Degrassi Junior High
Season One

Starring: Nicole Stoffman, Niki Kemeny, Pat Mastroianni, Siluck Saysanasy
Fabulous Films
RRP: 29.99
Certificate: 12
Available 30 April 2007

Degrassi Junior High was a Canadian produced show, set in Toronto, detailing the lives and loves of a collection of Junior High School kids. The original show ran for five seasons between 1987 and 1991 and was known for its gritty portrayal of school life. Many of the episodes dealt with difficult subjects such as homosexuality, child abuse and the prevalence of drugs in the education system. The shows sense of reality was further enhanced by having predominantly non-actors...

The first season consisted of thirteen episodes, spread across three discs, though the show as a whole ran for forty two, following the cast from Junior High to High School proper. The series concluded with the made for TV film Schools Out which continued to court controversy with its depiction of sexuality and language. The show was revived as Degrassi: The Next Generation (heard that one used before) which continues to run in the United States.

The pilot episode, Kiss Me, Steph, throws the audience straight in at the deep end with Stephanie's first day of Junior High School where she decides to run for class president. Not a bad episode, considering its purpose is to introduce the cast. The season contains some highlights of teenage angst. In The Great Race, Melanie goes through that awful problem of having your first bra, a high point for some young girls but for Melanie it makes her an object of derision. One of the best episodes is The Best Laid Plans wherein Wheels asks Stephanie out on a date. Up for a good time he goes to buy condoms, oblivious to that fact that the woman in the drug store is Stephanie's mother, a fact not lost on the mother when he turns up for his date.

The show is presented in its original 4:3 format with stereo sound. If we're being honest the show has not dated well and the print is at best ok. For very good reasons of attracting their audience the cast are dressed in what was considered fashionable at the time, but fashions change and nothing dates a show quicker than its clothing.

The acting, also, remains a variable factor. Whilst many of the inexperienced cast do justice to their roles, there are others who would not have passed the auditions for Grange Hill. It is a little obvious that, apart from appearing in the follow up shows, few, if any of the cast went on to be successful actors.

What really pulls the package back from the brink for Degrassi fans is the extras, which are plentiful if a little teachy preachy at times. On disc one you get Degrassi on drugs and alcohol (apparently these are bad things, if you didn't already know) as well as a Pop Quiz, some wallpaper as well as teaching materials as a PDF. If that weren't cheery enough for you, disc two has features on sexuality and depression as well as another Pop Quiz, Wallpaper and teaching materials. Not to be outdone by the first two discs, disc three looks at sex and abuse. Although high in educational content, the extras do not make for easy viewing. You get the massive feeling that the makers are packaging the set for school classes.

Whilst the real issues of growing up are still with us, my feeling is that a modern teenage audience will find the characters a little too naive for their liking. That said it's no worse than the early seasons of Grange Hill.

Charles Packer

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