Both HBO’s Euphoria (2019-) and E4’s Skins (2007-2013) are hailed as realistic portrayals of adolescence. Each focuses on dark topics such as substance abuse and mental health issues, and are very open in their discussions of sex. It is because the two shows confront such difficult topics, often ignored by other teen shows, and are unabashedly explicit that they are often compared to one another, with Decider magazine even claiming that, ‘Euphoria was Skins with a HBO budget’. In this article I am going to take a deep dive into comparing aspects from each show. The shows are wildly different, focusing on two different generations of teens, set on different continents, so which is worth watching over the other?
A lot of the characters in Euphoria appear to be more amped up versions of the Skins characters. For example, Nate Jacobs could be viewed as a more extreme Tony Stonem. Tony is a stereotypical popular playboy who often borders on the sociopathic in his behaviour, yet there is no question as to whether Nate is a sociopath. Both characters have on and off relationships throughout the series – Tony dates Michelle in Skins and Maddy is Nate’s main love interest in Euphoria. Maddy and Michelle have little in common apart from being sought after by Tony and Nate. While Tony does cheat on Michelle, he never reaches the extremes of Nate, who physically abuses Maddy to the point the police get involved. Interestingly, both characters pride themselves in their uber-masculinity and yet questions are raised about their sexuality. Tony more openly pursues Maxxie but plays it off as a joke while Nate aggressively reacts to the suggestion he could be anything but straight.
More comparisons could be drawn out between the characters of Skins and Euphoria but overall I’d say Skins triumphs when it comes to characters. It’s not that the Euphoria characters are lacking in their depictions; the Skins ensemble are just more memorable and well developed. Most people have encountered a Sid or a Tony while at school, whereas eccentric characters like Jules or Nate appear to be anomalies.
In terms of costume and make-up, there is no competition. Euphoria triumphs in this department. Each character has their own distinct style, colour palette and make-up look. The show has influenced a multiplicity of fashion and make-up trends, with hundreds of thousands of Tik Toks recreating the characters’ looks. The one takeaway is that it seems highly unrealistic that a high-school student would dress up as much as the Euphoria characters do to go to school. Hours of effort seems to go into Maddy’s and Cassie’s looks, and they are hardly ever seen with a pencil, much less a backpack.
In a complete contrast, the characters in Skins wear much more eclectic, realistic outfits. They look like real teenagers who have overslept and just thrown on the first thing they could find, especially in Sid’s case (whose outfits usually included the same dirty stained t-shirt). Even the characters who put in more effort, like Effie or Maxxie, still manage to maintain that sense of realism.
Euphoria also stands out among the teen television genre for its creative, unorthodox storytelling style. The visuals are outstanding and probably the most memorable part of the show, with their striking colour palettes and interesting uses of lighting. It constantly blends genre styles to make each episode as interesting as possible.
On the other hand, while Skins is memorable in its own right, there aren’t many remarkable uses of cinematography. The charm of Skins comes from its characters and plotlines, not its fancy camera work. This is due to the fact that Skins had half the budget Euphoria has, so this is probably an unfair comparison to make.
Overall, both shows are outstanding, not only in the genre of teen television, but within television in general. Euphoria and Skins have had a profound cultural impact on their respective generations of teens. Each show is simultaneously a gritty realistic look at the lives of teens while also containing the dramatic, unrealistic aspects typical of television which help to keep it entertaining. Ultimately, I’d say it is worthwhile watching both shows but if I had to pick one, I would choose Skins. The connection you feel with the characters and storylines in Skins is simply unmatched.