Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Degrassi Next Class Netflix Review

I don't often write about TV series, but in the rare moment  - when the moon is in the right spot - I get that itch to give you some thoughts on some current TV I am giving a try. This time around, I'm talking about Degrassi. No, not the 80's TV series, nor the early 2000's reboot - I'm talking about Netflix's Degrassi Next Class. Why yes, dear readers, incase you had no clue, Netflix recently got the rights to produce and stream the new season of Degrassi, the same time it comes out in Canada. And rather than waiting each week for a new episode, you can stream the entire season, from start to finish, in all its overdramatic brilliance. 



So what does Degrassi Next Class offer for this new generation of texting wizards, social media fame junkies, and pastel hair teen heroines? A lot, to put simply. One of my biggest issues with the newer incarnation of Degrassi (once my true loves, Marco and Craig, left the show) is that I had a really hard time connecting to the characters. It probably has to do with my age, since I am a much more adult viewer than I was back in 2004, when I discovered what would become my favorite Canadian teen soap opera. So when I found myself diving into this latest incarnation of the franchise, I came to a stunning conclusion: I don't hate (most of) these new characters.



Granted, some of these actors have been around for a prior season or two, but since I had abandoned ship from the series around 2010, I had missed 5 years of cast members. So who do I like from Degrassi Next's pack? Well for starts, there's Hunter, a character that though brings about every stereotype of current nerd culture, is interesting and a good shift from the negative storyline that Rick left on the series. Then there's Lola, who represents the social media obsessed aspect of her generation. With her pink hair and generally optimistic attitude, it is hard not to love her - even when she makes completely dumb mistakes, like dating her best friend's crush (more on that later.) Then there is Grace, who though confusing towards her point in the story, gave some interesting moments in the end. Also, gamer badass Yael does not get enough love on this show, and I hope she gets elevated to a bigger role in the next season. 

Unfortunately, there were a few characters that left me a bit cold. As much as I wanted to become completely attached to the "Wannabe Singer" storyline for Maya, something about both her interactions with her boyfriend, and her lack of an actual personality, made me want to smack her near the end of the season - but with her big turn in taking control of her situation, during the last two episodes, she definitely improved as a character. Jonah was also an incredibly annoying addition to Degrassi, and it totally makes sense why Frankie would have the hots for him - combined, they can become the all time most irritating couple in Degrassi history (move over, Craig and Ashley.)



At this point, I'd like to take a moment to praise the writers for not giving us one, not two, but many awesome interracial couples throughout this new season. From the short lived pairing of Tristan and Vijay, to longer lasting Zigg and Maya, on again off again Frankie and Winston - there's a lot to chose from. But the shining example of awesomeness from this bunch is Tiny and Lola, who are too adorable for words to express. Though the way they started is not something I'm in complete support of - Lola taking Tiny away from Shay was not cool, no matter how you want to play it - the show ends up fixing the issue. Granted, the two of them make it up to each other, but it is an injury I don't think their friendship will ever fully recover from. 

Another thing that should be praised, also having to deal with Lola, is Degrassi more mature coverage of topics that in prior seasons had been handled in a more goofy manner. Now, I'm not saying the series pulled a 180 and went all HBO on itself, but the specific episode where Lola is learning not to feel awkward about masturbation, was handled with a level of maturity that I felt past subjects, specifically those having to do with the human body and sexuality, were used for laughs more than actual lessons. The same can be said in relation to Hunter's main plot line, where he brings a gun into the school during their big "Snow Ball" dance. In the past, Degrassi has handled gun violence in a way that is more "juicy" rather than educational or realistic - and it is refreshing to have Hunter end up not being a character that fires a pistol, but instead talks about his mental issues and gets believable help for it. 




Though at times Degrassi can come off like a cheesy filled drama, with no real substance, it is a culturally relevant program that I think should always be around, for both kids that need to learn a lesson, and for adults who always need a reminder of what it is like to not know what is greener on the other side. And even though the social politics of who is dating who and the battle of cheerleaders is not what I am looking for in my TV programming, seeing kids deal with real (though slightly over the top) situations is still something that never gets old to me. Call me a victim of my guilty pleasure, but I'll never feel bad for watching this show - as long as it projects a better image to kids of what life has in store for them, then I'll always support it. 

So, what do you think of the latest version of Degrassi? Have you watched all of it on Netflix? Or just catching up during its TV airing in Canada? Do you have a favorite character, or one you want to hate? Comment below and let me know what you think. 

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