Skins shows young carer as person in their own right

E4, Mondays

Star rating: 4/5

It can be difficult to take E4’s teen drama Skins seriously at the best of times, but when Shane Richie is introduced as a college drama lecturer who is staging a production called Osama: The Musical, you have to wonder how deftly they can deal with an issue such as disability.

Still, Osama is also a signifier that the programme is willing to experiment. So far in series two, former hero of the show Tony has suffered a subdural haematoma, lost his outgoing personality and now needs constant help from his family and friends to deal with everything from going to the loo to remembering his old life.

Rather than cut him adrift, his friends have admirably tried to keep him integrated. And despite being the programme’s former linchpin, the signs are that he won’t magically be restored to that role any time soon. It’s certainly not something that the teen market is going to get from Two Pints of Lager.

Tony is not an isolated case. This week saw the introduction of a young carer named Sketch whose mother, Sandra, suffers from multiple sclerosis. The easy option for the programme would be to try to show Sketch as a put-upon saint, trapped in a tower-block life but still acting as a loving daughter. But rather than take this route, she stalks one of the regular characters, gets Shane Richie fired after making false sexual abuse allegations, and ties her mother up in the flat.

The result is effective by its originality. Showing the young carer to be a person in her own right, however repugnant that person is, does more to make her role in society relatable for a young audience than creating another “little angel with a heart of gold” could ever do.

The programme has started a fine tradition of creating characters with serious problems, and has simultaneously shown how young people have a responsibility to those around them. The acreage of newsprint produced about how the show reflects teen life shouldn’t overshadow how effectively it has melded social awareness with an affecting drama.

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