Degrassi New Beginnings: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

The Good

New Beginnings > In Too Deep
One of the big complaints I had about Season 10 as a whole was the second half of the season, aka In Too Deep…it was a big ole’ ball of mediocrity.  Its disappointing nature was magnified given the success of The Boiling Point’s summer format.  The telenovela format itself provides a level of excitement because of the sheer volume of episodes within a short period alone, something the one-episode-per-week format can’t really compete with.

New Beginnings was a step in the right direction.  For 6 straight weeks during New Beginnings we were treated to a crop of episodes that I thought had a strong A plot, complimented with a strong B or C plot (Not Ready To Make Nice, Need You Now and Smash Into You).

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Jake Martin
Before “New Beginnings” started I read a quite long character study of Jake by a Degrassi fan named Chelsea (I think every Degrassi fan should write a thesis about something from the show, but that’s a whole other thing lol).  Now any of the stuff in that post relating to Jake’s relationship with his father or mother, etc., I consider a stretch and did when I first read it months ago…that’s primarily because I have no reason to believe the show will ever delve into that (as demonstrated in New Beginnings).

My thoughts on Jake before “New Beginnings” was that Jake was quote “a one-dimensional character with no development or personality of his own.” I still stand by that analysis of Jake at that time because I still feel it’s true…Jake was a waste of a character during the Cake era.  It has nothing to do with him, it was all of Clare’s b.s. completely overshadowing any chance for him to show us anything.  Like everyone else I was hoping that Jake would break free of Cake, and then he’d actually become interesting.

Personally, I enjoyed Jake during “New Beginnings.”  He was finally able to *gasp* actually show a fun, funny personality since Clare wasn’t dominating everything.  He’s still sort of a mysterious figure, but we got to see way more of him in the second half of the season than we did in Now Or Never.  Oh and he did a pretty awesome thing: he appeared in 12 consecutive episodes (Dead & Gone Pt 1  through Need You Now Pt 2).

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Jahmil French
There’s a lot of depth when it comes to Degrassi’s actresses.  Annie, Melinda, Jordy and Aislinn (to name a few) can churn out a solid, moving performance when need be.

But the dynamic is different with the guys.

I’m not at all trying to imply that they aren’t good, but at times it feels like Munro is in a league of his own.  Jahmil showed he’s got the “moves like munro” by churning out an incredibly powerful performance in Smash Into You, making it hands down one of the best of Season 11.

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The Niners
The Degrassi fandom is inconsistent with its overall opinion about new characters.  We were up in arms over the introduction of the niners midway during the season, because they’d  just introduced 3 new characters at the very beginning of Season 11.  But wasn’t it right before Season 10 when people couldn’t wait to see new characters Eli, Adam, Drew and Bianca?  But as inconsistent we are with this, the show is just as inconsistent with how they utilize new characters.  With the niners we were slowly introduced to them, giving us time to get used to them as opposed to giving them a major plot or thrusting them into the plot of a someone else like they did with Katie, Imogen and Jake.

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Issues Over Relationships
Degrassi’s achilles heel will forever be its tendency to focus on shallow relationship drama as opposed to any potential underlying issues.  I do need to point out that Degrassi DOES do relationship drama well sometimes, but it doesn’t feel like a lot given the number of couples that pop up and disappear throughout any given season.  Despite what any promos would’ve led you to believe, issues took precdent over relationships quite a bit in New Beginnings, in particluar during Not Ready To Make Nice, Need You Now, Smash Into You and Hollaback Girl.

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The Bad

Katie Matlin
This is a really random comparison, but I feel like it’s appropriate…Katie Matlin is the Taylor Kitsch of Degrassi.  Hollywood has put a lot of stock in Kitsch in 2012, yet his big flicks “John Carter” and “Battleship” have fallen well short of expectations.  The comparison here is that like Hollywood did with Kitsch, Degrassi has been trying hard to make Katie a leading lady, but it’s just not working.  They’ve been all over the place with her character in Season 11.  The content they gave her with the drug addiction was good, but she has yet to become appealing or compelling enough to be someone I want to see carrying storylines regularly.

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Fimogen/Imogeli
This trio has a unique dynamic where as friends, any combination of Fiona, Imogen and Eli is fantastic.  But the show completely lost me when they drifted off into romantic territory.  Fiona apparently had nothing to do with her life, so the show decided to pair her up with Imogen.  And in a convulted attempt to create a roadblock in Fimogen’s path, Imogeli was randomly paired together and served as nothing more than a plot device.  In both cases things fall short when it comes to Imogen.  With Fimogen, even though it would be completely believable that Imogen could be bisexual or pansexual, we never got any sort of outlook from her perspective.  The hasty reconciliation between Eli and Imogen (more like the lack of witnessing a reconciliation period) put a damper on Imogeli…that plus the way Eli behaved before they started dating, it was hard to ever believe he was truly interested in Imogen as more than a friend.

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Adam Torres
I heart Adam Torres as a secondary character.  I know there’s people who still think that every character who’s featured in the opening credits is a main character, but that’s just not true.  Adam has only had a few storylines in Season 10 and 11, but an overwhelming majority of his time is spent being a support character who appears quite frequently.  He wasn’t around much in New Beginnings and I missed seeing him there…though both Jake and Drew stepped into a support character role quite nicely.

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Frostival (Season Finale)
Degrassi sucks at season finales, and I’m not exactly sure why anymore.  It’s reached the point where I kind of go into every one expecting to be disappointed by a ho-hum ending.  I guess I can kind of take solace in the fact that what was originally Season 10′s finale (Spring Fever, before it was bumped up to Season 11′s premiere) was pretty good.

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Cast Cameos
It might be just me, but former characters returning for a cameo doesn’t do much for me these days.  Paige and Sav returned in The Power Play mini, and I didn’t really care.  Unfortunately I felt the exact same way about Holly J’s return in the finale.  I feel like one of the main issues is that it’s announced well in advance that they’ll be appearing.  It takes away from the “emotional oopmh” of them physically appearing, which is probably the most important part of it since they offer little (if anything) to the actual plot at hand. It’s like someone telling you that you’re getting a surprise party, then you having to fake being surprised as you walk in.

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The Ugly

Fiona Coyne
*sigh* It’s sad when you watch your favorite character go downhill.  I guess it’s my fault for having high expectations for Fiona in New Beginnings.  Fiona is incredibly dependent on people, but she has trouble establishing relationships with others outside of that comfort zone.

With Holly J gone I thought we’d get to see Fiona genuinely struggle to fit in…that lasted for all of two seconds.  Instead it felt like the show had nothing for Fiona to do and decided to throw another love interest her way, and Imogen is the only girl on the show that we could possibly imagine being anything other than straight.  If they can’t come up with something interesting for one of the show’s current stars, I’d rather them just go ahead and write her off the show.

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Network Promos
The promos during New Beginnings were either frustrating (TeenNick) or forgettable (MuchMusic).  I don’t understand why TeenNick insists on trying to overhype and oversell the show in their promos sometimes…Hollaback Pt 2 is an example that made me want to bang my head against a brick wall until I passed out:

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Stop it TeenNick!! It’s frustrating because I know it’s possible for you to make good promos that aren’t of the overdramatic/love triangle variety. Why? Because you just made one…the Season 12 Teaser Promo:

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And you’re also about to release your annual Degrassi summer promo…those things are always good.  MuchMusic’s issue is that their New Beginnings promos were flat out boring.  That makes no sense to me given that I really enjoyed their Now Or Never ones:

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Both networks probably want to “Fitz” me in an alley for constantly scrutinizing their promos.  But demand is always immediate for the promos after an episode, and they’re an important part of the Degrassi fan experience.

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19 thoughts on “Degrassi New Beginnings: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

  1. I feel like New Beginnings was just as disappointing as In Too Deep. I feel like the second halves of these ridiculously lengthy seasons just lose a lot of steam after the summer. Most of the part ones are so boring and anticlimactic that it doesn’t really make someone want to watch the second half; they just don’t stand well on their own.

    I’m really uninterested in the Niners from what we’ve seen thus far. I know we have to give them some time, but they’re just so blah. Maya’s music plot in the finale bored me to tears, lol. Really. I kind of like Tristan. Tori’s original character description made her seem like some fierce bitch/mean girl/spoiled princess archetype, but we really haven’t seen any of that. As for Zig? What the hell is his purpose? He’s had, like, two lines his entire run so far. I find this really hilarious compared to the number of fangirls he has.

    I think the fact that Degrassi is 95% relationship drama is just one to be accepted. I’ve been a hardcore advocate against it, lol, but really.

    Katie…I agree about them trying to make her a leading lady. It’s not working because she really has no redeemable qualities. There’s nothing really about her to make people root for her. She’s dull and one-dimensional. Some viewers have hated her since she was rude to Clare, some hate her because of what she did to Fiona, and some hate her just because they prefer Drianca to Krew (rightfully so). With all those things going against her, there’s really nothing left.

    Fimogen is a terrible, terrible idea. I hate it so much that I can’t even express it in words, lmao. Seriously, though…it was completely random and unbelievable. Fiona’s random crush on Imogen is totally unbelievable. The fact Imogen confessed that she liked Fiona all along was completely unbelievable. The whole romance has been one-sided. They have ZERO chemistry, and Fiona looks so much older than Imogen. It’s just so damn random and ill-conceived. Ugh. And I hated the fact they threw together Imogeli as a means to Fimogen. Seriously? They didn’t have chemistry, either. And like you said, there was nothing prior to their getting together that suggested Eli had feelings for Imogen.

    The season finale SUCKED. It felt like a filler episode. But at least there wasn’t any contrived violence.

    I am so done with Fiona, man…I LOVED her before 11.5, but now she’s just…there. And they’re throwing her in a random relationship with the only girl who might not be totally straight (like you said). I really wish she just graduated. She feels out of place.

    That Hollaback Girl pt. 2 promo deserves nothing less than a facepalm. It looks like a parody.

  2. Does anybody else think that Marisol stepped into her role quite nicely during New Beginnings? She was in every episode except for Not Ready to Make Nice. I’m just happy to see the writers arent wasting another African American character like they did with Hazel, Damian, Chantay, and quite honestly Liberty, who was only given any sort of REAL attention during seasons 5 & 6. I like Marisol and without this block of episodes, i dont think i would have been able to say that. I’m excited to see what’s next for her (:

    • Yes, I totally agree with this. Love her or hate her, Marisol’s character has POTENTIAL that I don’t want the writers to waste. A black queen bee/HBIC? We never had one until Marisol came along. I’m a HUGE Marisol fan as unpopular as that opinion may be.

      Another unpopular opinion, I like Katie as well. I think when Katie gets out of rehab, she should branch out on her own and Marisol should do the same. I like their friendship but I feel as though Katie overshadows Marisol. I want to see BOTH girls evolve though I may be asking for too much :(

    • Liberty had a lot she just couldnt handle the good stuff at first so they didnt give it to her and they didn’t waste Jimmy or Danny and Damian was in a lot just for only 1 season

  3. I think Degrassi should really consider going back to 1-part episodes (with the occasional 2-parter for strong plots, i.e Not Ready to Make Nice), after the telenovela summer format. The 2-parters struggle way too much when we go back to one episode per week. And it’s really annoying when I have to sit through a pointless part 1. A show like Degrassi that we all know has the capability of being great will always have a few episodes that fall a little short and are forgetful, I understand that. But these kind of forgetful episodes would be a whole lot easier to deal with if we didn’t have to sit through 2 parts of forgetfulness lol -_- …

    They could even go back to 2 plots for the 1-part episodes, or if they’re going to stick to 3 plots, don’t give us stupid filler for the 3rd plot, give us a little introduction for an upcoming A-plot! I’m just throwing out random thoughts. I’m not sure what they should do but I just feel like they need to change something for the post-telenovela episodes.

  4. I agree with you on almost everything except Fiona. Fiona has also been my favorite character on the show for some time and I still enjoyed her storyline this season. I wasnt that surprised that they put Imogen with Fiona because I knew Imogen and Eli would never work out. I also loved this finale. I know Fiona and Imogen seemed kind of rushed but I think Imogen dropped a few subtle hints towards Fiona and I especially thought thier scene on the ferris wheel was so sweet and climactic. Also, I feel like I have been waiting for Eli and Clare to get back together forever so I think it was totally normal for Clare to act impulsive towards Eli because Clare has been acting impulsive in all of her storylines. I like how in the finale they left us satisfited by giving us the kiss between Fiona and Imogen/ Eli and Clare but they also left us with a cliffhanger which makes me really excited for next season! I really hope Fiona and Imogen can work because Fiona has yet to have a relationship that lasts longer than five minutes.

  5. I know Fimogen is random…but we can’t forget Palex. Where we got plenty of friendship development, but Alex was pretty much a lesbian out of nowhere.

  6. I still have faith that Fimogen will turn into something really good given the right development. I liked the slowly developed friendship between them (well much slower than most characters being shoved together on the show). I guess I’m in the minority, but I still really like Fiona’s character being around. I feel like a lot of problems with the “new” Degrassi is that the characters aren’t given enough time to develop or have enough storylines dealing with their issues before it’s time for them to graduate and move on. Adam’s been there for a while, and there’s only a handful of storylines he’s actually been in. Fiona, however, has been there long enough to represent a character more multi-dimensional and someone who’s grown through time and dealing with different issues while still maintaining the kind of person she started out being from her very first episode. I’m personally glad that she’s still around. I’m much more interested in her life than Katie’s or Marisol’s at this point in the show. Also, I agree with heythere, Palex kind of just happened out of no where. There really wasn’t even a build-up with their friendship like there was with Imogen and Fiona. I really don’t see why so many people are having such issues with Fimogen before we even see how their relationship pans out. I say, at least give it a shot before casting such negative judgements on it.

  7. This season was pretty off in the second half of this season. I love Imogen but to me it seems that they using her as a ping pong ball for Eli and Fionas love entertainment. I wish they would have developed Imogen’s crush on Fiona while dating Eli instead of using Jake as target for Eli’s jealousy and anger toward Imogens lie. They should have Eli figured out the crush himself before Fiona told him.

  8. I completely agree with the person who said go back to 1-part episodes with 2 plots in them. In the summer block the 3-plot thing works because we only have to wait a day when we have to wait a week to see part 2 then I completely forget Degrassi is even on. Also a lot of the C-plots are mediocre. There’s been some strong ones like Adam being set up on a date with Tristan, and some terrible ones like Wesley breaking a world record on his pogo stick trying to make his childhood self proud. A lot of the main plots having been coming off as rushed because of not enough screen time do to the C-plots.

    I’d really love if they held some of the current seniors back so we have more time to get to know them. Most of them were introduced so late in their high school that we haven’t had enough time to get to know these characters. All of them have potential and I’d hate to see them all go just to have new people brought in to fill their place. It’d be a bit contrived if all of them failed due to bad grades but what if something went down at Degrassi that resulted in like 3 or 4 of them getting expelled for the rest of the school year? We haven’t had any students expelled since Jay and Spinner.

    Fiona, Drew and Eli have all had enough development to where they could graduate but the rest really aren’t ready. Owen and Jake are two characters I really want more of. Like you said in your blog Jake was one of the great things about New Beginnings. Owen can be an ass but there are times where I find him funny. Mo and Imogen can go either way with me. I like them but if they graduated I wouldn’t be heartbroken. Bianca I really want more of in season 12 but I don’t want her to be held back because she’s made a lot of progress in Hollaback Girl. Then there is Katie and Marisol. Katie’s bland and I wouldn’t care if she left while Marisol I want to stay but it really wouldn’t make sense unless she got in trouble.

  9. To address one of the points you made, I believe that by definition, since this is an ensemble show, any character in the opening credits is automatically a main character. Which means they are entitled to a certain level of development and fleshing-out, even if that means they only get one episode per season (e.g. Riley during Now or Never).

    Honestly, half the cast this season did not get that, specifically Adam, Owen, and (of course) Wesley. And given that there’s going to be even more people next season, I don’t see this problem changing anytime soon.

    Overall, with the exception of Smash Into You and Hollaback Girl, this season was just blah. -_-

  10. Most of the time Degrassi finds away to get me real excited for a plot and that didnt happen in 11.5. The only plot i was looking forward to was Maya’s on the finale, and that was just bad.

  11. Thank You! Someone who agrees with me about Katie! Honestly, she annoys the hell out of me. The writers just keep putting her on the screen when people who should be on the screen (cough couch Bianca) get tossed aside. I was happy about her finally getting an A plot though. We already know so much about Katie and she’s just now ending her first season. On the other hand, we have great strong characters that most people WANT to see being pushed aside. I mean this is Bianca’s second season and we just met her aunt! Can’t tell me nothing was the WORST episode of new beginnings in my opinion.It was just so bland and boring. I really hope we get to see more of Bianca and why she lives with her aunt next season. Oh and I was wondering what you thiught about Bianca this half of the season, or atleast what we saw of her.

  12. Ugh, Degrassi trying to make Katie the leading lady reminds me when they tried to make Mia the leading lady back in S8. Mia was just never likable enough to root for, and Katie seems to heading down the same path.

  13. I agree with almost everything you said except the part about Fiona and Imogen. Of course they didnt give us Imogens POV. If they had then we would have known what the outcome was going to be. They wanted to keep us guessing on whether Imogen felt the same. And there were plenty of hints that she did in fact return Fiona’s feelings. If you didnt see the hints then we must be watching different shows. As for Imogeli..that was a waste of time, but it needed to happen so that both Imogen and Eli would know that it wouldnt work and they wouldnt forever wonder what if. If you had to label something as “ugly” it should have been Katie.

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