In this series one sees Degrassi in its original form: classroom videos for little kids; and this was the form and the audience it should have stuck to. The more popular follow-up show remained the same, except for ever-growing pretensions to a significance in excess of its powers, and an ever-growing tendency toward salaciousness, which culminated at last--in the one chance the show received to sit up late amongst the grown-ups--in the series' house princess (along with her opposite number, a butter-wouldn't-melt little minx) losing her cherry. And who knows but what that had been the writers' covert object all along, even as far back as Degrassi Street? I'm reminded of a comment by one of the women in John Huston's life about another, whom he had raised from a child: something about the appeal to a man of seeing a girl grow to ****able age before his eyes. Such matters aside, the Junior High/High/School's Out episodes never graduated from the Degrassi Street level: they featured the same diagrammatic plots, the same tendentious conversations, the same cardboard performances (and the same cheap-looking production). In this initial series those things were only to be expected, since after all, that's what educational TV is like. But at 18 the cast remained as blank and flat as at 8, and still inhabited the same classroom toy-town universe; as if someone had carried on the Dick and Jane readers and pinned a Big Issue to each character: Dick gets AIDS, Jane gets anorexia, Baby Sally gets pregnant--but they're no more real for it. Degrassi Street was the first expression of what Degrassi had to say, and the last honest one; in those days the enterprise still had its head about it and knew its limits. Afterwards, all was overreach.
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