Friday, October 14, 2005

Book Review: Degrassi Generations

Degrassi Generations, the new book about Degrassi by Kathryn Ellis, comes as the franchise celebrates its 25th anniversary. Featuring an introduction by longtime Degrassi fan Kevin Smith, this book will please fans of Degrassi: The Next Generation a lot more than those who grew up on the Degrassi shows of the 1980's and it will leave you wanting more.

The book gives you a lot of information about how Degrassi came to be. I was certainly surprised when I read that the first episode of what would become The Kids Of Degrassi Street (the very first Degrassi show) was based on a children's book by Kay Chorao entitled Ida Makes A Movie. It was also news to me that the Degrassi Junior High and Degrassi High shows drew from a repertory company. For those who are unfamiliar with television production, there are sections about writing a script, what an actor goes through in a day on the set of both Degrassi Classic and Degrassi: The Next Generation, the shows' set design, and a complete walkthrough of making an episode of the current Degrassi show. There are also sections about the Degrassi world including the fictional pop culture, the show's music, and the real locations where the original Degrassi shows were shot.

However, as I read through Degrassi Generations, I wished there was more content about the classic Degrassi shows. While over 50 pages is devoted to profiles of the cast of Degrassi: The Next Generation (including 2-page spreads for most of the cast), the cast of the previous Degrassi shows get only short blurbs. In the case of The Kids Of Degrassi Street, only their names are listed. If the actors did not end up on Degrassi Junior High or Degrassi High, there is no information about them at all.

Also, some subjects are glossed over a bit. Given that Degrassi's claim to fame is the fact that it tackles tough subjects realistically, it's kind of surprising to see that aspect limited to one of the shortest chapters in the book. Although there are short messages from fans of the show telling how it affected them, I would have liked to have seen more of them. Also, I would have liked to have seen reactions from parents and teachers to both the classic and current versions of the show as well as more about the controversies the show caused. While it is mentioned that the two-part episode "Accidents Will Happen" from Degrassi: The Next Generation wasn't aired in some countries, the author completely forgets to mention that it has never aired in the United States. The N, the American channel that is a partner in Degrassi: The Next Generation, only aired "mini-episodes" that omitted the abortion content.

Overall, Degrassi Generations has a lot of information about the Degrassi phenomenon from interviews with the creators to tons of photos and interesting facts. However, Degrassi Classic fans and those expecting the definitive guide to Degrassi will be disappointed. This book is written more for Degrassi's younger fans than its older ones. For all the content contained in Degrassi Generations, there is so much more that is missing. The Degrassi shows from the 1980's until now have touched people all over the globe. They have captured the struggles of growing up more realistically than most television shows. Degrassi Generations is a good start and I hope that once Degrassi: The Next Generation ends its run, we can get an updated and expanded version of this book that is closer to being the ultimate guide to everything Degrassi.

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