‘Skins’ and the impossibility of youth television

Skins (2007-2013) was one of the most successful UK youth television dramas of all time. Created by father-and-son team Bryan Elsley and Jamie Brittain, its interwoven narratives focused on the lives of a group of 16-18-year olds attending a sixth form college in Bristol, in the west of England. This essay presents an analysis of Skins in the light of broader questions about ‘youth television’ – and in particular, the issue of authenticity. I explore how the programme claims to speak on behalf of youth, and how the youth audience is addressed and defined. I examine Skins’ claim to realism, and how this sits alongside elements of comedy and melodrama. I also look at how the producers attempted to draw in youthful audiences, especially through the use of social media. Ultimately, I argue that achieving authenticity in youth television is a precarious and challenging business – and perhaps ultimately impossible.

You can download the whole essay (without illustrations) by clicking here, or if you want to read the illustrated version, click on the subheadings to read the different sections:

  1. Introduction
  2. In search of authenticity
  3. Youth at the centre
  4. Realism, comedy and melodrama
  5. Character and narrative
  6. Interactivity and fandom; conclusion
  7. Sources and references