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Johnny Reviews the Degrassi Book

When Billie told me we had been asked to review a Degrassi book I immediately assumed that it was going to be a novelized version of the show, like those Full House books that tell tantalizing stories about Stephanie's wild adventures, and later about Michelle. D.J. didn't get any books because she was never cute and spunky. There was a series of books about Uncle Jesse, but these are illegal to buy in America because of those damn obscenity laws. Instead what we get is a guidebook that gives detailed information about all the Degrassi series. I'm talking Degrassi Street, Degrassi Middle School, Degrassi High, Degrassi: The Next Generation, and probably some other Degrassi shows. This is fine and dandy I suppose for people who liked all those shows, but personally I don't care about them. I am intrigued by Degrassi Street since it was made in the early 80s but is in black and white, and there's an episode called "Martin Meets the Pirates" which is about a street gang and if the picture is any indication features a kid in a sweet Blizzard of Ozz shirt.

But I'm getting ahead of myself, let's take this back to the beginning. The first thing you see upon opening the book (assuming you are one of those people who read these kind of books from the beginning to end) is the preface. Well actually there is a table of contents before that, but then there is a preface. This was written by some person who has been working on the show since the beginning. Chances are you won't bother reading this until you have already read all the interesting stuff. Then there is an introduction by Kevin Smith. He mostly talks about how much he has masturbated to Caitlin Ryan over the years.

At this point they start the actual content. The first chapter gives an extensive history about the Degrassi franchise. This is a good design move. You can't have a book about Degrassi without telling the history of Degrassi and by putting it in the beginning they get it out of the way. I like this one segment, it depicts a day in the life of one person on the Degrassi set. They wanted the normal day so they use Miriam McDonald, not Shane Kippel. If they had used Shane, there would have been less time devoted to him playing pool and more about him partying in his trailer with Canada's most attractive celebrities. For comparison they also feature a day in the life on the old Degrassi set. I don't want to give away to much but Pat Mastroianni does regret not bringing extra underpants.

After this section there is a bunch of stuff about writing for the show and how to do it. This is good stuff if you ever want to write for Degrassi, but chances are if you are learning out how to write from this book then you aren't going to write professionally anytime in the near future. Although it is nice to see the formula.

The next chapter is the meat of the book. Here we have a bio of all the major characters from Degrassi Junior High on. Thankfully all the old people only have small blurbs, while the characters that we actually care about have a lot more. Major characters have two pages, while second tier characters are four to a page. This makes sense because how much would any of us want to read about Angela anyway? The best part of this section is that Chris was put on the last page. That guy use to be a regular, now he's behind Kendra on the Degrassi hierarchy. I guess that's what you get for not being able to talk. This section is rounded out by the teachers who aren't returners from Degrassi High and guest stars. Nobody cares about the teachers, but the guest star part is cool.

Chapter four goes into the technical aspects of the show. To be perfectly honest I didn't read this part of the book. I'm sure there are literally a dozen people interested in lighting and sound, but I am not one of them. I did get pumped for this part which describes how to make pilgrimage to Degrassi. Unfortunately it turns out the Next Generation is shot on a sound stage. Damn it, now it looks like the only way I'll be able to hang out in Sean's house is if I break into a studio, and then into his fake apartment. In the part about designing bed rooms they chose to discuss several from the old Degrassi, but only Emma's from modern day Degrassi. This pissed me off because I was hoping they would explain why Toby has a pie in his bedroom in that one episode.

Hair and make up are next. There is a nice feature showing all of Caitlin's hair styles from Degrassi street all the way to the present. Let me tell you, she has had some shitty hair doos. This is followed by a three pages on the music, of course some of the space is devoted to old Degrassi, as if anybody cares about that, but when we get to normal Degrassi its all gold. Did you know that Downtown Sasquatch is casually known as The Squatch? I do, all thanks to this book. The next two pages are dedicated to made up music and movies of the Degrassi world, and is totally sweet. In one episode of old Degrassi two characters conspire to watch a porno called Swamp Sex Robots. I'm aroused just hearing about this movie. It's got to be even better the Escape from the Castle. As far as non pornos go the best title has got to be Troubles with my Uncle. If that thing isn't about molestation I'll eat my hat.

Issues, chapter five kicks off by talking about the issues covered in Degrassi. Turns out condoms are an issue, who knew? The condoms section has a sweet picture of Craig holding at lest twenty condoms. That'll hold him for at least a week. This part loses points for kicking off the chapter with a big picture of homos Marco and Dylan kissing, that's gross, and I don't want to see it. I'm not being homophobic, men are gross and so are pictures of them kissing.

The next part talks about the publicity tours. From what they say the tours are fun times. If the descriptions given in the book are any indication the Degrassi cast gets a reception on par with the Beatles. One time they visited Yellowknife in the Northwest Territories and got to ride in a dog sled, not for fun, it was actually the only the way into Yellowknife, that's Canada folks! There is a part with quotes from mail fans have sent to the series, but I'm not going to talk about it because none of it is as awesome/bizarre as the stuff you guys send us. I'm also not going to talk about the part that discusses The Degrassi website because they don't talk about Boycott the Caf and we are the most popular Degrassi website ever.*

*This may not be true.

The next chapter is dedicated to PARTYING DOWN. It tells us to throw a Degrassi Party. This is a bad move for Degrassi, if everybody is watching on one TV that means they aren't watching on separate TVs and this is going to mean lower overall ratings. Bad thinking there Degrassi people.

They also list all the awards Degrassi has received. This is basically Degrassi bragging how better they are then other shows. Yeah yeah you guys won a bunch of awards, that make you feel good or something. Well I hope you're happy; all that boasting just made O'Grady cry.

Rounding it all out is the episode guide, starting with Degrassi Street and going all the way to the end of the fourth season of The Next Generation. The episode descriptions are really too short to tell you much. It is the most bare bones description possible, but it gets the job done. This part makes me want to watch Degrassi Street even more then I did before. The descriptions are short enough to make me think that the show is completely fucked up but has absolutely no closure. Take the first episode "Ida Makes a Movie". The description reads:

Ida's movie is chosen for an award, but for the wrong reasons!
Should she tell the judges or not?

How the hell does a movie get chosen for an award for the wrong reasons? I suppose she could have made a serious movie and the judges assumed it was a parody, but it doesn't seem like it would be very funny if they aren't trying. The Wizard is funny but not as funny as Blazing Saddles.

Final Evaluation

This book is a mixed bag. Some parts are good, and others are lame. There is way too much about old Degrassi, and concerning the making of the show. I would like it if there was more about the storylines. It's kind of interesting reading about what goes into the filming, but I want to know more about the actual show. This was an opportunity to go into detail the pasts of characters. What exactly brought Sean to Toronto? What was Craig doing before he began taking creepy pictures of Angela?. Where has Mrs. Kwan been these last several years? These questions could have been answered if the author wasn't spending all her time explaining how the guy who does the music chooses what to play.

Should you get this? It's kind of hard to say. I enjoyed it enough but I also got it for free. The retail price is $15.95 according to the back of the book. If it were cheaper I would be more apt to recommend it, but nearly 16 dollars seems a bit much. If you see it for sale or something then it could be a fun read. At its retail price however, I can't suggest this book. I was going to suggest you ask for it for Christmas but I sort of put off writing this for too long. So ask for it for Easter I guess. People give Easter presents don't they? My family does but that could be because my dad is involved with the mob, and we are flowing in cash.

by Johnny Dangerous