Review of Degrassi: The Next Generation DVD Season 1

Degrassi Season 1 Box Set
FUNimation // $49.98 U.S. // Release: September 28, 2004

The First Season
Degrassi: The Next Generation is a spin-off series of the Canadian television series Degrassi Junior High and Degrassi High. These parent series were more or less the same. After the cast in Degrassi Junior High finished junior high school, they moved onto high school and the series was renamed Degrassi High. The spin-off series takes place approximately ten years after the cast of Degrassi High finished high school. Like the parent series, Degrassi: The Next Generation focuses on the dramatic daily lives of several junior high school students. Some of the topics that this season touches upon include drugs and alcohol, sex, cyber stalking, young love, and family values. Unlike the parent series, this new series adds another twist, modern technology. A small, but a very integral portion of this series includes computer savvy stuff like instant messaging, e-mail, and the internet. This series is intended for young teenagers, but not entirely limited to. However, the majority of folks who are past their early teens probably will be less than excited by this series. Being that I’m passed my early teens, I found that a lot of this show just wasn’t that entertaining.

The reason that I didn’t find a lot of the stories in the first season very entertaining is because they just don’t appeal to me. The stories focus upon the difficulties of being a young teenager, each ending with a righteous moral lesson. Basically, I just didn’t enjoy the show’s tempo. This show can be a little bit corny. However that isn’t necessarily bad, because it creates the proper mood for the series. The stories are supposed to be through the eyes of a young teenager. The fact of the matter is that they can get away with it, because they’re young. You can’t expect someone inexperienced with life to make mature, logical, and prudent decisions in every kind of situation. Hell, I don’t even know if you can expect an adult to act in that manner all the time. This concept of young teenagers being inexperienced with life is a big part of this series. But it’s also something that I really didn’t enjoy. The mood of the series just didn’t work well with me.

In the first season, we see the various cast members make some very bad decisions. The series opens with a very important message. It’s expressed in the two part episode “Mother and Child Reunion”. In this episode, we have a very powerful message about the dangerous of meeting strangers on the internet. Other episodes like “Eye of the Beholder”, “Basketball Diaries”, and “Jagged Little Pill” include some important messages that touch upon the dangers of drugs and alcohol. There are also episodes that cover topics upon sexual intercourse, peer pressure, relationships and dating, family values, and the dangers of being a rumormonger. Overall, I felt that the bulk of the episodes in this first season were filled with very important messages, but it doesn’t change the fact that they weren’t that entertaining.

From the aspect of presentation, these episodes are written fairly well. The corniness factor exists, but as mentioned earlier, it fits the show well. The situations that the cast encounters, whether it is sex, peer pressure, or drugs and alcohol, they are presented in a manner that feels fairly realistic. For instance, some shows like Saved By the Bell attack the same kinds of issues, but the situations are far too unreal. Of course, Saved By the Bell takes an entirely different approach, comical versus dramatic. Another good point about the show’s writing relates to the cast. In this series the cast is pretty big, with a lot of characters who all have different personalities. There wasn’t a lot of focus on character development. However, I found that the characters were all very likeable and it was very easy to really care about them. This left you wanting, hoping that they would make the right decisions.

The fact of the matter is there were some positive aspects of the first season of Degrassi: The Next Generation, but as a whole, the series just didn’t pull together to provide a really gripping experience. This series should be restricted for those who enjoy a little corny drama and those who can benefit from an important moral lesson. To say the least, it’s great for young teenagers. However, everyone else probably won’t find it that exciting.

Episode Guide
1. Mother & Child Reunion (1)
2. Mother & Child Reunion (2)
3. Family Politics
4. Eye of the Beholder
5. Parent’s Day
6. The Mating Game
7. Basketball Diaries
8. Secrets & Lies
9. Coming of Age
10. Rumours & Reputations
11. Friday Night
12. Wannabe
13. Cabaret
14. Under Pressure
15. Jagged Little Pill

The DVD

Video:
The complete first season of Degrassi: The Next Generation is given in its original television aspect ratio of 1.33:1 full frame color. The picture quality is decent, but it suffers from a hazy grain and slight compression artifacts. In comparison to most current television series, the picture looks relatively good and it’s better than what you would expect from broadcast or cable television.

Sound:
The audio track in this DVD release is an English 2.0 Dolby digital stereo sound track. The sound quality is fairly good, with only a barely audible distortion. Like most other television series releases on DVD, the audio is relatively flat, as it consists of spoken dialogue. Also, there is very little distinction in separation between audio channels.

Extras:.
Fans of this series should be pretty happy that there are a lot of special features included with this release. However, those who aren’t fans will probably be less than thrilled with them. The majority of the extras are bloopers and deleted scenes. Since I wasn’t a big fan of this release, the deleted scenes weren’t that interesting. On the other hand, some of the bloopers were pretty entertaining. This was because these kids can be pretty funny. My favorite extra was the audition tapes, which has auditions for ten of the cast members. This is an interesting extra that isn’t usually included with most releases and I wish more TV on DVD releases would include them. This same extra can be found in Freaks & Geeks The Complete Series. The other extras are less than entertaining, a photo gallery with screenshots of the first season, character descriptions, cast biographies, and a karaoke version of the Degrassi theme song. Overall, it’s a very nice set of extras, but best suited for the fans.

Final Thoughts:
Despite that I didn’t find watching the first season of Degrassi: The Next Generation to be one of the most exhilarating experience, there were enough entertaining episodes that I remotely enjoyed this release. If you’re interested in a television drama through the eyes of several young teenagers, this first season DVD release should appeal to you. However, if you prefer more intense drama, this series should be the last on your list. I’d highly recommend it to young teenagers, but that’s about it.

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