Sadly, I must say that I'm probably considered an old guy to most of the reviewers of this "Degrassi: The Next Generation" boxed set. At twenty-eight years of age, I'm probably twice as old as most of these folks. But that doesn't matter because I really love this boxed set. I grew up watching the original Degrassi shows on PBS in Louisiana. Though the cast was roughly two years older than I was, I found myself relating to a lot of them. The new series allows me to catch up with some of my old favorites, as well as introduces me to a new crop of kids going through that great life-changing period we know as junior high and high school.
This new DVD set brings us the first season of the new series. Many of the kids are still pre-teens in this season. We are introduced to Emma, J.T., Toby, Manny, Ashley, Paige, etc. We're also introduced to some of their parents. One of the parents is very familiar to us old folks. Emma's mom is Ms. Nelson, or Spike, from the original show. She'll become quite close with Emma's media immersion teacher, Mr. Simpson. Once again, the old folks will probably, recognize Mr. Simpson as Snake from the old show. Another returning favorite is Joey Jeremiah. You'll remember him as the goofy kid that wore a fedorah. Many of the older castmembers show up for a class reunion at the end of episode two.
The new cast is fun to watch. It's funny how kids these days still deal with many of the same problems that other teenagers deal with. Everything from sex to drug abuse to first loves is dealt with. There are a few new trials and tribulations these days, however. One such temptation is internet romance, which gets Emma into a sticky situation. Another subject dealt with is Ashley having to come to terms with the fact that her father is gay. Though homosexuals have been around forever, I think that this is the first teen show that deals with this particular situation. Spinner is on behavior-controlling prescription drugs(ritelin, forgive the spelling). Jimmy uses those particular drugs to give him an "edge" at basketball. J.T. and Toby check out a little internet porn and, as usual, those blasted parents catch them. These are just a few of the "newer" problems that are addressed on the show.
Some of the problems that have hampered teens since the dawn of time are addressed as well. Toby crushes big-time over Emma, who is captivated by Sean. Sean, meanwhile, comes from a busted, alcoholic family. Paige manipulates her friends to get what she wants. Terry is overweight and thinks that no one will ever like her. Liberty fears failure in the classroom, etc., etc. What you get is a teenage soap-opera that deals with real issues.
Granted, some of the "problems" are hokey and 100% cheese, but this helps break the intensity of some of the dramatic moments. The acting isn't superb, but it wasn't with the original show, either. What you end up with is a program that teens and pre-teens can watch without feeling like they are being preached to or lectured. The characters are believable and they deal with their problems in the same way as any average kid would these days.
The DVD extras are fun. There is karaoke, where you get to sing the theme song. There's a casting call section where you get to see some of the youngsters try out for roles. A blooper reel is included, and some deleted scenes as well. One of the best deleted scenes for us oldsters is one which catches us up on a lot of the old characters from the original shows.
I recommend this boxed set to anyone who wants to relive the old days of their youth. More importantly, I recommend this set to teachers and parents who want to teach their kids without having to hammer a speech down their throats. Kids connect with the characters on this show, and that makes life a little bit easier to deal with once they realize that they aren't the "only one" who has to deal with any of their particular teenage problems.