A whore in a burka: the moment Skins lost me for good

“I’m stoned like a whore in a burka.” 

- SKINS, SERIES 6, EPISODE 1 

You can’t review a TV show on the strength of a single line can you? That would be dreadfully unreasonable. The game of stripping comments of their context to stoke outrage is pretty popular now. It’s the fuel for many a Facebook feud and Twitter spat. On any given day approximately 65% of Daily Mail editorial is predicated on a deliberate disdain for context. But there’s something about the line above that captures the studied shock that runs right through Skins as it toddles into its sixth series. 

The line is uttered by Ryder, a pretty rugby boy with a Piers Morgan ego chief among his unpleasant attributes. We’re not meant to like him so in that respect the line works. But there’s something about the sharp edge of that analogy that speaks to the generally unpleasant undertones that run through the most recent incarnation of Skins.

It has always been a world where drugs, drinking and dysfunction are the three Ds of teenage life rather than dullness, depression and daytime TV. Come Series 5, it resembled, more than ever, an animated version of elegantly wasted American Apparel ads. 

Episode one of Skins Series 6 isn’t on TV until January 27 but you can watch it online via 4OD now, in one of those forward thinking moves the kids love. If there’s one thing Skins knows about, it’s what the kids love, presuming the kids you’re talking about enjoy watching intoxicated drug sponges with a proclivity for stripping down to their underwear at the merest hint of excitement. Which of course of they do. Who doesn’t? 

I enjoyed Skins for the first two generations. Tony was the arrogant lad from school you always wished would get his comeuppance rather than a thriving as career as an actor/Abercrombie model/investment banker. And he did, punished with a fall from grace in Series 2. In Series 3 and 4, Cook was an enjoyable anti-hero turned actual hero, played with admirable swagger by Jack O’Connell. 

The relationships in those first four series were also enthralling. Sid and Cassie in the first iteration and Emily and Naomi in the second felt very real even if the plot lines that wrenched at their bonds weren’t. 

Series 5 left me cold. The turnover over of characters every two years has always been a clever touch with Skins but the new intake seemed to be shinier, skinnier versions of archetypes the series had played with before.

Skins is starting to feel like ever regenerating Puerto Rican boy band Menudo scouring the land to find a midget Ricky Martin or the Sugababes using skill cells stolen from Mutya Buena’s to create frighteningly scowl-faced clone. Though admittedly I would prefer to watch a TV show where either of those plans was the premise. 

The “stoned like a whore…” line bothers me not because I am gearing up for a descent into a Disgusted Of Tunbridge Wells early middle age but because its part of a general feeling of unearned smartness to Skins scripts.

Watch the Series 6 opener and you’ll see the usual round of crowbarred in sex scenes and plot twists that turn so sharply you should probably have a neck brace on hand. Why does one Minnie suddenly jump one of the boys? Because…um…because…nope, I’ve no idea. 

It may just be that at 28, I’m too old to appreciate Skins anymore. That would be a shame. As Boyd Hilton wisely noted the other day, there’s no reason we should restrict our TV watching to shows that represent our own age group.

The trouble with the first episode of Skins Series 6 is that those characters feel utterly alien to the version of myself typing this and the teenager who lacked even a scintilla of the brash confidence and wild irresponsibility of the characters. Were any of the others shocked by Ryder’s whore in burkha banter? No.