Noggin Is Enrolling in Junior High

Los Angeles Times: Noggin Is Enrolling in Junior High


TELEVISION REVIEW

Noggin Is Enrolling in Junior High

By LYNNE HEFFLEY
TIMES STAFF
WRITER

April 1 2002

Noggin, Nickelodeon and Sesame Workshop’s
educational cable network for preschoolers, is extending its reach to “tweens,”
young people ages 9 to 14.

Among a host of old and new shows that will
fill the new 12-hour block of programming called “The N,” launching today, is an
updated version of the much-lauded 1980s PBS series “Degrassi Junior High,”
which followed the funny and fraught stories of several fictional students into
high school. It will be seen Mondays at 6 and 9 p.m., beginning
today.

“Degrassi: The Next Generation” returns to middle school. It’s the
same mix of youthful soap opera, humor and a careful but frank approach to
real-life challenges facing seventh- and eighth-graders, updated for an age of
cell phones, computers and the Internet. The opener introduces, among others,
high-achieving eighth-grader Ashley; her boyfriend Jimmy; and her new
stepbrother and nemesis, Toby, a seventh-grader; as well as the mildly wanton
Paige; Toby’s comic-minded pal, J.T.; Toby’s crush, Emma; and her crush, Sean.
Their stories will be unfolding over 28 episodes.

In the first two
installments, Ashley and Toby reach a tentative truce after a dirty-tricks
campaign for student body president; Ashley and Jimmy decide whether to have
sex; and Toby finds that unrequited love hurts.

Tame compared with
“Boston Public” or any number of leering, teen-focused sitcoms–the language is
clean and the young actors don’t look like knowing 24-year-olds–“Degrassi: The
Next Generation” is as direct as the original. In one episode, a Dr. Ruth-style
sex educator uses a banana as a visual aid in a discussion about safe sex and
condom use.

Other new weekly “N” programs, airing 6 p.m to 6 a.m., are
“24Seven,” a British drama series set at an international boarding school;
“Being Eve,” a comedy about a 15-year-old girl; and new episodes of Noggin’s
original “A Walk in Your Shoes,” a reality series in which two kids from
different backgrounds briefly switch places.

Rounding out the block are
Melissa Joan Hart’s early Nick hit, “Clarissa Explains It All”; the “Big Kids”
role-reversal comedy series about parents and kids; the educational
“Ghostwriter” and “The New Ghostwriter Mysteries”; a comedy-improv game show,
“Sponk!”; and “The Adventures of Pete and Pete.”

The Noggin programming
block, airing 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., ranges from “Blue’s Clues,” “Franklin” and other
preschooler favorites to the new “Sesame Street” offshoot, “Play With Me
Sesame,” with Muppet pals Ernie, Bert and more.

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