Degrassi: The Boiling Point
Go ahead and chuckle – but if you aren’t aware of my soft spot for teen dramas, then you aren’t an avid reader here. Beverly Hills 90210, the OC, The Secret Life of the American Teenager, the meatier episodes of Saved By the Bell, Fifteen. Basically I’ll watch anything resembling a John Hughes film, serialized, brimming with pop culture references, period costume, unreal dialogue, and frequent star cameos. Why aren’t I writing one?
Actually I inquired about this once upon buying a Gourmet Scum bootlegged shirt from actor Pat Mastroianni, who has played Joey Jeremiah on Degrassi Jr. High, Degrassi High, and Degrassi: The Next Generation. When I realized who it was selling me the shirt (of the fictional Toronto band that made Shane McKay take acid and end up in a home) I asked about the gates that led to the writing team. He politely informed me that it was impossible to infiltrate that fortress, as for over 23 years the same Canadian force that began with The Kids of Degrassi St. (Playing with Time Inc.) has been at the helm all the way through to the present. Since 1987 the Degrassi franchise has been set the bar as the longest running and “most real” teen drama in television history – and my allegiance to the show, my knowledge of the characters and their relationships throughout the years, is testament to the quality of the program.
Yup. I still watch it, and for a number of reasons. Ever since I first watched edited versions of the show on PBS (way back in 1987), usually later on a Sunday afternoon, I’ve been fascinated with Canadian culture (and Ontario directly). All of the “aboots” and “broomheads” found in the speech, the infinite candy shops, the always mediocre inoffensive music, milk humor where Alberta is the butt of the jokes. This show has it all. That modesty is something that keeps the craft of Degrassi afloat, behind the quirky foibles of everyday life at Degrassi, these kids know they inhabit one of the greatest cities in North America – so their longing for Hollywood and NYC is usually balanced with a sense that Toronto and Montreal were built for them, not us. Makes sense that we are attracted to the little differences, because ultimately they have a superior quasi-socialist society.
Plus the tagline for Degrassi has been that they “always keep it real” – usually with “real” age-appropriate actors playing the kids in very “real” situations. Sure, they recycle storylines, but don’t they all? You name it, it’s been an issue on Degrassi at one point or another – and it’s dealt with in the most “real” way possible. The Next Generation has only taken it one step further:
This newer version of Degrassi has thus far dealt with more topics including online predators, suicide, censorship, gangs, self harm, school shootings, imprisonment, rape, abuse, drugs, drinking and murder, displaying the many challenges teenagers face in high school and the early years of college.
Wild stuff. And now? A rebranding, dubbed, Degrassi: The Boiling Point, a take on Degrassi even more amped up than in previous years. The older I get, the more I felt I might stray from the newer characters, but Yan Moore, Kit Hood, and Linda Schuyler have a knack for creating characters in which you have an emotional interest. Just watched the two-hour movie for this season (now new every weeknight, another first for Degrassi) and I must say, marrying two of the originals, Emma and Spinner, was a twist not expected – and a very emotional start to the summer series. Warning: watching an “Every Degrassi Episode Ever Marathon” will get you hooked.
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