There’s a definite trick to being original. When the old ideas start to become a bit stale, the solution certainly is not to become more ridiculous. Realism is by no means a requirement, but a fantasy has to be buyable in order to succeed. It’s a pity nobody told Noel Fielding or the makers of Skins.
Skins (Episode 1, available on 4oD until Wed 22 Feb 2012)
Yes, Skins is still marching on. Six seasons in and it seems adolescents are still having emotions. Untold years ago, I was a moderate fan of the first iteration of Skins. It was a bit silly at times, but overall it provided a just-about-believable character exploration. The ensemble idea was interesting too, when it still felt fairly new. However, after basically repeating the formula over and over again, the show became tiresome. Too often I would feel nothing but irritation as I gazed into the tear-filled eyes of some whiny turd, listening to him bemoan the fact that a girl didn’t like him. Too often I wondered why the school kept offering Being a Little Bitch as an A Level subject, despite it having no academic potential or vocational merit. With the advent of the new series, it seems the producers have had similar thoughts, at last regarding repetitiveness. Their solution? Keep the hackneyed angst and just dress it up with incredibly ridiculous storylines and offensively poor dialogue.
In this manner, the first episode begins. The girls greet each other in infuriating style with “hey black bitch”, “hey white bitch”, “hey crazy bitch”. Thus formally reacquainted, the gang (the usual mix of archetypes and stereotypes) find themselves tearing through the Moroccan desert on the way to a holiday villa. They all have a great time, then remember that they’re teenagers and start getting sad about various things, then several thousand pounds’ worth of heroin is strapped to the bottom of their car. The ensuing desert chase, fuelled by diesel and jilted relationship tears, is best described as 90210 meets The Bourne Ultimatum. Fine, one might think. Some excitement at least, to spice things up. However, the overriding sensation of watching this event play out is utter confusion. Nothing makes any sense. What starts out as a love triangle is transformed into a hostage situation with all the subtlety of a stegosaurus hiding behind a flower. None of the characters’ decisions make sense, and there are bizarre moments when it almost feels like everyone has forgotten their lines for a few seconds. In seeming anticipation of these problems, the producers have found a novel way of making the audience stay focused: a soundtrack as jarring as the plot. Loud, angular crashes blend with shrill, discordant squeals at every opportunity, causing a genuine feeling of discomfort. Oh and just to cover all the bases, they also added a softcore porn scene of a girl having a passionate (presumably very emotional) shower. Skins is best avoided unless you’re a new age religious penitent determined to show your faith by having a very strange time.
Noel Fielding’s Luxury Comedy (Episode 1, available on 4oD until Sat 25 Feb 2012)
The opening sketch of Luxury Comedy features some classic lines. The deadpan “that’s my own shit” had me chuckling aloud. But even after this promising start I wondered whether I was set for basically another episode of Mighty Boosh, an excellent show that definitely had to end when it did in order to avoid becoming repetitive and dull. It turns out the similarities between the two programmes start and end with that first sketch, but sadly not in a positive sense. In his efforts to be original, Noel Fielding has simply lost the plot completely. Harsher critics might even say that he was never much without Julian Barratt, but I’m willing to give him some of the credit for their work as a duo. Whatever talent he did have, however, has certainly abandoned him now. Gone is the sharp wit and the brilliantly unacceptable, dark humour. It has been replaced by colourful drivel that can only be described using the awful adjectives ‘kooky’, ‘random’ and, God help us, ‘surrealist’.
The second sketch brings in Rich Fulcher, sitting on a swing in outer space and spewing such sickeningly zany lines as “oh boy, I think I’m one of them lizard people”. Meanwhile, some aliens are running back and forth in a cartoon kitchen, throwing food at one another. I punched myself just to divert my attention until this debacle ended, hoping that the next sketch would bring relief. Sadly, this was not to be the case, as a chocolate finger emerged and (speaking in a rehashed Mighty Boosh voice) proceeded to declare something about PE teachers riding home on pommel horses. I won’t bore you with the details of every sketch, suffice to say that the pattern continues to the very end. Along the way, you can expect to be subjected to Fielding’s terrible American accent (probably shooting for ‘so bad it’s good’, but missing the mark), further attempts at being krazy-surreal with a pathetic nod to the pseudo-intellectual imbecility of ‘what is art?’, and several reappearances of the aforementioned chocolate finger. But worst of all, most wildly vomit-inducing of all, and most incriminating of all is the sketch that reveals why Luxury Comedy is what it is. A lion trapped in a zoo slowly goes insane, addressing the audience directly with “it’s all coming together, please tell me it’s all coming together”. This seemingly-innocent travesty is the only bit of the episode which has stemmed from an actual idea. It’s the only sketch that is trying to say something and to have meaning. This makes it the worst offender, as it shows the true shallowness, lack of originality and downright blandness of the show’s creators. Without Julian Barratt’s dark humour and talent for mini-plots, Noel Fielding’s Luxury Comedy is nothing but obnoxiously bright artwork and boring silliness. Oh yeah, and apparently the music is done by Serge Pizzorno. Who gives a shit?