Skins aired on BBC in 2007 to 1.54 million viewers and ended after an equally as strong seven seasons. The show’s premise followed the lives of British young adults exploring the difficult challenges that come with adolescence: sexuality, substance abuse, identity, parties, sexual assault, cliques, family turmoil, and mental illness. Seeing the popularity this show garnered, MTV remade the show for American audiences in January 2011. By June 2011, the show had been canceled. The channel claimed this cancellation spurred from lower ratings than anticipated. Yet, 3.26 million people nationwide tuned in to the premiere.
In contrast, Bridgerton aired on Netflix in December 2020. Within the first 28 days of release, 82 million households had watched. Bridgerton ranked number 1 in 83 countries, including the UK and the US. The premise of Bridgerton? British young adults in the Regency era exploring the difficult challenges that come with adolescence: sexuality, substance abuse, identity, parties, sexual assault, cliques, family turmoil, and mental illness.
Why has Bridgerton, which portrays the same controversial themes, risen to such acclaim while Skins was quickly scrapped? Perhaps the cancellation of Skins was due to the historically conservative and prude nature of American culture.
When the Puritans arrived in America, they sought to build a community purer than the Church of England. As their name suggests, they found importance in being pure, working hard, and controlling oneself, and that pleasure is wrong and unnecessary (Bremer, 2009). Subsequently, this belief has been rooted in American ideologies since the nation’s founding. This deep-rooted belief of immorality from indulgence may have contributed to the US cancellation of Skins. Aside from episodes revolving around certain traumas of adolescence, most Skins episodes concentrated on the excitements, experiences, and pleasures of life. Thus, institutional figures canceled the show, as they were displeased with their puritanical ideologies being challenged through the teenaged American characters lacking purity, defacing American ideals in place of hedonistic values.
However, with all of this considered, Bridgerton has still done extremely well in the US and other societies that have previously disapproved of similar content. This is due to these controversial topics in Bridgerton being subdued, as the historical era blinds viewers to these same contentious themes. Unsettling stories become more digestible to viewers as they see less of themselves and loved ones reflected in Regency-era characters than they do in the modern characters of Skins. Furthermore, Bridgerton consists of British characters, whereas when Skins came to the US, the characters were American. Controversies and lack of purity no longer felt offensive to Americans once they could no longer relate to characters by era or nationality. But the kids doing these exact same things in modern times, well, shame on them.
Bremer, F. J. (2009). Puritanism: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) (1st ed.). Oxford University Press.
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French, D. (2010, February 5). “Skins” maintains strong ratings. Digital Spy. https://www.digitalspy.com/tv/ratings/a201576/skins-maintains-strong-ratings/
Gonzales, E. (2021, January 28). 82 Million of Us Burn for Bridgerton. Harper’s BAZAAR. https://www.harpersbazaar.com/culture/film-tv/a35122184/bridgerton-viewers-netflix/
Holmwood, L. (2016, August 11). Celebrity Hijack hoists E4 ratings. The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/media/2008/jan/07/bigbrother.television
Nunan, T. (2021, January 28). ‘Bridgerton’ Makes History On Netflix With 82 Million Viewers; $100 Million Shonda Rhimes Gamble Pays Off. Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/tomnunan/2021/01/27/bridgerton-makes-history-on-netflix-with-82-million-viewers-100-million-shonda-rhimes-gamble-pays-off/?sh=3574efc687de
Rhimes, S., Dollard, S., Dusen, C. (Executive Producers). (2020-). Bridgerton [TV series]. Shondaland.
Wheeler, A. (2017, March 22). How ‘Skins’ provided teens with vital, nuanced depictions of mental illness. I-d. https://i-d.vice.com/en_uk/article/nenb8b/how-skins-provided-teens-with-vital-nuanced-depictions-of-mental-illness