“Skins” Gets Axed, Just Like Franky

As Skins barrels through the endless bender of its sixth season, The Guardian is reporting that Channel 4 has confirmed that the controversial series will die (probably in a car crash) in 2013.

A Channel 4 spokesperson told The Guardian: Skins is a brilliant show which has defined a generation and will go down as a truly iconic, game-changing piece of television but after seven series it is time for E4 to make way for the next generation of the bold, the new and the innovative.” Next year three more episodes will air, and the Channel 4 Rep says, “We think Skins has gone as far as we can take it, but we know fans will be disappointed. So we think three episodes to really celebrate the series is a good send-off.”

MSN reports that 2011 was a rough year for the franchise, saying that “the American version proved too controversial, and was axed after only a couple of episodes,” which isn’t actually true — MTV aired the complete season and then cancelled it, but the controversy if anything only amped up interest in the show. The American Skins‘ fatal flaw was that it totally sucked. Like it sucked so bad it needed a whole new word for “suck.”

after drowning in suck, the cast of Skins US crosses a bridge

In the UK, Skins‘ ratings have been rolling gallantly downhill all season. MSN, apparently very short on fact-checkers yesterday, said that “last night’s finale” (It wasn’t the finale, it was only Episode seven of a 10-episode season) “was seen by just 630,000 people, a loss of over 40% of its launch audience.” They also report that Season Six debuted to the show’s lowest ever overnight average — a huge loss for a show that premiered in 2007 to 1.7 million viewers.

MSN theorizes: “Over five years in, and it seemed as if the writers were running short of the kind of fresh ideas that made the first couple of series so watchable. In this day and age, it’s perhaps difficult to appreciate just how groundbreaking Skins was when it first premiered. However, in its prime, it was a groundbreaking show for young people, devised by young people and played by young people.”

But is that really it? Now that the ground has been broken, we’re no longer moved by Skins‘ central concept? I don’t think so. There are definitely elements of the show’s premise less suited for a 2012 audience than a 2007 one, and I’ll get to those later, but perhaps MSN is the most accurate when they suggest “the new cast – including the likes of Dakota Blue Richards, Alex Arnold, Sean Teale, Freya Mavor and Jessica Sula – polarised fans. Some were enamoured with them, others weren’t.”

the cast of season six

Obviously the new cast never shone quite so dirty-bright as the previous two but Season Five had its moments — more specifically, it had Franky.

In Season Five, Skins unexpectedly found a way to break new ground with Franky; a delicately beautiful girl with nervous eyes, a wild angry vulnerability and a distinctly androgynous style. Although Franky never used the word herself, many viewers immediately identified her as “genderqueer,” which we don’t see on television, really, not ever. When asked whether she’s into girls or boys or both, Franky responds — with a rare assuredness for her — “I’m into people.”

Franky, who was bullied at her old school, is quickly harassed at her new one, too, but by Season Five’s end had meshed into a new gang and a new love triangle — or dodechahedron, really — dominated by Matty the Emo Brooder and Franky’s new best friend, the bitchy-because-she’s-needy Mini.

Minky share a romantic moment in season five

It was thrilling, that unexpected sexual tension with Mini, and it made perfect sense, it really did, that Mini’s initial twatdom towards Franky was rooted in internalized homophobia. Although I’m holding out hope that episode nine, “Mini & Franky,” will basically be the two of them on ecstasy in bed making collages in their underpants, thus far last year’s sexual tension has vanished into the ether along with Franky’s Oxfords.

Season Six debuts with the gang, clearly unfamiliar with photographs, telephones and TripAdvisor.com, vacationing in Morocco at a hotel situation that lacks beds, water, a functional pool, toilets or anything they’d allegedly paid for. When Franky and Matty, now officially together, pulled up in their Jeep, my eyeballs fell out of my face, mostly because I had no idea Dakota Blue Richards had such an impressive rack…

…but also because she didn’t look like Franky anymore.

S6’s stylist: “[This season] we’ll see [Franky] take control of who she is. Gone are the button up shirts, Franky has started to embrace her sexuality and she’s not afraid of exposing some flesh and finally being noticed by all.”

franky fashion, season six

This is how Franky’s style was described last year: “Her sartorial experiments defy all gender expectations and she’ll plunder from all ages of fashion if it feels right, from old-man trousers via romantic tail coats to Teddy Boy’s brothel creepers.”

franky's fashion, season five

“I liked [Franky] better when she might or might not be lesbian.”
– Mini, Episode 601

Yeah, me too. How did we go from this…

To this?

There’s nothing implausible about Franky’s turnaround, but it’s super-disappointing, and Skins‘ insistence that her new style reflects new confidence is both confusing and problematic. If S5’s Franky was confident about anything, it was probably her outfits. She wasn’t throwing shit on to cover herself up, she was a Dapper Fucking Q, that woman. She clearly had a passion for a certain kind of fashion.

Franky getting dressed in Season Five

See, part of what made Franky so fun and revolutionary and compelling was that she disregarded the “femme = sexy” hierarchy and when peers suggested her style reflected insecurity/discomfort, Franky insisted otherwise — no, it was just her. When she felt peer-pressured into wearing makeup and a girly tank top to school in Season Five, she quickly broke down over it: “I tried today and now I feel kind of less like me, and I’m not exactly over the moon about being me in the first place, but now I think I kinda like it less when I’m trying NOT to be me. Because I just wanna like, be.”

Season Five

We admired her deviance and weirdoness, which seems to be subsumed this season by a self-destructive streak that begins pre-Death-of-Grace, although its root is never truly fleshed out. Real talk: They’re trying to make Franky into Effy. Right? I mean, they’ve just sort of stuffed a bunch of Effy into Franky’s body and are running with it. Couldn’t they have picked someone else?

Also, as of Episode Seven, Franky’s already slept with three guys and has yet to fingerfuck Mini in a dirty city alley. So Franky joins the ranks of “female characters who are theoretically attracted to all genders but only actually date men in practice” which’s shitty for her queer-lady following and by that I mean ME.

dude, stop looking at franky's rack!

Franky’s episode was probs the season’s best, although it was totally fucked and if I’d seen it as a teenager and if high-speed internet had existed when I was a teenager, I would’ve watched it ten times and had lots of confusing and ultimately self-destructive sexual feelings about it. But a part of me knows that’s not a good thing, and presenting all that physical violence between Franky and Luke without context — like when he aggressively fucked her while twisting and smashing her head into the bed with his hand completely covering her face — seemed sloppy and felt like shock for the sake of shock rather than a genuine desire to tell that particular story. Like the story about the girl named Franky from last season’s finale. .

But it’s not just Franky who’s fallen out of favor this year, it’s everybody! Last season, Nick made me wanna take a nap and this year he makes me wanna smash a truck into a mountain of cocaine and slip into a seven-year coma. He’s suddenly in love with Franky now? Really Papi, Really? Fuck me in the ear.

I never fancied Alo or Rich but I appreciated the newness and distinctiveness of their characters, but this season I’d really like Alo to ride his tractor off a cliff. Their quirks have been muted in favor of repetitive storylines (Alo + Mini = Sid + Michelle = ~JJ + Emily) and pointless subplots like Grace LITERALLY DYING IN THE SECOND EPISODE and Alo hooking up with a 14-year-old named Poppy and getting arrested for it. That being said, Poppy is fucking awesome, get that girl a spin-off.

Poppy and Alo do drugs or something

But like everyone this season, selfishness abounds in fists for these boys, beyond anything the first two generations suggested. These rascals are slightly more unkind, less ambitious, more arbitrarily rebellious.

AND, despite Mini pinging so hard last season that she nearly fell into Franky’s vagina, this season that’s all over. In fact, she’s pregnant (like Jal!)!

this was cute though

Let’s be real here — fucking up isn’t new. Skins has made some epically stupid storylines over the years (for example: Sketch) and it’s probably just more apparent this season because the protagonists themselves haven’t captured us on their own merits.

There are some tropes replayed this season, like Skins’ most consistently irritating plot device of entangling its young comrades with unseemly gang members and drug dealers, situations which always lead to tense piles-of-cash-related confrontations in dark side-rooms followed by a fight, a car/foot chase or a round of sadistic sexual torture.

The “parents are gone, let’s throw a party and invite all the extras!” game is another repeat, but this season seemed especially fucked ’cause who the fuck throws an epic gigantic rowdy property-destroying party in their girlfriend’s house while she’s in the hospital following a car crash that was actually indirectly caused by the same friends throwing the party? I’ll tell you who — ASSHOLES.

assholes

It’s had its moments, sure — Franky’s heart-to-heart with her Dad made my heart swell and my eyes water, for example — and don’t get me wrong, I still prefer it over just about any other show on television. But I’m Skins’ permanent niche, this show is so far up my alley that it nearly ran over the neighbor’s cat (his name is Pablo and he is ALWAYS in the way). But I guess it’s just me and the other diehards left, which’s why it’s getting cancelled.

So then there’s the question — entirely separate of this cast, has the series itself simply played itself out? After last year’s youth-led riots throughout Britain, it’s possible that drunk nihilistic authority-questioning kids have lost their charm, or that their teenage self-obsession seems particularly idiotic with so many real things to be upset about.

As I’ve said beforeSkins succeeds because it always goes for the jugular, steering its narrative into the deepest cesspools of teenage desire and fear, the murky hideaways where adolescence is at its most wretched and hard-fought. Skins characters have never been the clear-skinned perfectly-haired impeccably-dressed stick-thin plastics of 90210 or even Pretty Little Liars: they’re not people we look up to, they’re people we unfortunately sometimes are — fucked, reckless, alienated, confused. And even at its worst, Skins refuses to let you disbelieve it, and even at its most ridiculous it still feels honest and maybe that’s because it’s never sentimental, not ever.

But Skins maybe could’ve benefited this season from acknowledging the world around it, which’s as rife with terror as it’s ever been, especially for teenagers. You can write off the intense heedlessness of the first two generations as one part personality and one part familial fate, but by the third generation we’re a little more curious why, exactly, these bright young things crave oblivion besides that they’re characters on a show called Skins and that’s what Skins is about. I mean, shit sucks — parents are in debt, income inequality’s at its savage peak, higher education is now a gamble rather than a ticket — a person can fuck up their entire life these days without leaving the couch, which makes those who tempt that fate so desperately even more compelling — I mean, they must be the products of some fucking incredible backstory. But where is it?

I don’t think this show needed to end, I don’t think it’s run its course, and I still like watching it ’cause it always surprises me. But there are so many new stories to tell these days and one of those stories is about queerness and about sexuality and about gender and Skins started telling that story with Franky and Mini and then stopped. I’m so biased I probably should eject myself from my own conversation, but the thing is that I trusted Skins to tell that story in a way I don’t trust many franchises to tell a story. You should’ve been braver, Skins. You should’ve been brave and wanted me back.

Riese is the 38-year-old Co-Founder and CEO of Autostraddle.com as well as an award-winning writer, blogger, fictionist, copywriter, video-maker, low-key Jewish power lesbian and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York and then headed West. Her work has appeared in nine books including "The Bigger the Better The Tighter The Sweater: 21 Funny Women on Beauty, Body Image & Other Hazards Of Being Female," magazines including Marie Claire and Curve, and all over the web including Nylon, Queerty, Nerve, Bitch, Emily Books and Jezebel. She had a very popular personal blog once upon a time, and then she recapped The L Word, and then she had the idea to make this place, and now here we all are! In 2016, she was nominated for a GLAAD Award for Outstanding Digital Journalism. Follow her on twitter and instagram.

Riese has written 2842 articles for us.

64 Comments

  1. “She wasn’t throwing shit on to cover herself up, she was a Dapper Fucking Q, that woman. She clearly had a passion for a certain kind of fashion.”

    thank you! what is wrong with that stylist? you don’t have to be more feminine or wear more revealing clothing to show that you’re taking control of your life and that you’re embracing your sexuality! that is completely absurd and to characterize it in that fashion is kind of insulting to more masculine women and genderqueer folks. no wonder this show has jumped the shark.

    i thought season 5 was intriguing, particularly franky and mini’s storylines. but now, with them ignoring mini and franky’s sexual tension, completely discarding franky’s gender ambigiuty and refusing to explore mini’s sexuality (honestly mini seemed like the biggest lesbian alive, who just didn’t know it yet), i couldn’t bring myself to watch past the first episode of season 6.

    • The last time a character was so purposefully written as a lesbian as Mini was last year was Jessie Sammler on Once and Again. Apparently the book also focused on Mini’s desire for women – one thing forgotten is that, as Liv says in series 5, this isn’t the first time Mini wanted a girl. As soon as Bryan came back on board, rumors came out they would no longer head there. Anyone who has read his weird take on lesbians and saw Tea on the United States remake of Skins knows there is something off there.

      Emily (self-professed lesbian) sleeping with JJ, Naomi’s flirtations with Cook, Tea (a self-professed lesbian) and her desire for Tony, Mini turning straight out of nowhere, Franky’s out of nowhere change in her wear and her becoming straight (she had the into people line last year).

      Tony messed with Maxxie once as a Machiavellian exercise. Otherwise it is always women whose sexuality is fluid and almost always lesbians (even ones who in the case of Mini change to man hungry out of nowhere). To be fair Cassie had sex with a woman but that was used to indicate a downward spiral.

      • i haven’t really seen any skins series besides this generation’s and the u.s. skins versions, but from what i have obeserved, i totally agree that their representation of their female queer characters has been problematic.

        • One of the reasons shows such as Skins continue these offensive storylines is that many LGBT viewers accept it instead of questioning it. The interview that Bryan Elsley did last year showed a patronizing attitude towards lesbians. He sounded like the politicians who wouldn’t let women testify on birth control. When it came down to it he told lesbians that they all think of having sex with men.

          The reaction – while many were ticked, others who liked the show made excuses. All this excusemaking allows is the person to continue perpetuating these dated notions of lesbianism. In Mini’s case that includes the following offensive and long rejected notions – that it is a phase, that she was frigid, that she was scared of sex with men because it is real, that young women blur the lines between friendship and romance, that good sex with a man will make them want men again, etc.

          This is the very type of storyline that The Celluloid Closet attacked.

  2. *applause*

    Thank you for calling it like it is. This generation have had their moments, but season 6 is a total shit-fest. I invested everything into season 5 for one reason – Franky and Matty. To have all that build up be wasted in the first episode was complete and utter bullshit! Not to mention, it feels like these writers have run out of ideas. It seems to be a general consensus that we will see the following in each generation:

    – a betrayal of a male character towards another male he is close to so that he can have the girl (think Tony/Sid regarding Michelle; Cook/Freddy regarding Effy and Matty/Nick regarding Franky).
    – a “death (think Chris, Freddy and Grace).
    – Pseudo-lesbians turning straight again randomly (think Emily and Naomi both making out with Cook, Mini developing feelings for Franky but apparently losing them before season 6 for no apparent reason??)
    – Pregnancy (Liv and Mini)
    – The quirky characters always changing because apaprently it ain’t cool to be different. When we first met Cassie she was eccentric and troubled – but beautiful and sweet. By the end, she was a whore. Socially-awkward JJ having a girlfriend and baby by the end of the series and somehow forgetting all the things that made him different like his magic tricks. Franky going from alternative, a possible sexually-abused, independent fashionista to a predictable whore… it’s crap.

    I think the writers need a wake up call. Not that we’ll get it.

  3. I think this is the first time I heard what I feel about my gender expressed on TV, ever: “I tried today and now I feel kind of less like me, and I’m not exactly over the moon about being me in the first place, but now I think I kinda like it less when I’m trying NOT to be me. Because I just wanna like, be.”

    that’s Skins at its best. confusing and introspective and not entirely articulate, and experimenting and a little angry. not what they’re doing now.

  4. “Really Papi, Really? Fuck me in the ear” this made me lol
    my thoughts on s6:
    1)I know that for some fucked up reason, one character from every generation has to die, but why the fuck did they kill Gracie so early.
    2)What the fuck happened to Frankie and why the hell does she want to suddenly have sex with half of the guys on the show.
    3)I hate that Rich,Minnie and Liv spent most of the time on their episodes crying/bitching about the fact that Gracie was dead, I know her death was hard to deal with but the season only has 10 episodes, they shouldn’t have spent so much time on one thing.
    On the bright side Alex (the new guy) seems pretty interesting and even though skins has been cancelled we still have Shameless US and a new season of Arrested development to look forward to next year.

  5. Franky and her WTF-turnaround -> The biggest reason I stopped watching skins.
    Also a mayor reason -> the death of Grace. I really liked Grace/Rich and I think it was, besides Emily & Naomi, the best couple ever on Skins.

    Another reason: the new guy! I just don’t like him and can’t stand his face on Skins.

  6. great article.

    i can’t even believe how bad S6 has turned out. i LOVED S5. though jamie brittain did such a beautiful job. great build- ups etc.

    the biggest disappontments are

    -franky’s charcater assassination. she used to be one of my top 2 favorite characters..now i can’ stand her. couldn’t agree more that they’re trying to make her into effy..and i like effy but wtf

    – mini /alo/pregnancy …i can’t even beginn to tell you how much i hate this storyline. S5 mini would have never let alo touch her. everytime i see them together and they’re non exixtent chemistry and have to roll my eyes…

    -minky not getting any kind of resolution. they build up to it all of S5. they promoted them during the ENTIRE hiatus on teh E4 website and then on afterellen just before S6 started. just like everyone else i blame bryan elsley. so disrespectful.

    -killing grace. it wasn’t even handled well nor eas the gangs grieving very touching imo. i just feel sorry for jessica sula and us for not being able to see her anymore (much).

    -alex arnold to me is by far the best actor out of the boys and rich is my favorite gen3 boy. i feel like we’ve barely seen him this series apart from his ep (which wasn’t really great at all)

    anyways, i don’t feel sorry for them being cancelled. well deserved tbh.

  7. I totally agree. Skins has a habit of making really stupid decisions sometimes (US version was awful, and wtf happened with Effy) but at least there’s always been something about the characters that draws you to them. I actually really liked season 5, and I was definitely into the Mini/Franky/Matty thing. I loved Franky. I also REALLY loved Rich and Grace. I thought Skins was going to do the most revolutionary thing they could have possibly done with a couple: let them just be happy and stable. But yeah. I watched the first episode of season 6 and was totally pissed off about the sudden change to the cutest little genderqueer in the world, Franky. And I only watched the second episode to see if Grace would live. With Grace and Rich’s relationship dead, and Franky gone, I don’t really have any more reason to watch, so I’m quitting season 6.

  8. I like Franky’s new clothes, and the actress looks great in them, but they don’t suit Franky at all and I like to think that’s intentional. Franky’s changing gender expression and generally acting like a straight girl, while being really fucking unhappy with everything, looks a lot like being a closeted pansexual and genderqueer person.

  9. Amazing commentary. One thought though, on the passage below.

    “You can write off the intense heedlessness of the first two generations as one part personality and one part familial fate, but by the third generation we’re a little more curious why, exactly, these bright young things crave oblivion besides that they’re characters on a show called Skins and that’s what Skins is about. I mean, shit sucks — parents are in debt, income inequality’s at its savage peak, higher education is now a gamble rather than a ticket — a person can fuck up their entire life these days without leaving the couch, which makes those who tempt that fate so desperately even more compelling — I mean, they must be the products of some fucking incredible backstory. But where is it?”

    Reading this as an English person, I almost feel as if what you’re craving and the reason this was never really addressed in the series is because this is a very culturally-based attitude. I don’t want to say that the lifestyle of the characters in Skins was typical, it was always hyperbolic, but one of the reasons Skins was so relatable was because the emotional range, drives, and the dialogue were very true of British people in general. It didn’t need to be explained because it was lived. Since attending college in the US, I’ve noticed this attitude missing in almost all my peers. They, too, see this aspect of Skins as strange and unexplained, but for English people it doesn’t really need explanation, it’s just how things are, especially in adolescence.

    Last year– I think it was in the Guardian– there was a discussion of where modern, British drama lives. We’re always so involved in making (highly entertaining) period pieces, from traditional Edwardian dramas to that of Life on Mars and Ashes to Ashes, that modern British culture is basically unrecorded. The article cited Skins, along with two or three other dramas (more geared to adults), as being the few in the last decade or so that have actually captured the feel of modern Britain. To be honest, I would agree with them. We might not all go on drug-binges– though many do– but a lot of that desire for oblivion is felt by everyone, especially in their adolescence. I don’t know if that helps, but I thought I would mention it.

  10. Perfect post is perfect.

    It’s like Franky got fucked and his dick magically transformed her into a totally straight, cisgender puddle like the rest of them. Why did they do that to one of their most challenging and dynamic characters???

  11. I completely agree with what you’ve written – Franky is by far the biggest disappointment of season six. The Skins writers had such an opportunity to promote awareness of genderqueer people, and they messed it up by turning Franky into a generic wannabe. Series five was filled with optimism – Franky, Rich and Alo as a trio were great! But as soon as Grace died, all of the other characters merged into the same stereotype. All of the girls are angsty, and so take drugs and sleep around to hide it, and all the boys do is spend their time following the girls around. I’m so disappointed that the writers have sacrificed interesting characters for no real reason, and I’d much rather Skins were axed now than have to endure another two seasons of watching alternative characters get ‘fixed’ by their new friends, only to become generic and dull.

  12. I can deffinetly agree with this! The first four seasons were by far the best because they had so many differnt things but still kept to the same characters we know and love.but now with the new seasons, they don’t go in depth with the characters which is deffinetly dissapointing. I wish they could follow the old characters and see what they are up too. Like did sid and cassie ever find eachother? What did cook do too john foster? So many questions left unanswered!

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  14. “But there are so many new stories to tell these days and one of those stories is about queerness and about sexuality and about gender and Skins started telling that story with Franky and Mini and then stopped… I trusted Skins to tell that story in a way I don’t trust many franchises to tell a story. You should’ve been braver, Skins. You should’ve been brave and wanted me back.”

    I really wish you had just let the article be as I have quoted you here, because I am not in your ‘niche, as you describe. I am straight, and male, and I absolutely agree with you.

    I am rewatching Skins again, and I am realizing that the 5th season is still well worth the watch, but the sixth is utterly beyond saving; the sixth season of Skins is the reason the show stopped, not because it got long in the teeth, but because a show this controversial needs to continue to be unbelievable, needs to be beyond good to transcend the niche and to move into the mainstream, and the sixth season simply wasn’t good enough. And so much of the reason why is that the Mini/Frankie relationship did not occur.

    I know I am so far forward in time, but I’ve watched my favorite season of Skins – season 3 – too many times. I want another show, one that challenges, that is game to tell stories that are separate, that are about failure and loss, that are about finding the self amidst the confusion of teenage into adulthood.

    More than that I think, to a certain extent, we’ve told the stories about the mainstream. Could we please tell the stories Skins told, that we need rather than want to hear; stories about the edges, about when things fall apart, and when the centre no longer holds.

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