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TV on DVD: "Skins: Volume One"

Every once in a while a series comes along that completely manages to alter your expectations and perceptions of a particular genre.

The last time a teen drama managed to defy its pigeonholing was FOX's The O.C., which offered a series that offered a wink and nudge to the classic tropes of the genre, which is gently tweaked, while also offering engaging storylines for its adult characters, a trend that the CW's Gossip Girl has continued to in its stead.

So when UK digital network E4 launched teen drama Skins, created by Bryan Elsley and Jamie Brittain, in 2007 (US digital cabler BBC America aired it Stateside last year), I was once again blown away by how this series imploded stereotypes about teen dramas and transformed my views on what the genre was capable of. Paradoxically offering both a heightened sense of reality and a grounded look at teen culture today, Skins managed to capture not only an age-appropriate audience who quickly fell under the spell of its characters, but also an adult audience that appreciated the deftness of plotting, emotional depth, and refreshing ease with which the series dealt with the vagaries of teen life: sex, drugs, rivalries, death, morality, pregnancy. In other words, life.

BBC Home Video today releases Skins: Volume One, a DVD set of the first nine episodes of the series, which comprise the first season of this groundbreaking and remarkable series. After watching the second season wrap up last month on BBC America (which featured the departure of nearly the entire cast), it's astonishing to go back and rewatch the series from the beginning.

For those of you who missed the series when it aired last year, Season One introduced a group of Bristol teens whose lives and fates seemed intertwined, with each episode focusing on defining the point-of-view of a single character and allowing the audience to experience the minutae of their lives.

There was Tony (About a Boy's Nicholas Hoult), the swaggering de facto leader of the group with a Svengali-like tendency to manipulate everyone around him, including his geeky best friend Sid (Mike Bailey) who happened to have a thing for Tony's gorgeous if insecure girlfriend Michelle (April Pearson). There was Michelle's musically talented best friend Jal (Larissa Wilson) whose mother abandoned her, Muslim Anwar (Slumdog Millionaire's Dev Patel) who feigned at following his religion's tenets but really just wanted to lose his virginity; gay dancer Maxxie (Mitch Hewer) whose father wanted him to be a builder; happy-go-lucky drug fiend Chris (Joseph Dempsie) whose sunny exterior hid some dark family secrets and who carried a torch for psychology lecturer Angie (Siwan Morris).

And then there was Cassie (Hannah Murray). I first knew that I was watching something incredibly magical and unique when I saw Season One's second episode ("Cassie"), which featured the spacey Cassie as she drifted through a surreal and almost dream-like Bristol, seemingly receiving messages on Post-Its and her mobile phone telling her eat. Dealing with her eating disorder head on, it established Cassie as a sympathetic, if unpredictable, character and established that Skins had well and truly arrived with a unique and previously unheard voice of a generation.

Skins: Volume One features all nine episodes from the first season, with one important caveat. I'm awfully sad to report that, due to music clearance issues, the gorgeously poignant final scene of Episode Nine ("Finale"), in which the cast fractures and goes their separate ways while singing Cat Steven's "Wild World," has been edited out of the DVD release. (Fret not: you can watch the emotionally wrenching scene here.) Providing both an emotional catharsis for several of the characters after the drama of the previous episodes as well as featuring some vital story points necessary to set up Season Two, this is an incredibly intrinsic and important sequence and I'm really very upset that there was clearly too costly to clear this song for the DVD.

The three-disc set features several hours of bonus materials, including character-specific ancillary storylines that fill in the gaps between--and sometimes during--the series' first season episodes. There's a recurring gag involving careers office staffer Josie (remember her from Season Two) and snails, as well as storylines in which Michelle and Cassie steal a wedding dress and tuxedo from a bridal shop, Chris gets the money for the class field trip to Russia from a porn star, a teary Effy tells a heartbreaking story about a sister's love for her brother, Ace and Lynton try to get their demo to a hip-hop radio DJ, and Cassie says goodbye to a friend from the clinic. Additionally, there are numerous in-character video diaries, featuring everyone from Abigail (Georgina Moffat) and Anwar to Cassie and Posh Kenneth (Daniel Kaluuya).

While the absence of the "Wild World" montage is absolutely heartbreaking, Skins: Volume One is just a must-have set for any fan of Skins... and with the third season just around the corner, this release offers the perfect opportunity to take a look back at the original cast or, if you've never seen the series before, start at the very beginning.

Skins: Volume One has a suggested retail price of $39.98 but you can pick up a copy for $29.99 right now in the Televisionary Shop. Own it on DVD today!


Anonymous said…
Oh, that's awful that they had to cut that final scene. It's one of my favorites! I hate it when stupid music rights cause difficulties. Isn't that why it took so long for Spaced to come out on DVD? It's ridiculous!
joy said…
That was a fabulous scene. What a shame. But, I do love that it's sitting on YouTube, with a greater number of views than would have bought the DVD set. Nice. Now no one makes any money off of it.
Anonymous said…
Are the episodes on the DVD the BBCA-edited versions or are they uncensored (in regards to profanity, etc.) and/or sans subtitles?
Jace Lacob said…
They are unedited (save for the chunk missing from episode 9) and unsubtitled.
Jaycee said…
Hello! I recently watched Skins Series 1 on Netflix (streaming) and the "Wild World" ending was there, so I was wondering if there was a rerelease of the DVDs or if Netflix got special permissions to play this ending? This would be good to know in case of future Skins DVD purchases!

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