Review | Skins

Airs Monday 1/17

Us Rating: *** 1/2

Even sharper than the Brit hit that inspired it, this series about a group of middle-class high school pals with sex on the brain has an energetic style and sneaky sense of humor all its own.

Taking center stage is Tony (James Newman), a cocky agitator who orders buddy Stanley (Daniel Flaherty) to lose his "embarrassing" virginity to troubled pill-popping classmate Cadie (Britne Oldford). The hijinks culminate with a familiar '80s movie–like development, as the brazen bunch sneaks into a fancy party.

Nonetheless, the tale feels fresh thanks to a bright cast of age-appropriate newbies who dive into their roles with gusto and speak credible and unflinching dialogue. Tony and his friends can surprise with screwball attitude, serious bonding and even a school-choir serenade now and then, but for all their bravado, they aren't as confident as they seem. When they expose their vulnerability, Skins exposes its heart. (MTV, 10 P.M.)