STEVE INSKEEP, host:
The February seven issue of "TV Guide" has an announcement across the top: Attention MTV: Cancel "Skins" Now. "Skins" is a edgy new series that says it's an inside look at the reality of teen life. Its detractors say that sex and drugs on the program are being done by under-aged actors. Many adults are appalled.
NPR's Karen Grisby Bates went to find out what kids think.
KAREN GRISBY BATES: If there really is no such thing as bad publicity, MTV should be very happy.
(Soundbite of news clips)
Unidentified Man #1: Parents are outraged over new MTV shows...
Unidentified Woman: Scantily clad teenagers, gratuitous drug use and violence
Unidentified Man #2: All young kids, it's like an orgy. They're all over each other, half-naked.
Unidentified Man #3: The show is called "Skins" and they show a lot of it.
BATES: The concept for "Skins" began in the U.K. about five years ago, when executive producer Bryan Elsley was spending time with his son, then a college freshman.
Mr. BRYAN ELSLEY (Executive Producer, "Skins," U.K.): He came over one evening to have dinner with me, and spent the evening shooting my ideas down in flames.
BATES: Jamie Brittain told his dad he should create a series about teen life as teens see it, not as adults wished teens behave. So "Skins" was born.
(Soundbite of TV show, "Skins")
Unidentified Woman #2: This show is rated TV-MA and is intended for mature audiences. Viewer discretion is advised.
BATES: Elsley says both the U.K. and the U.S. versions consult an advisory board of teens to keep the show real.
Mr. ELSLEY: We proceed from the point of view of teenagers. Which I think is sometimes why people might find things a little uncomfortable, because proceeding from the point of view of young people can be difficult.
BATES: To say the least. The first two episodes show drug buys, heavy drinking and a teen lesbian hookup. Several groups have complained vigorously and publicly that "Skins" is exploiting its young cast.
Elsley says there is no exploitation. He believes "Skins" is an optimistic look at teen life, but has this caveat.
Mr. ELSLEY: I think it's fair to say that "Skins" is like reality, elevated one notch.
BATES: And at least in that respect, he has support from 14-year-old Ben Sachs.
Mr. BEN SACHS: To me, from what I hear from my friends in high school, I don't think anyone is really doing it in the scale that they make it out to be in "Skins."
BATES: He's is sitting in his parents' sunny living room just south of Los Angeles, with his sister Miriam, 13, and friend Sebastian Molter, who's 12.
"Skins" set a record at its debut with over three million viewers in its 12-34 demographic, but these kids say it's not for them. Miriam Sachs says the show's frankness could be scary.
Ms. MIRIAM SACHS: Just based off of watching "Skins," it would kind of make you feel like intimidated to like grow up. And you would just be like, okay, I just want to stay here and you don't really want like to see what happens.
BATES: Sebastian Molter says the behavior in "Skins" could be guidance for what you don't want to do.
Mr. SEBASTIAN MOLTER: Maybe if you figurer out that you dont to do that stuff, then you go to the group which like plays basketball, for instance, or something.
BATES: Around the country, "Skins" has become a topic of conversation for kids and their parents. Jasmine Graham is a guidance counselor for a middle school in Maryland. She's says parents will have a hard time keeping kids away from the show, if the kids are determined to see it.
Ms. JASMINE GRAHAM (Guidance Counselor): If they want to, they can go to a friend's house and watch it. They can watch it on a laptop. You know, some of my students are more computer-savvy than I am. They know about Web sites I haven't even heard of.
BATES: Major advertisers like Taco Bell and General Motors have withdrawn from the show. There's been a 50 percent drop-off in viewers since the initial airing. That combination may force MTV to ponder whether continued support of the show is worth the headache.
Stay tuned, or not.
Karen Grigsby Bates, NPR News.
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