As was plainly established last time we reviewed a series from the Degrassi universe it was Degrassi Junior High that was the most readily recognisable branch of the franchise from over here. It was a rather cracking Canadian equivalent to Grange Hill. But who knew it had such an exceptionally dull heritage?
That would be its predecessor, The Kids of Degrassi Street. Made several years before Junior High, these are more akin to schools programmes from BBC2, aimed squarely at the primary school drama market. (Then again, having written about Hotel Babylon this week, it’s not entirely dissimilar. Although there is a mercifully lower nipple count in this.)
That unfortunately makes this review like trying to analyse Words & Pictures Plus. (It’s a schools programme on BBC2. Look it up.) I love kid’s television an unhealthy amount, but there’s a world of difference between schools and kid’s programming. One is a never-ending cavalcade of gunge and fun and cartoons and running about and Neil Buchanan. The other teaches children about quadratic equations, synovial fluid and the life cycle of frogs.
This is the latter, with each film a rather pointed morality tale. Take ‘Irene Moves In’. A girl moves in, and the other kids in the street think they know her by judging her at first glance. But there’s more to her than meets the eye! That’s more Casualty than Hotel Babylon, but you can see what I mean – no-one puts any fun or thought into the shows. They’re just ‘there’.
The problem is made worst by the fact there isn’t the nostalgia tinge to add a bit of sheen to proceedings. The characters aren’t part of later Degrassi series. Indeed, they’re not particularly characters, being acted by kids too young to do anything with it. Instead, there’s incredibly slow dialogue, lots of shots of people walking, and…not much else. There aren’t even that many giggles to be had from the clothing of the period. Just lots of ugly people. I always thought Canadians were generally a good-looking people. Apparently that is a relatively recent development.
Still, this is apparently part of Canadian heritage, which is the sole explanation for why it’s being released on DVD. If schools programming carries a particular kudos there then perhaps you will love this. (I asked a Canadian and they said they loved it, but I’m not sure they knew what I was talking about it). But otherwise, this is an absolutely baffling release.
If you’re Canadian:If you’re not: