No, the Canadian teen soap franchise isn’t exactly SF or fantasy, but Kevin Smith, director of Clerks, Dogma, and other films, and author of many a comic, appears in the next two episodes as himself (Jason Mewes and Alanis Morisette also appear).

I thought this bizarre turn of events would be worth reviewing. Part 2 airs Valentine’s Day.


“Going Down the Road”

Cast and Crew:

Stacey Mistysyn as Caitlyn Ryan
Melissa McIntyre as Ashley Kerwin
Jake Epstein as Craig Manning
Pat Mastroianni as Joey Jeremiah
Kevin Smith as himself
Jason Mewes as himself
Alanis Morissette herself
Miriam McDonald as Emma Nelson
Amanda Stepto as Christine “Spike” Nelson
Sundry Others as Various Brats.

Plot:

Kevin Smith comes to Toronto to film Jay and Silent Bob Go Canadian, Eh?, and decides to shoot on location at a typical Canadian high school– Degrassi. While there, an attraction develops between himself and Caitlyn Ryan, whose now-cancelled American program he used to watch. Her attraction to Smith, and the possibility of her old show resuming, creates tension between herself and Joey Jeremiah. Meanwhile, Joey’s bipolar son goes off his medication after being rebuffed by his girlfriend.

High Point:

Caitlyn gets drunk with Kevin Smith.

Low Point:

“This week we made out. What will happen next week?”
–Kevin Smith

Even for a deliberately cheesey teaser, that was just bad.

The Scores:

Originality: 4/6. Well, this is an interesting turn of events for Degrassi. This episode also leaves the teens largely in the shadows, and focusses on the adult characters. And while other celebrities have guest-starred on other tv shows, few have allowed their personal lives to become so entirely entangled with the plot. Further information appears below.

Effects: 1/6 This isn’t an effects show. The credit sequence features some nice, low-tech visuals, however.

Story: 4/6 The use to which Smith puts Degrassi High, while school is still in session, seems far-fetched.

Acting: 4/6. Pretty good, actually. Mistysyn does exceptionally well in her drunk scene.

Emotional Response: 4/6 Since I don’t watch this incarnation of the show, I couldn’t get into the plot involving Craig’s relationship troubles and bipolar disorder. The bits from Smith’s Jay and Silent Bob movie, meanwhile, riffed on every Canadian cliche– hockey sticks, toques, poutine, “aboots,” and plenty of Mounties. This grew thin after awhile.

Production: 5/6.

Overall: 4/6

In total, “Going Down the Road,” Part 1 receives 26/42

Additional Comments and Background:

The short-lived Kids of Degrassi Street inspired the very successful Degrassi Junior High (1986-1989) and its successor, Degrassi High(1989-1991). Those shows also birthed two tv movies, School’s Out(1991– it ended the original two series) and Reunion(2001– which started the Next Gen), and the current Degrassi: The Next Generation (2001-present). In between, members of the original cast spoke with real teens about issues on Degrassi Talks (1991).

Degrassi could be/can be cheesey, but it has often addressed teen issues in some depth and, unlike most American high school series, it actually uses actors who are the same age as their characters. The current incarnation of the show centers on Emma, whose character was born out of wedlock to original cast member “Spike” when she was fourteen, back on Junior High. The series attracted a diverse fan base– including director Kevin Smith, who has the entire franchise on tape, and who unabashedly admits to having had a longtime crush on Caitlyn– played by Stacie Mistysyn. (Yeah, she was only thirteen when her character first appeared, but Smith would’ve been sixteen, so it’s not quite as bad as it sounds). In the series, the adult Caitlyn grew up and hosted a short-lived cult news program called Ryan’s Planet. In this episode, Smith’s real-life interest in Mistysyn becomes his interest in the fictional journalist Caitlyn Ryan. Mistysyn was always one of Degrassi’s strongest performers, and consequently, received some of the most difficult plots. She was unsettled by erotic dreams about a same-sex teacher at thirteen, and had nightmares over the suicide of her boyfriend at sixteen. At eighteen, she took center stage for School’s Out.

Now she gets to make out with a famous guy who had a teenage sexual fixation on her. Well, it’s work.