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TV Column: 'Skins' creator bares all to try to save MTV show

YOUNG LOVE: Rachel Thevenard and James Newman on
YOUNG LOVE: Rachel Thevenard and James Newman on "Skins," which is rapidly losing advertisers and viewers. (Mtv)
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Tuesday, January 25, 2011; 7:46 PM

The new MTV teen-angst series that advertisers are bailing out of - the one that a watchdog group claims is child pornography?

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Turns out it's "a very simple and in fact rather old-fashioned television series" about "intensely moral" teens, according to "MTV News."

Don't take their word for it - they got it straight from Bryan Elsley, creator of the new scripted show "Skins," in an "MTV News" exclusive.

Advertisers, on whom this appears to be lost, have been bailing on "Skins" since word got out late last week that MTV suits had attended a meeting to discuss whether the new show, which features "actors" as young as age 15," runs afoul of anti-kiddie-porn laws.

(Viewers have, too - this week's episode averaged just 1.6 million viewers, compared with the 3.3 million who checked out the premiere. On the other hand, that premiere had an original episode of "Jersey Shore" feeding more than 7 million viewers into it. This week's episode had a "Jersey Shore" rerun as its lead-in program.)

Anyway, the advertiser pullout came on the heels of a letter that the Los Angeles-based TV watchdog group Parents Television Council fired off late last week, calling upon the chairman of the U.S. Senate and House judiciary committees and the Department of Justice to investigate whether "Skins" is actually kiddie porn in sheep's clothing.

Makeup manufacturer L'Oreal is the latest advertiser to decide that using "Skins" as a vehicle to attract young consumers falls deeply into their Life Is Too Short category - a list that includes General Motors, the Subway sandwich chain, the chewing-gum company Wrigley and the fast-food chain Taco Bell, among others. Tax-filing firm H&R Block claims that its one ad, in the premiere, appeared accidentally.

But of course, as every serious student of TV knows, it's not just about the advertisers who pull out - it's about the advertisers that come in to take their place. The show's second episode featured lots of promos for other MTV shows, and a telltale "bottom feeder" ad or two - those direct-response ads with toll-free phone numbers that will enable you to purchase products that are going to revolutionize your life.

There were also a bunch of ads for flicks hoping to attract MTV's young audience - like the new Adam Sandler/Jennifer Aniston chick flick "Just Go With It."

But those bottom-feeder ads, and all those MTV promos, suggest that the network and cable system operators are still trying to replace bailed-out advertisers.

The problem here, as "Skins" creator Elsley sees it, is a failure to communicate.

The show, written by young people, takes a "very straightforward approach to their experiences" and "tries to tell the truth," Elsley said in his statement to MTV News.

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