'Degrassi' Can Never Die
By Chris Jancelewicz Posted Aug 28th 2009 09:15AM
I don't think anybody in 1987 could have predicted the success of the new show, 'Degrassi Junior High', premiering on CBC. Always gritty, sometimes ugly, and downright Canadian in every aspect, 'Degrassi' has a longevity that no other homegrown show can brag about. Now, over 20 years later, the next-generation Degrassi kids are doing things that Caitlin, Joey, and Wheels could only dream about. They're heading to Hollywood.
And in the TV movie 'Paradise City: Degrassi Goes Hollywood', we get a perfect representation of the show's metamorphosis: the characters, physically refined and set for fame, make their way towards California hoping to make it big. The number of celebrity cameos in the movie reflects the mounting popularity of 'Degrassi', especially south of the border. Celebs that awkwardly make their way into the frame include Fall Out Boy's Pete Wentz (who you can see looking into the monitor), Vivica A. Fox, Perez Hilton, James Preston Rogers, and of course, director Kevin Smith and 'Jay and Silent Bob's Jason Mewes, both of whom play a big role in the movie.
It's no surprise that an American cult following has developed, especially considering the manufactured tripe the teens down there are fed. While it is true that the 'Degrassi' cast is better-looking and more manicured than ever, they're still more Premium Plus cracker than Ritz when compared to, say, '90210'. The N Channel (formerly Nickelodeon) broadcast 'Paradise City' two weeks ago, and it attracted a record-breaking amount of viewers, making it the most-watched show in N Channel's history.
Directed by Degrassi alumnus Stefan Brogen (Snake), the movie is like 'High School Musical' lite. There's some drama, kisses, a half-hearted suicide attempt, and some singing and dancing. There's enough Canadian references to fill a canoe - and who knew there was a place in LA called The Canadian Store, where they sell maple syrup and back bacon? I want one of those HERE.
Despite all the new-found frills, at its core, 'Degrassi' sticks to its modus operandi, which is to help teens set a course through the minefield that is puberty. Happily, 'Paradise City' is nothing like its 'Degrassi' TV movie predecessor, 1992's 'School's Out!,' where nearly every character falls victim to some disaster or another. Most of the folks in 'Paradise City' emerge healthy and happy, which is a relief. (I recall, at 12 years old, watching School's Out! and fearing my high school years.)
Guest star Jason Mewes says it best: "'Degrassi' to me is what a Bible is to a priest. Knowledge, wisdom, and guidance. To a generation that is relatively under-parented, it's where kids learn. They learn about sex and drugs, and the rights and wrongs. They're given tools to make the right choices in life while still being entertained."
If 'Degrassi' keeps on teaching life lessons, it may have many more graduating classes to come. Make sure to catch 'Paradise City: Degrassi Goes Hollywood', which airs on CTV on Sunday, August 30 at 8 pm ET.
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