Degrassi Junior High: Season 1
THE SHOW Remember when Shane knocked up Spike, and Wheels, Joey, and Snake were in the coolest band in town? If you’re in your late 20s or early 30s, you probably do. Canada’s teen soap Degrassi Junior High is right up there with John Hughes movies and Wham! records as touchstones of a 1980s childhood. Degrassi followed a cast of oddly named, “aboot”-saying seventh- and eighth-graders as they dealt with school, relationships, sex, drugs, and anything else creators Linda Schuyler and Kit Hood could throw at them. The plots were often heavy-handed and obvious and the acting was always high-school-play awkward, but despite—or, perhaps, because of—those things, Degrassi became a cult hit. (There was even a Degrassi convention in 1999.) Its success was largely due to how frankly it dealt with issues, especially sex. In Season 1 alone, overachiever Stephanie starts dressing slutty to get attention, Wheels accidentally buys condoms from his date’s mom, and Caitlin has sexy dreams about one of her female teachers. And while the problems were usually solved, the answers were rarely easy and always had repercussions. Watching the episodes again is the DVD equivalent of comfort food, reminding us of earlier, if not simpler, times in our lives and making us seriously consider throwing our first slumber party in more than 20 years.
THE DISC While the episodes themselves make this three-disc set well worth having, the special features are disappointing. Where are the interviews with Degrassi’s creators discussing the series history and why it became such a cult sensation? Or better yet, featurettes in which the actors talk about growing up on TV and some serious where-are-they-now? action. With many members of the original cast continuing their roles as parents and teachers on the also undeniably engrossing Degrassi: The Next Generation, it’s not like the DVD’s producers didn’t know where to find them. Instead, all you get is a quiz and episodes of a show called Degrassi Talks, in which the cast members go around Canada talking to real people about issues like sex and drug addiction. OK, Wheels asking a kid how he felt when he got his first spontaneous erection is pretty awesome.