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It’s safe to say that as a whole Degrassi season 13 has been underwhelming so far.  It’s not because the summer telenovela format we’re used to was ditched.  Since the implementation of the telenovela, the show has routinely had issues with episodes in the weekly format during the fall and spring blocks of seasons 10 and 11.  Each 30-minute episode needs to stand strong on its own two feet (regardless of whether it’s a Part 1 or Part 2), and things can be weird and felt off at times when every week you’re basically just airing half of an episode.  However, season 12 seemed to be the point where everything turned around, as the show churned out a solid block in 12B and a really good block in 12C.

After watching 13A, I’m just sitting here wondering “What the heck happened?”

I’m not too big on constantly comparing seasons to each other, but there’s an interesting find here.  The storylines in season 12 were pretty consistent with each other in terms of quality.  In season 13 there’s been a stark contrast between the storylines running alongside each other in these episodes, and that’s more apparent when I visually look at the grades I’ve given to these storylines:

gradess13a

For the longest time I’ve graded individual plots within the episode and not the episode as a whole because I see the show as a collection of storylines, not episodes.  It’s also too difficult to just give a single grade that quantifies how I feel about everything in an episode when there’s so much going on.  My grades for Summertime, All I Wanna Do, My Own Worst Enemy and Honey make that point…how in the world do you give a single grade to those episodes when I feel like the quality of the plots is all over the place?

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There were 4 major storylines this summer…let’s take a look at them all.

1) Clare Battles Cancer

This is clearly the best storyline of the summer.  It’s powerful, scary and emotional, and I felt that every step of the way for Clare.  The only downside to this is that the meat of the storyline was really short.  I can’t remember who said it (probably Stefan), but the show doesn’t like to stack intense plots on top of intense plots, so now we see why Clare’s plot reached a climax after only four episodes (the final four of course dedicated to Adam’s death).  Though we got the general idea of things, I was hoping it would’ve been stretched out a few more episodes.  Clare’s cancer is in remission for now, but hopefully we’ll continue to see her deal with her health after this summer.

2) The Death of Adam Torres

Earlier in this blog post I said I view Degrassi as a collection of storylines, not episodes.  Isolate Adam’s texting and driving plot and view it on its own, and suddenly it’s not as horrible as everyone keeps saying (I’m talking specifically about the storyline standing alone, NOT any episode as a whole, behind-the-scenes issues or anything to do with Epitome’s reaction or lack thereof throughout it all).

Adam saw his girlfriend with another guy and freaked out.  It would’ve taken all of five minutes for Adam to actually contact Becky and have a conversation about the situation, but at least half of the drama in the Degrassi universe wouldn’t exist if people actually communicated with each other.  I still enjoyed Adam’s perspective through this situation.  People often forget that Adam is very inexperienced when it comes to girls.  I felt the anxiety he felt not knowing what the hell was up with Becky and Todd, and then not knowing the status of Beckdam’s relationship in Cannonball.  If you’ve ever experienced the anxiety of being so hyperfocused on one thing that it physically hurts, you should understand.

I’m not going to lie, despite the show wanting to show the dangers of texting and driving, the actual scene where Adam crashes seems a bit contrived (I contend there’s no way Adam should’ve still been driving in the woods at that point, and it’s weird that if the camp group is that deep in the woods, a random car would be driving in their direction on that one-lane dirt road at night).

As we all know, Honey was a very weird episode.  However, after several viewings I kind of understand the show positioning the plots as they did, even if no one liked it.

The entire plot in that episode was based around Drew and everyone impatiently waiting to hear the news about Adam’s surgery.  Sitting there not knowing anything about what’s going on is hard, because literally nothing else mattered.

What did Degrassi fans do while watching this episode? We sat around impatiently waiting to hear the news about Adam’s surgery.  Sitting there not knowing anything about what’s going on was hard, because literally nothing else mattered.  It’s just a shame that all of that time waiting was spent watching a plot very few care about (Alli), and while the Tenner’s plot was harmless, it was nothing more than filler that quickly wrapped up their Paris plot.

While Honey was difficult to watch for many reasons, Young Forever was difficult to watch for a good one.  That episode is easily the most elaborate sendoff the show’s ever done.  Degrassi’s gotten me teary at times, but as far as flat out crying Young Forever topped even the final scene of Rock This Town.

PARIS: The City of Love & Degrassi Kids Roaming Around Unsupervised

Did anyone actually enjoy Paris? That isn’t me asking a sarcastic question, I’m being serious.  If you did I’d love to hear why you thought so in the comments below.

I’ve said before that I’m not a fan of when characters are away from Degrassi for an extended period of time…my go-to example from now on is “dropout Drew” in season 12.  That feeling of isolation and distance from the school feels weird, and as bizarre as this sounds, the Paris plots did confirm for me how important the physical school is to this show.  I get that the show wanted to have an entire block of episodes take place during the summer, and there needed to be some sort of plot device to force certain characters into a group.  However, Paris as a backdrop was laughable at times, to the point where it was difficult to continuously suspend belief (if you ever wondered how the hell the characters were able to freely roam Paris whenever they pleased, you are not alone).  I don’t want the show to be discouraged from doing summer episodes in the future, so I will say that I thought the summer camp backdrop was absolutely fantastic.

3) The Tenners Love Orgy

If there were really good and really bad plots this summer, this is the one that falls somewhere in between.  Things got off to a rocky start in Summertime, but things became steady once the clan got to Paris.  I think it helped that the Tenners plot shifted on Tristan a bit in a unique way.  In All I Wanna Do we saw Tristan’s past issues as far as being rejected because of his sexuality, something I wasn’t expecting.  Miles is an extremely interesting character.  His presence is a boost to the show at the moment, currently abiding by the idea that “less is more.”  Things got weird once the Tenners plot transformed into the love square that we saw coming a mile away, and while it all panned itself out quickly I’m looking forward to more of Miles, as well as a feud between Maya and Zoë.

Speaking of Zoë and Winston, I don’t really have an opinion on them yet because they were featured so little in this block.

4) Alli/Leo

Degrassi revels in the fact that it deals with a lot of relationship drama.  The Degrassi fandom often talks out of both sides of its mouth on this issue:  we complain about how we hate that the show deals with so much relationship drama, but jump on twitter or tumblr at any given moment and a lot of posts are about [insert ship here].  Ships are what people in the fandom primarily bond and fight over.  That’s why it’s even more important for the ships the show presents to be worthwhile.

That’s where Alli and Leo have failed up to this point.  They’ve been boring and have lacked chemistry.  I applaud the show for making Alli self aware throughout this process.  However, that seemed to slowly float out the window as the block moved further along because as TeenNick put it, Alli is “book smart,” but “boy dumb.”  What turned from a tale of Alli using her past experiences to proceed cautiously with Leo suddenly became the two dropping the “L” word and Leo making plans to move to Toronto.

There were a couple of times, aka the beginning and end of their relationship, where the show created the kind of deliberate conflict between Alli and Leo that was almost nonsensical.  Not once, but twice (in My Own Worst Enemy and early in Honey) there was a miscommunication between them and Leo stormed off midway through Alli’s explanation, and for some reason she just let him.

We now know that Leo will indeed arrive in Toronto this fall, so the good news is their relationship can’t be any more pointless than what it was this summer…can it?

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Is Anyone Excited About The Fall Block?

13A is one of those blocks where, as a whole, I know a lot of people will be trying to erase it from their memories.  Boy was there a lot of mediocrity, but there were also quite a few bright spots as well.  I understand those who aren’t excited about the fall block.  I started feeling burned out after 1305.  I’m looking forward to the mental break and focusing on other things for a bit before regrouping for 13B.  Based on the promo, some things I’m excited for this fall:

*ZIG IS BACK.  After being nonexistent all summer (Don’t worry, Ricardo always seems to be on set), I’m looking forward to seeing what’s in store for his character, especially after this tweet from Stefan.

*WILL DREW HAVE A MELTDOWN? The Degrassi fandom will be watching very intently this fall, making sure that the characters closest to Adam Torres don’t “up and forget” that Adam ever existed.  Nothing against Becky, but I’m not even close to being as interested in her aftermath as I am for Drew.  A long story arch where Drew cannot cope with the death of his brother is one that hits fairly close to home for me personally, and it’s one I want to see.

*MORE ZOE AND WINSTON PLEASE. Several months ago some audition sides were leaked by someone unaffiliated with Degrassi or the Degrassi fandom.  There was stuff in there that revealed a Zoë plot that grabbed my attention because I think Zoë’s character could make it interesting, so I’m looking forward to seeing if it’s true.  I’m also looking forward to seeing more of Winston.  He seems to be treading that line of kind of nerdy and awkward, but not to the point of being like Wesley Betenkamp.  With Miles more than likely caught up in the vortex known as Maya, here’s to hoping these other two newbies shine a bit.

*SPEAKING OF NEWBIES….We’re supposed to be seeing a new character or two this fall.  It’s always exciting wondering what they can bring to the table.

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Posted by Kary

13 Comments

  1. I like the paris episodes it was someting new to degrassi that we never experience before

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  2. Just a thought, but I’ve always figured there is a lot more pressure on the writers and producers to create a strong A Block to start out a season simply to get the characters started down their pre-determined paths in their storylines.

    Kary, do you think that since the writers had to deal with Jordan Todosey’s situation so early in the season that it could have taken away from possibly improving other storylines down the line by extending them? (ex: Clare’s cancer, Tristan’s insecurities, Adam/Imogen/Becky love triangle)

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  3. Compared to Dropout Drew, Dot Guys, and the College casts… Paris managed to not do the ONE THING that made each of those past out of Degrassi experiences so hard to work… mostly.

    With each other plot the more you isolate the character the harder it is to work them casually into everyday scenes. S8-9 Emma and Manny were absolutely useless, and when you used them in a plot you had to add secondary characters just to give them someone to talk to. Paris avoided this by having eight main characters there (technically more characters than at home, where the count was six). It was a problem with one of the two individual plot threads where we get to the standard issue of lack of characters.

    Tenner Orgy was overall okay, it wasn’t perfect, but it didn’t drag. But since the plot wasn’t entirely carried by one actor (and no matter how good Melinda is, she couldn’t carry that plot on her own). Part of the point was that Alli was on her own, but it also meant the only real interaction was a boy we didn’t know and definitely didn’t care about. The big hope spot in the plot? Jenna/Conner drama. But that also was a plot that fully used two more actors to their best.

    Other than Alli’s plot, overall the summer plots were balanced in cast use, and so they all avoided the College Kids curse. Adam’s plot having Dallas, Drew, and Immy. Clare’s plot had Eli, Adam, and cameos from Drew and Immy to help hold it up. I don’t think the summer block would have worked if it was much longer, because to make scenes flow smoothly they had to cheat a little to get interactions (Alli with the Grade 10s, Maya sharing a room with Jenna and Alli so they could have her in one scene.)

    Unfortunately, at the same time, an 8 episode block feels ESPECIALLY lackluster when you compare it to the 20-24 episode monster blocks we usually get for the summer. So we’re used to a lot more of EVERYTHING by this point in the story. Since in as many weeks last summer we had Clare go through a full sexual harrassment plot, Cam threw himself off a balcony, Imogen’s dog died and her dad lost his mind, and the homophobia from all the Romeo and Jules plots.

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  4. Paris wasn’t good. I thought the sets and everything looked good given they weren’t really in Paris but Alli’s storyline was a dud from beginning to end. Connor/Jenna were able to make it watchable from time to time but the whole time I was thinking I’d rather be seeing Connor/Jenna in their own storyline. When it came to Maya/Tristan their plots varied in quality but after 7 straight episodes of them I was glad we got a break from them in Young Forever.

    Degrassi Day Camp was better but I still hope they don’t stretch summer vacation out for 8 episodes in future seasons. Like you said the show works best at the school. I wouldn’t mind seeing one hour specials focusing on summer vacation though.

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  5. I agree!!! Hoping the fall season will be MUCH better:(

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  6. I have all degrassi seasons on DVD and just seems lately they have toned it down! C’mon guys!

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  7. If people are hoping that Winston gets a good storyline, I wouldn’t hold my breath. We all know how this show treats its male nerdy characters. The ones with tons of potential (Toby, Connor) don’t get the screentime they deserve and the lovable, easy to relate to ones (Wesley) fare even worse.

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  8. I hope the fall season is better. I really like Maya and Miles. The Adam storyline was so sad. I just started watching the series. I really like the show.

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  9. I hope they do follow the emotional continuity with Drew, Becky, Clare and Imogen in regards to Adam. I want to see each of them how these four cope, to help each other and for some to move on… Im not mentioning Eli because he might not in this part of S13.

    As for Zoe, I think fans forget she is an child actress and I bet she really doesn’t know how to act act around ‘normal people’ non actors. So this may turn a lot of people off.

    I really hope Alli doesn’t fall into that batter women syndrome. That is a very dark place I hear.

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  10. Degrassi 13A Review
    When it comes to the summer block I will say this: Degrassi needs to step up their game for the rest of the season. By this I mean that they need to have more consistent quality towards the plots which was done well in Season 12. Compared to Showdown, Degrassi 13A is not even on the same level due to how inconsistent it was. To me Degrassi Season 13 so far is turning out to be like LOST’s third season in which it is getting off to a sloppy start. Here is the breakdown of what I thought was good and BAD throughout Degrassi 13A:

    The Good
    Clare’s cancer storyline – When I saw the Season 12 season finale, I had a feeling that this storyline would bring out the best in Clare’s character and fortunately it did. In one of the reviews, Kary mentioned how easily engaged one is when watching Clare’s cancer storyline and I absolutely agree. It wasted no time developing with Clare going through the fear of having cancer first. In addition, the storyline featured some of the best moments of Season 13 thus far, such as Clare finding out, her MRI scan, Paula’s sudden death, and of course the phone call Clare made to Eli at the end of Summertime. When the writers and Aislinn said that they did their research and prepared for this plot, I believe them because it is obvious when watching those first three episodes. Even though the storyline was short, the writers still made the most of Clare going through cancer and in Forever Young, brilliantly tying it in with Adam’s death. Also, it goes without saying that Aislinn Paul once again shined as an actress throughout this plot. Even if her cancer may not be touched on again in the future, I still have to praise the writers for giving Clare’s character such quality material to work with.

    Young Forever – As controversial and frustrating Adam’s death was to the Degrassi fandom, I admit the scene when Drew found out about it was heartbreaking. That same reaction continued onto the followup episode, Forever Young. The fact that the Degrassi writers executed the plot with such brilliance and simplicity towards the celebration of Adam’s character made this episode one for the ages. It not only is the best episode of Degrassi Season 13 so far but it also surpasses the followup episode of J.T.’s death, The Bitterest Pill, and Rock This Town to an extent. The reasons being that the reactions from everyone were more natural and gut-wrenching. As I’ve said before, everything about this episode was self-explanatory in terms of acting, writing, and directing.

    Miles Hollingsworth – Clearly the best new character of Degrassi, Miles always adds something interesting to the table. His presence manages to steal the show whenever he is in a plot that isn’t focused on him. A perfect example of this is the season premiere where we got to see that he is not a one-dimensional character and that he was the bright spot in Maya’s dud of a plot. While I’m really not into the writers trying to pair him up with Maya, I am interested to see how much fuel it added to the fire that it is Maya and Zoe’s rivalry. Nonetheless, Miles has shown me during his appearances that he can able to handle his own if given a plot which is a good thing considering there’s a potential abuse plot on the horizon.

    The BAD
    Paris plot – I, for one, was not impressed with the plot of some Degrassi students spending their summer in Paris. Whether it was the faux Paris backdrop set up by Epitome, the filler drama, or the contrived thought of students roaming free in the streets whenever it was necessary, the plot was nothing more than a forgettable piece in the summer block and the Degrassi series as well. To sum it all up, let’s just say that the plots that DIDN’T take place in Paris were far more engaging.

    Maya and Tristan acting OOC – I know this happened during two episodes, Summertime and About A Girl, but the way that the writers wrote Maya’s and Tristan’s characters in those specific episodes was cringe-inducing. That’s mostly why Season 13 has started off bumpy because the writers clearly did not have a handle on utilizing both of these characters well without being over the top. With Maya they writers kept going back and forth with her character to the point where I just didn’t care at all what she was going through. Which is a shame considering that happened during the BEGINNING of the season. For Tristan, they made him all of the sudden cast Maya aside for Zoe and then the most ridiculous being that he ends his friendship with Maya over the conflict with Miles. I understand that trying to fill up space in a plot, or subplot, can be hard sometimes but at least make it watchable instead of making us doubt the character’s actions.

    Alli/Leo – After viewing the bottom of the barrel piece that was Season 8, I’d thought there wouldn’t be another couple as worse as Peter/Mia…I was wrong. The fact that this couple sucked is putting it lightly; they had no chemistry, no likability, and no reason to watch them whatsoever. This of course was magnified when the couple was featured in four consecutive episodes…talk about fast-forwarding. I understand the writers were trying to make Alli be more “mature”, which I laugh at now considering she was about to have sex with him in “Honey”, but that only can happen if we care about the couple that she wants to take it slow with. Even Leo’s sudden abuse seemed off like the writers were running out of ideas on how to use this couple. It’s not surprising to me that they wasted Alli’s character during this block considering the fact that Sav received the same treatment in Season 11. Even though the plot had a bright spot, Jenna/Connor, and was subtly well-referenced in Young Forever, it still doesn’t undo the damage done by the worst plot of Season 13.

    Character Promos – Awful, just awful. I had a feeling this summer block would be a bit of a letdown and these promos made sure of that. Some of the promos, like Adam’s in particular, portrayed the characters in a crappy and sugarcoated way. It’s alright if you’re giving a preview of what’s to come with said character but for goodness sake, can you tone down the glamorization just a bit? If there ever is a prime example of why TeenNick should not promote this show, look no further than here…and Drew’s from Season 11.5

    New Opening/Logo – Just to briefly touch upon this, the new opening and logo to me is too soap opera-ish and glamorized for me to take seriously. Hasn’t Degrassi learned from their lackluster Seasons 6/7 opening? Even though the boring theme song is shortened, it still doesn’t make up for the lack of creativity that the Degrassi production team has towards this which baffles me considering how much l liked last season’s improved opening credits.

    Final Thoughts – In general, the first block of Season 13 was mediocre at most and I only hope that the fall block manages to get things back on track for Degrassi. Grade: C

    Speaking of the fall block, here are some things that have me interested for the rest of Season 13:

    Zig – Though I thank the writers for not letting Zig be entangled with the mess of the summer block, I have a feeling that they will make up for it this fall. With Stefan’s tweet and that very first shot of Zig in the Degrassi 13B promo, I’m excited to see where his character goes when Degrassi starts off the new year.

    Drew dealing with the aftermath of Adam’s death – Losing a sibling is hard and I hope that the Degrassi writers show that when Drew goes back to school. More interesting is how Clare will be put into the equation considering her reaction to Adam’s death in the summer block finale.

    More Miles/Winston- Though they may not have the same “bromance” quality of JT/Toby or Mo/Jake, I’d like to see the writers give Miles and Winston a chance to shine as characters through their friendship, interacting with each other, etc. With Winston having some knowledge about how Miles’ father treats his best friend, we might get another look at a genuine friendship between two guys on Degrassi.

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    1. I agree Matthew, Clare’s storyline was the anchor that the summer block. Although it was short, Aislinn’s acting and the writing were fairly spot on and they did a very smart thing by having her emphasize that it was in remission, which means she may have to deal with it again later on. This could really set her up for more gut-wrenching scenes later on.

      Paris just seemed off to me, its too bad that they couldn’t have had something going on for the Tenners back in Toronto. Perhaps something that could have tied into the Day Camp that Drew and the other seniors were running might have made things better. Like Rakath said, I thought it was smart to keep groups of characters together to keep them interactive. Unfortunately, a lot of it just didn’t seem to mesh in the Paris story arc.

      I look forward to Zig’s return and how Drew deals with the aftermath of the summer block. Those two wild cards alone should certainly spice things up and make viewing the B Block FAR more interesting. If I’m not mistaken, they have another new character coming this fall too. It seems weird that by now, we’ve met the whole Degrassi cast for any usual season, so this approach makes me up in the air about how all the pieces will fall into place, for better or worse.

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  11. I don’t know what this says about me, but I actually found the Paris plot more interesting than Clare’s cancer.

    I knew how I was supposed to feel during her plot. Scarred. Worried. Concerned about her safety. But in all actuality I was bored and part of me half hoped that it would get worse after being around all those little kids because that would have made it more interesting. I just didn’t feel the emotions I knew they were trying to convey so it made it weak in my opinion.

    Now, the only reason I liked Paris better than Clare’s plot was because of
    A) Conner
    and
    B) Winston

    While both only had small scenes, when they were present, I really enjoyed them. I felt like Conner had more personality in those few scenes than he has had the past seasons.

    As for Winston, I find him interesting, and want to learn more about him. Just by the way he dresses he had 10x more personality than Zoe and Miles combined, and I would love to see that personality shine.

    As for Adam, I’m sad he died. He was my fav character, and there was so much more they could have done with him. But when an actor wants to leave the show, there is not much they can do. I will say one thing though about the texting and driving. While it was odd another car was in a forest that late and night and all, at least they handled the topic better than Glee did. But that is still not saying much.

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