1. Headline
  1. Headline
Image: Skins
AP
Many of "Skins'" stars are 17 or younger, leading the PTC to claim the show is child porn.
By
updated 1/21/2011 3:38:34 PM ET 2011-01-21T20:38:34

You gotta love a show that can upstage MTV's raunchy reality hit, "Jersey Shore."

"Skins" has done it.

In a week of TV happenings that included Ricky Gervais going comedically postal at the Golden Globes, Regis Philbin announcing his retirement from his daytime show, and the return of "American Idol," "Skins" soared to most-talked-about status, even reducing the reprise of attention-sucking "Jersey Shore" to the level, for the moment, of "Snooki who?"

Way to go, MTV! For a network that's no stranger to provocative fare or controversy, here's another buzz-blessed smash!

Most people know by now that "Skins" is a steamy scripted drama about overwrought teens, spun off from the acclaimed British series of the same name. It began its 10-episode season last Monday on the wings of heavy promotion by MTV, generally positive reviews and high anticipation by its young target audience.

There was also a smattering of pre-opening outcry, mainly as an inevitable protest from the Parents Television Council, a TV watchdog group. It declared that "'Skins' may well be the most dangerous television show for children that we have ever seen," which had to be as welcome a critical rave as MTV could wish.

  1. More Entertainment stories
    1. Autistic ballerina dances her way into hearts

      In a popular YouTube video, the beaming little ballerina dances an entire four-minute routine seemingly perfectly, matchin...

    2. Every on-screen drink in 'Mad Men' in 5 minutes
    3. See the 'Dancing' stars' most memorable moves
    4. Emmy's biggest snubs? Cranston, Hamm, more
    5. 'Toy Story' toys burn up in prank on mom

The premiere of "Skins" drew 3.3 million viewers, 1.2 million of them under 18, the Nielsen Co. reported. This was a robust turnout, though hardly in the league of "Jersey Shore," which, a week ago, seized 8.4 million viewers for its Season 3 debut.

But this is only the beginning for "Skins." With its new wave of publicity, it has nowhere to go but up.

On Thursday, a front-page story in The New York Times introduced the notion that "Skins" may — with the emphasis on "may" — be trafficking in kiddie porn.

"Skins" producers have boasted of its gritty realism. In that spirit, many of the teenage characters are played by actors who are 17 or younger, and therefore legally minors.

Executives at MTV "in recent days" have become concerned that some scenes "may violate federal child pornography statutes," the Times reported, without naming those executives.

  1. More Entertainment stories
    1. Autistic ballerina dances her way into hearts

      In a popular YouTube video, the beaming little ballerina dances an entire four-minute routine seemingly perfectly, matchin...

    2. Every on-screen drink in 'Mad Men' in 5 minutes
    3. See the 'Dancing' stars' most memorable moves
    4. Emmy's biggest snubs? Cranston, Hamm, more
    5. 'Toy Story' toys burn up in prank on mom

Faced with the possibility that future episodes of the show may be breaking the law, those unnamed MTV executives "ordered the producers to make changes to tone down some of the most explicit content," the Times reported.

Oddly, the only potentially problematic scene the Times identified occurs in the third episode, airing Jan. 31. Jesse Carere, a 17-year-old actor playing the tragicomic character Chris, is shown from behind, naked, striding down the street. In the preview of that episode provided to critics, the played-for-laughs sequence lasts about 10 seconds, and it's impossible to tell whether Carere was really in the buff when shooting the scene.

In the face of brewing controversy, MTV said "Skins" is a show "that addresses real-world issues confronting teens in a frank way.

"We review all of our shows and work with all of our producers on an ongoing basis to ensure our shows comply with laws and community standards," the statement continued. "We are confident that the episodes of 'Skins' will not only comply with all applicable legal requirements, but also with our responsibilities to our viewers."

Any scenes that might leave MTV, well, exposed will be up to the lawyers to determine, if it comes to that. In the four episodes shared with critics, "Skins" shows almost no skin. Despite all the talk of sex, there is almost no explicit sex depicted.

Nonetheless, by raising the specter of kiddie porn, the Times story made "Skins" notorious with new urgency. And it gave the show's detractors a fresh new front for attack. (Viewers who condemn a show like, say, "Jersey Shore," must acknowledge at least that its degenerate house mates are adults, whether they act like it or not.)

Within hours of the story, the PTC called for the U.S. Senate and House Judiciary Committees and the Department of Justice to "immediately open an investigation regarding child pornography and exploitation on MTV's 'Skins.'"

Story: Racy MTV show 'Skins' is losing an advertiser
  1. Most popular

Meanwhile, Taco Bell announced it would pull its advertising from "Skins," explaining in a statement, "We've decided that the show is not a fit for our brand and have moved our advertising to other MTV programming."

Though Taco Bell will be missing, "Skins" will air its second episode Monday at 10 p.m. EST. People who would never have considered watching it, who may never have even heard of it until the current uproar, will likely be there sampling in droves.

They'll be watching a show that may or may not have been edited to correct what may or may not have broken the law, but has clearly gotten under everybody's skin.

As a publicity spectacle, this couldn't be going better if MTV had masterminded it.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Video: MTV’s ‘Skins’ too risque for TV?

  1. Transcript of: MTV’s ‘Skins’ too risque for TV?

    LESTER HOLT, co-host: We're back at 7:43. Now to the controversy over a new show on MTV . It's a racy teen drama that critics say is too explicit for television. NBC 's Jeff Rossen is here with details. Jeff , good morning.

    JEFF ROSSEN reporting: Hey, Lester , good morning. We'll let parents be the judge of this. The show is called " Skins ," and they show a lot of it. Most of the actors are under age, some as young as 15 years old. They're half naked, they're doing drugs. And now one of the biggest parents' groups in the country is calling for a federal investigation, saying "Skins" may just be child pornography .

    ROSSEN: The numbers are in, and MTV 's "Skins" is an instant hit, this week's premiere watched by 3.3 million people, many of them young children. The

    premise is simple: a group of high school friends talking sex, having sex , drinking and doing drugs. Usually it's the racy reality show stirring things up -- think " Jersey Shore ." Not here; "Skins" is a scripted series based on a British hit show.

    ROSSEN: And just like there, the actors here are real teenagers, aged 15 to 19, doing things like this and this.

    Mr. TIM WINTER (President, Parents Television Council): You have a major conglomerate, Viacom and MTV , that is directly marketing to children graphic sex, profanity, drug use .

    ROSSEN: The Parents Television Council , an advocacy group , just sent this letter to the House and Senate judiciary committees, demanding an investigation, saying MTV may be violating federal law , including sexual exploitation of children and child pornography .

    Ms. WENDY MURPHY (Legal Analyst): Their defense is likely to be, oh, come on, this is just a television show . But that's not really a defense because that's not the issue. The only issue is, are there kids involved who are under the age of 18? That's it. That's enough. That's child pornography .

    ROSSEN: There is a warning at the top of the show, but critics say that's not enough.

    Unidentified Woman: Viewer discretion is advised.

    ROSSEN: MTV isn't backing down, telling NBC News , "' Skins ' is a show that addresses real world issues confronting teens in a frank way. We are confident that the episodes of ' Skins ' will not only comply with all applicable legal requirements, but also with our responsibilities to our viewers." But some parents say it's not just the content they find outrageous, it's the marketing.

    Mr. WINTER: The way they have marketed this is overtly to teens. This is like Joe Camel on steroids.

    ROSSEN: Now advertisers are getting nervous, too. Late Thursday Taco Bell pulled out of the show. And the parents' group is calling on others to follow. And, Lester , if you didn't think episode one was bad, the critics say episode three gets even worse. And the parents' group says they're trying to get MTV to tone down the future episodes and sort of re-edit them a little bit...

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,

Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments

More on TODAY.com

  1. Mark Alston

    Get the recipes! Guy Turland’s steak sandwiches, jerk chicken

    7/28/2014 11:10:42 AM +00:00 2014-07-28T11:10:42
  1. The 10 tips you need to know to land that first job

    The transition from college to a career is a challenging period in any young person's life — so it helps to be prepared for it.

    7/28/2014 12:19:27 PM +00:00 2014-07-28T12:19:27
  1. Reuters

    video Deadly beach lightning strike triggered ‘scene out of Jaws’

    7/28/2014 11:45:58 AM +00:00 2014-07-28T11:45:58