US Skins is turn-off for viewers

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The cast of the US version of Skins, which has hit the headlines across the Atlantic

The US version of Skins has proved a turn-off for American viewers.

The audience for MTV’s racy teen drama plunged to 1.6 million for its second show, a drop-off of more than half from its premiere a week earlier, according to Nielsen Company ratings.

The viewer slump may signal a triumph for the Parents Television Council, a watchdog group that had blasted the series’ content and accused MTV of aiming the show at under-age viewers.

Based on the acclaimed British series, which begins again on E4 this week, MTV’s Americanised Skins depicts teens engaging in sexual activity as well as drug and alcohol abuse.

The premiere was seen by 3.3 million viewers, 1.2 million of them under 18. Since then, a number of advertisers – including Schick, Taco Bell, L’Oreal and the Subway sandwich chain – have pulled their commercials from the programme.

The furor was further inflamed by a newspaper story suggesting that scenes with the series’ age-appropriate actors, some of whom are minors, might violate federal child pornography laws. The New York Times reported that unnamed executives at the network were concerned that the show may have crossed the line legally as well as graphically.

The show’s producers had been ordered to make changes to “tone down some of the most explicit content”, the Times reported.

In response, MTV said in a statement, “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.”

Monday’s episode, which contained depictions of two brief sexual encounters, aired unchanged from the preview version seen by critics last month.

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