I Haven’t Seen Skins, But I Did Go To High School

I understand there’s been quite some furor over a new teen drama on MTV called Skins. Apparently the show depicts teens engaging in sexual activity, as well as drug and alcohol abuse — you know, teen stuff. Numerous sponsors, including Taco Bell, Subway and L’Oreal, have dropped their sponsorship while there’s been roaring debate whether the show features child porn.

(If the show featured child porn, I don’t think it would require debate. That’s a pretty specific feature.)

I haven’t seen Skins or any MTV show in years. I grew up on MTV and always felt a little too young to watch it, but as I grew older, the network seemed to shift its programming toward younger audiences. That said, I’m always a little saddened to hear peers talking about Jersey Shore or Teen Mom or whatever nonsense reality series that’s airing. I can’t help but think, “Really? MTV? At your age? Shame on you.”

I give MTV credit for pioneering the reality series (as we know it) with The Real World. In its first few seasons, the seven strangers picked to live together had to maintain jobs, income, relationships, a sense of order. It was all quite fascinating for a white kid growing up in Middle America. It was like my first chance to intimately know people of different races, religions, sexual orientation and views. The Real World was, dare I say, educational?

Around season five — I refuse to go back and fact check — the cast members were pre-assigned jobs and that’s about when the deviancy started kicking in. The Real World was no longer a microcosm of the lower-case real world, but rather a group of over-muscled, over-tanned, over-sexed, over-boozed twits polluting a posh living space.

When that formula started to fizzle, MTV started skewing toward the kids with shows like Laguna Beach, The Hills and The City. Now, here we are — I presume — with Skins. I haven’t seen an episode, but reading a synopsis, I thought, “Yeah, that sounds like high school,” and I started high school over a decade ago.

The season premier of Skins was seen by 3.3 million viewers. The second episode? Just 1.6 million. Why would this popular infamous series geared toward teens lose half its viewing audience in just one week? Because teens have already seen every episode. They live Skins.

So, what’s worse: The fact MTV’s airing a show with teens having sex, drinking alcohol and taking drugs, or the fact Skins might just be an dead-on depiction of high school in 2011?