16-24 age group. The majority of this age group will not be "uncomfortable" watching the scenes skins portray as it is the lifestyle these age groups lead nowadays. I think the show is severely under-rated, it captures the very essence of youth in the 21st century and the ups and downs of everyday teenage life. Skins is not just a programme for the young but also a programme for those of the older generation who yearn for an insight into modern teenage life, and those looking to recapture their youth.I myself am obviously a fan, but either way i would not mind if it was never made into an american programme as i'd be afraid it would leave behind british culture and turn preppy like many shows such as The O.C. and one tree hill.

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Apr 19, 2008 9:28AM EDT

I live in a America and really hope they don't make this into an American show. It will end up like all of the other annoying teenage show that really don't accurately depict the life of teenagers what-so-ever. Not to mention it would have to be so watered down. because anything involving sex and drugs just freaks out most Americans but they really don't mind watching someone get sliced open or shot numerous times. I really wouldn't want to taint the reputation of such a wonderful show but making a terrible American version of it. I don't know why they don't just show the British skins on HBO or something

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Apr 21, 2008 6:53PM EDT

An American version would suck hardcore, they'd let it guest star idiots like hannah montana and the writing wouldn't be empathetic at all. I live in america and the fact that skins is made in the UK has no affect on how much i like it, in fact, i feel as though i can relate more to the characters in Skins then i could in any American drama, which lack dark comedy and genuine character development. I'd feel more comfortable if skins continued to be produced in the UK but if it were easier to watch it here in America. I think they're ratings would skyrocket if they made it available on the tele for those who live far away.

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Apr 21, 2008 10:56PM EDT

I could not agree more. I also live in america. If this show is "americanized" it will lose all the essence that made it a good show. i also am interested with the culture and the music in the uk. thats what really got me so into the show.

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Aug 29, 2008 1:16PM EDT

just air it as it is! why bother redoing it when the magic is ready made and dvd packaged??

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Nov 9, 2008 3:04PM EST

I couldn't agree more with what everyone else has said! Skin's is perfect the way it is and if it's changed to fit 'American' tv it will loose most of it's charm and relatability. Why not just syndicate it? I'm sure it'll get some success with American audiences because it's the only British show on air. Just please please please don't change what we all love!

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Dec 2, 2008 4:01AM EST

i just started watching this show, and i really like it. i love the drama the humor the nevergonnahappeninreallife storylines. of course i agree that an american version wud plain suck. but wat i dont agree is when people say it relates to how young people live today. this is ridiculous. seriously does it mean most young people spend their days having sex taking drugs and thrashing people's homes? i cant believe that. tv shows show wat ppl wud like to be. besides wat about shows like gossip girl which revolve around similar themes if only in a different context? of course a network version thats another story.

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