Oct 5th, 2002 – Hopefully, Degrassi will return to Earth after this time warp [The Kitchener-Waterlo

Hopefully, Degrassi will return to Earth after this time warp
Saturday October 5, 2002
Joel Rubinoff
RECORD STAFF

So I plug in the advance tape of tomorrow’s episode of Degrassi: The Next Generation (7 p.m. on 9, 13) only to find the cast — including K-W actress Chrissy Schmidt — dressed in the same ’80s clothes that defined the original series.
Ow. My splitting brain.

Last week the acclaimed tweenage show reintroduced a hairless Joey Jeremiah — the endearingly goofy scam artist who streaked naked through the cafeteria in the ’80s original — as a widower and father of a five-year-old daughter, and the timeshifting elements made my veins bulge.

Joey as a 30-year-old used car salesman with no hair? Can Armageddon be far behind?

That was nothing. Tonight, the series goes one further by not only recreating its original ’80s vibe for a high school “nostalgia” dance, but by focusing on a dating conflict between two characters from the original series — Spike and Snake — and Spike’s 13-year-old daughter, Emma.

So let me get this straight: Snake and Spike — who look pretty much like their teenaged selves — are now 30-year-old adults. And Emma, who was a baby on the original show, is now the same age as her mom in the original series. And everyone is dressed like it’s still 1988.

Excuse me while I go and have my head examined.

But if tomorrow’s episode seems more suited to a series like That Was Then, Do Over, Quantum Leap or even Star Trek, rest assured that as it heads into its second season, the values on which Degrassi built its reputation are firmly intact: integrity, respect and an understanding of young people that goes beyond the platitudes propagated by most mainstream entertainment.

Child abuse, homosexuality, rebellion, self-esteem, peer pressure, date rape — whatever issue the series sets its sights on, you can bet it will be handled with tact, sensitivity — and without preaching.

More important, for those to whom junior high is but a distant memory, the show is fun to watch, providing insight into a new generation that — despite its weird music and hairstyles — seems strangely familiar.

That the original cast members are now the dufus adults being rebelled against may shock our sensibilities, but it’s probably realistic.

And then there’s Everwood (tonight, 9 p.m. on 9, 13), a family drama set in the kind of mythical small town that exists only on American TV.

Documenting the adjustment pains of an arrogant brain surgeon (the likeable Treat Williams) who drags his two kids to “the town that time forgot” after the death of his wife, the show borrows from enough other sources to seem at once comforting and instantly familiar.

Baby boomer guilt, a return to simpler values, wise, prescient offspring (including Toronto’s Gregory Smith), an emotionally immature parent, the stabilizing presence of a dead matriarch, a whimsical small town sensibility and strong family values laced with reassuring grandfatherly narration — you can almost imagine the meeting that produced what could turn into one of this season’s biggest hits.

“Now listen, J.B., what would happen if we combined Providence, Northern Exposure, Ed, Once And Again, Gilmore Girls, Judging Amy and — I dunno — The Waltons?”

“It would be gold, my boy — pure gold.”

And so it is, as comforting as the creak of an old porch swing, as warm as the glow of a sunset on a field of wheat.

If it fails to challenge your intellect or pose any conflict that can’t be resolved with an understanding glance or a candid heart-to-heart talk, its earnest tone and fuzzy homilies are at least easy to digest.

If this is comfort food, we’ll all be fat and lazy in no time.

Tonight, Andy and a rival doctor halt their feud to educate the town about sexually transmitted diseases.

TONIGHT’S HIGHLIGHTS

Saturday Night Live (11:30 p.m. on 2, 6) returns for its 28th season without regulars Ana Gasteyer and Will Ferrell. Matt Damon hosts. Musical guest is Bruce Springsteen.

And on the movie scene, Tim Robbins is railroaded for murder in The Shawshank Redemption (8 p.m. on 5), Harrison Ford is a tough guy president in Air Force One (8 p.m. on 7, 57), Janeane Garafalo falls in love in The Truth About Cats & Dogs (8 p.m. on 6), John Cleese yuks it up in A Fish Called Wanda (8 p.m. on W), Will Smith blasts aliens in Men In Black (9 p.m. on 2), ’80s teen queen Molly Ringwald is Pretty In Pink (11:15 p.m. on FAM), Humphrey Bogart seeks a coveted statue in The Maltese Falcon (11:20 p.m. on TVO), Frances McDormand solves a murder in Fargo (10:30 p.m. on 5), Peter Fonda revs his chopper in Easy Rider (1 a.m. on BRAV) and Pam Grier frames her boss in Jackie Brown (10:30 p.m. on SHOW).

TOMORROW’S HIGHLIGHTS

The Lost World (8 p.m. on A&E) is a four-hour mini-series that promises thrills, chills and dinosaurs in what promises to be a first-class adaptation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s classic novel about turn-of-the-century explorers searching for dinosaurs in the Amazon. The A&E/BBC co-production stars Bob Hoskins, Peter Falk and James Fox. It wraps up Monday at 8 p.m.

Bram & Alice (8:30 p.m. on 4) is a series premiere about a struggling writer (Traylor Howard) who learns that her literary hero is also, gulp, her dad (Alfred Molina).

Becker (8 p.m. on 4) kicks off its season with the curmudgeonly star forced to choose between Reggie and Chris. Not to give anything away, but Nancy Travis becomes a series regular.

Venture (10:30 p.m. on 5) kicks off its season with an investigation into the WorldCom scandal.

And on the movie scene: Tom Hanks gets animated in Toy Story 2 (7 p.m. on 7).

jrubinoff@therecord.com

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