For years, a certain conversation in Kevin Smith's Chasing Amy has always made me curious about Degrassi Jr. High:
Holden: So, uh, what do you wanna do tonight?
Banky Edwards: I dunno. Get a pizza, watch Degrassi Jr. High.
Holden: You got a weird thing for Canadian melodrama.
Banky Edwards: I got a weird thing for girls who say, "Aboot."
I never saw Degrassi on PBS while I was growing up. For me, PBS was Sesame Street, 3, 2, 1 Contact and stuffy programs about stuffy news and art. So when Jason picked up the first season of the show on DVD last night, I felt compelled to watch a few episodes.
I must say, after viewing only two episodes, I think this is good, quality stuff. It's funny, melodramatic and closer to what middle school was really like compared to something like Boy Meets World or Full House. It deals with issues like homosexuality, divorce and peer pressure on a level that isn't sappy or preachy. This definitely wasn't primetime sugary sweetness; this reminded me of my own middle school days.
High school was way better than middle school for me. The beginning of middle school saw me learning to understand music a little better, doing theater and hanging out with friends that I could file under a "best friend" category. By the end of middle school, I was still learning a great deal about music (Nirvana and all things grunge came in 7th grade), not doing theater and not hanging out with the same people that I once categorized as "best friends." After going through all that stuff (and other angsty stuff) in middle school, high school was a relatively easy ride.
6th, 7th and 8th grades are these very strange years for kids. We're not little kids anymore, we're growing hair in places that never had hair before, we're not thinking cooties are that bad, we're a little pissy at times and other things. These changes would be glimpses of what was to come in high school (for better or worse).
Watching what the characters in Degrassi Jr. High and Freaks and Geeks went through, I've come to the conclusion that I didn't have the warped middle school experience that I thought I had. I know that's not the kind of fodder that always yields gigantic ratings and big marketing tie-ins, but I truly give a hand to people that make something closer to real life and that is watchable over and over again.