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Featured TV on DVD Review: Degrassi: Season 12

October 27th, 2013

Degrassi: Season 12 - Buy from Amazon

The Degrassi franchise has been on the air in one form or another, on and off since 1979. The latest incarnation, originally called Degrassi: The Next Generation, now simply called Degrassi, has been on the air since 2001. The Twelfth season comes out on DVD this week, but how does it compare to previous seasons?

The Show

Like every season of Degrassi: The Next Generation, now simply called Degrassi, there are changes in the cast this time around. However, there are not as many changes this time around. Only one student was gone (at least at the beginning of the season) while four new ones were added. This means there are 27 actors in the opening credits, and no, I will not be talking about all of them, because not all of them are involved in storylines worth talking about, at least before spoilers become too serious a problem. It might be better to skip chronological order and just discuss the main characters, what their situation is like at the beginning of the season, in alphabetical order.

So many characters. So many plot threads. Where to begin? Season twelve begins at the beginning of the new year, and with rumors that Degrassi might shut down. Instead, it's good news, as the school uniforms are no more. More substantially, we meet a few of the new characters right away. We see Mike Dallas arrive with Drew and Adam Torres. Mike is a hockey player, and a very talented one. However, first impressions for him are not good. One of the first things we see him do is make fun of Maya Matlin for being flat-chested. He's not the only one to make a comment like that, leading Maya to try and dress more maturely, with the help of bra implants. We also quickly meet Becky Baker, who is aggressively chipper. She and her bother, Luke, are both new to the school, although she gets the majority of the interesting storylines. There are some relationships that appear to be back on track. Eli Goldsworthy and Clare Edwards had been dating in the past, but there have been some serious issues. (Short version: his previous girlfriend died and that led to some mental issues including hoarding. He finally got help.) They kissed last season and it appears both of them want back into a relationship. Also, Drew Torres and Bianca DeSousa are trying to get back together, but this means Drew will have to break up with Katie Matlin. Drew doesn't want to break up with Katie, not because he has feelings for her, but because Katie is dealing with an addiction and he doesn't want to make her recovery worse. He does break up with her, but it doesn't stick.

All of this happens before the start of the year party Adam and Drew throw at their house.

The Drew Torres / Bianca DeSousa / Katie Matlin situation doesn't resolve itself very quickly, or cleanly, but it does get resolved. However, it's not clear sailing for Drew, as he starts to come down with concussion symptoms from his previous MMA fighting. Later on Drew and Bianca start to take their relationship more seriously than just highschool sweethearts. They become so serious that it freaks out Drew's mother.

Eli Goldsworthy is dating Clare Edwards, but Clare also gets a big opportunity to do a journalism internship, which takes up a lot of time. Eli can pour his energy into his theater work, but there's a problem there, as Becky Baker becomes a major thorn in his side. She is not only overly chipper, but she's Christian, which means she clashes with a member of the theater group, Tristan Milligan. Tristan is gay, but he's not just openly gay, he's flamboyantly gay. Eli decides to put on a version of Romeo and Juliet with two male leads, including Tristan as Jules, just to stick it to Becky. This does have repercussions, as the male lead, Dave Turner, wasn't informed of this decision and doesn't take it particularly well. (He's bullied by his teammates on the the hockey team.) On the other hand, Alli Bhandari, his girlfriend, it quite happy, because she doesn't have to be jealous of his leading lady.(Later on Alli learns she might be able to graduate early and go to MIT.)

Becky is also the center of a couple of other major storylines. Firstly, she tries to convert Jenna Middleton to being a Christian, which Jenna goes along with, but only to be close to Becky's brother, Luke. This plan doesn't work out, but Jenna remains a Christian and even helps Becky deal with her homophobia, and more importantly her transphobia. The latter becomes very important when she begins dating Adam. Of course the show can't give Adam a healthy happy relationship. He has to deal with excess drama. (It gets worse for him, but the details are spoilers.)

The hockey team, the Ice Hounds, play an important part in a number of storylines, including taunting Maya Matlin for being flat-chested. She decides to try and wear a bra implant. The term "Chicken Cutlet" is used. It doesn't quite work out for her, because while she is auditioning for Owen Milligan's band, it falls out. She's mortified, but Owen is really impressed by her musical skill and asks her to join his band. This gives her more confidence to stand up for herself. Of course, it's not just the jocks that cause her problems. Her best friend, Tristan, has a crush on Cam Saunders, who isn't gay. Tristan decides to talk to Cam online, while pretending to be Maya. Uncool. And Cam is a really nice guy, unlike the rest of the hockey team. However, some good comes from it, as Maya and Cam begin dating. That relationship also comes with a major spoiler warning.

At the beginning of the season, Tori Santamaria and Zig Novak have been dating for close to four months, but Zig has a secret. He's poor. He's not destitute, his mother runs a convenience store. However, he is certainly a lot poorer than Tori is, as her family is quite rich, and he's been keeping that a secret.

The final major thread I can deal with involves Fiona Coyne, who returns to school late because of family issues. When she returns, she starts up her relationship with Imogen Moreno. However, the relationship takes a rocky turn, as Imogen doesn't want to be open with her sexuality.

There are a few other minor threads, but from this point on, we quickly run into spoilers.

I'm of two minds when it comes to Degrassi: Season 12. On the one hand, in nearly every regard, this season is right up near the top of the best in the show's run so far. I liked the show from the beginning and I do miss many of the favorite early characters, like Emma, Paige, etc. the show has gotten a lot better over the years and, outside a few characters that are underutilized, all of them work. Some of the characters that didn't work as well in the previous few seasons have left. On the other hand, there are a couple problems. Firstly, they killed off my favorite new character. Why? Secondly, there are a number of storylines in this season that are similar to storylines in previous seasons. Then again, dealing with a pregnancy scare, or depression, or bullying, or bad breakups, etc. is something that will happen in pretty much every school every single year.

The Extras

There are a number of short featurettes, starting with Back to Degrassi, a two-minute look at the start of filming season 12. New Kids on the Block looks at the four new cast members: Demetrius Joyette, Sarah Fisher, Craig Arnold, and Dylan Everett. Shooting the Opening Sequence is just what it sounds like. It's a really complicated opening sequence (they have to show a lot of characters) so it is interesting to see them shoot it. 300th Episode Celebration is a behind-the-scenes look at the cast and crew celebrating the show's 300th episode.

Over on disc two, there are a number of similarly short featurettes, starting with A Day with the Ice Hounds. Goodby Uniforms looks at the new wardrobes, now that the school no longer has uniforms. Inside Fiona's Birthday Brawl is a behind-the-scenes look at one of the more action intensive scenes in the season. Say Cheese is a behind-the-scenes of the photoshoot with Demetrius Joyette, Vanessa Morgan, and Justice James. I can't tell you who they are without giving away spoilers. Finally, there is Making of Romeo and Jules.

The third disc has 14 minutes of outtakes. There is a five-minute look at Bittersweet Symphony, which is one of the more emotionally hefty episodes of the season. There is also a five-minute Table Read for that episode. Up next are behind-the-scenes featurettes on Graduation Day and Prom Night. The One and Only: Dylan Everett is a featurette on one of the new characters. There are two short films done by the character Eli Goldsworthy. Finally, there is a Video Yearbook.

On a side note, they are no longer using flipper-discs. Yes!

The Verdict

Degrassi: Season 12 is a great season from arguably the best TV aimed at teenagers of all time. There are a lot of extras and while very few of them are more than a few minutes long, there are more than enough to not feel bare. Finally, the price-per-minute is amazing. It's easily worth picking up and a contender for Pick of the Week.

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Filed under: Video Review, Lauren Collins, Miriam McDonald