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Monthly Archives: April 2011

Last Friday’s Degrassi season finale was hyped to be the most shocking episode yet – but the only thing shocking was how little happened.

I mean, the show is only like 20 minutes long without the Zeno Hot Spot and Gigantic commercials, but I was expecting more.

Fiona tells Anya about her secret crush on Holly J…

Anya is able to keep the secret to herself for 5 minutes and then spills the beans to Holly J., days before the big dance. I smell drama…

They used this sex-ay promo shot a lot but all Holly J. did was act awkward for one scene until the pair got over it and resolved to just stay BFFs, totally! Moving on…

As for the A plot:

Eli does spooky things that bug Clare, like “accidentally” bring a hunting rifle to school. Ooh, I smell drama!

 The big climax involves Eli busting up his car and Clare deciding to dump him and go to a school dance (which is so exciting it mostly happens off screen).

This is it, guys?

I’m hoping there will be much more debauchery in store for this summer’s episodes.

And I’m sensing Bianca will be the one to bring it.

Bring the trashiness, Bianca. I know you can.

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Hating on Eli and Clare, the overexposed Degrassi couple du jour, has become essentially a national pastime. And it’s pretty understandable – Eli is a spooky and pretentious emo kid who drives a hearse and Claire is a goody-goody teacher’s pet who belongs to the Math Club. Eli’s haircut alone is enough to raise your blood pressure.

It’s like Justin Bieber robbed a Hot Topic. In 1991.

But once again the blame lies with the creators and producers —  who are either a) trapped in a product placement contract with a mid-level department store or b) just totally clueless about how young people look and act. Check out what they think 15 year old Clare would wear to school:

Why, this outfit will be perfect… for the Junior Accountant Awards Luncheon!

Even despite Eli and Clare’s obvious faults, I maintain that Eli and Clare are the Degrassi couple you “LOVE to hate,” much more than they are the Degrassi couple you just plain “hate.”

When you really think about it, aren’t they MUCH more fun than watching Marco spend an entire season on the phone with his long-distance boyfriend?

Dylan, Marco’s boyfriend, circa season 7.

Actually, the actor playing Dylan left the show for a real acting career, but since this is a show for children it was ok to frame it as, “uh, yeah, Dylan’s just like…off screen. Yeah.”

Still not convinced?

How about Craig? The 38-year-old screenwriters for season 1-7 had such unwavering moistness for this BORING character that we had to endure a veritable sample space (look it up) of Craig couplings.

Craig and Manny, Craig and Ashley, Craig and Ellie…each one more boring than the last.So now you see why you should give Eli and Clare (or EClare, as the Internet calls them) a shot. In last week’s tension filled episode, Clare announced that she needs some space from Eli’s creepiness and would not accompany him to the Gothic Lit Convention.

It should be noted that, like pretty much everything in Degrassi, Gothic Lit Convention is code for “doin’ it because our parents are away.”

“Dammit, I was sure we were going to do it in my hearse.”

This week’s conclusion will reveal whether or not this turn of events pushes Eli over the edge. I’ll make the popcorn!

Last night, Mr. Max cut his evening nap short and I booked around the kitchen whipping up dinner at lightning speed.

Why? So we could catch the premier of Committed, of course!  No, seriously.

Here’s a rundown of the action: Andrea Roth – who, in the grand tradition of Lifetime heroines, bears a striking resemblance to Heather Locklear – stars as Celeste DuPont, a Sassy Psychiatrist looking to make a big lifestyle change. Celeste has just accepted a live-in staff position at the Milburn Institute, a psychiatric facility that looks more like a Sturbridge village B&B than a holding facility for the criminally insane.

It looks pretty much exactly like this, but with a big electric fence.

The facility is run by Dr. Quilley, a clinician whose unconventional method of therapy involves allowing the patients (or “guests,” as he quaintly calls them) to stew in their own delusions as long as they stay safely out of society. This contrasts with Dr. Desmond Moore, the #2 clinician on staff, who believes that the criminally insane can be cured – and that he’s just the man to do it.

He’s supposed to be the love interest, I guess.

But, as it turns out, Celeste isn’t just the newest clinician on staff — she’s also a patient! Drs Quilley and Desmond inform her that due to the trauma of her husband’s death, she cannot remember committing herself.

When Celeste’s clothing turns up mysteriously slashed, the other clinicians ignore her protestations and engage in a roundtable debate over the meaning of it all.

“Punishment,” says one psychiatrist. “Destruction of the old self!” pipes another. “It’s like a return to the womb, because to be not born is not to be…”

In short, it’s basically the worst punishment a psychiatrist could be faced with: Psychiatry.

Well played, Lifetime. Well played.

From then on it’s a series of misdirected plot twists and turns: Celeste is cray cray! Celeste is not cray cray! Dr. Desmond can save her! Dr. Desmond is evil! An hour or so later we finally get to the film’s (unsurprising) surprise reveal: the current “staff” are, in fact, patients who have killed the real psychiatrists. Celeste escapes (thanks to the help of one of the “good” criminally insane patients) and watches as the cops wheel crazy Dr. Desmond away.

Overall Verdict: Kind of rips off Shutter Island, which is not exactly Grade A material to begin with.  To be fair, Andrea Roth does manage to pull off a scene where she carjacks a chubby delivery truck driver in an escape attempt. You have to give props for that.

Boredom rating: I’d say 2 hotels.  Probably good to watch while folding laundry, but definitely not worth rushing to get dinner done or foregoing an afternoon nap.

Last week, I realized that I have been watching Degrassi for ten years.

Ten.

Years.

You may be asking yourself, “Degrassi — but isn’t that a soap opera for like, 11 year olds?”

Well… basically. But it’s still awesome.

Degrassi is a teen drama starring an ensemble cast of young ‘uns at the fictional Degrassi Community School in Canada. Pretty much every episode is of the “after-school” variety, replete with underage drinking, drug abuse, school shootings, etc. Every few years the kids age out, or get jobs on American shows, and they have to replace them with a new crop.

The current series actually owes its concept to Degrassi Junior High, a teen drama broadcast on Canadian TV way back in 1987. Some of the actors from the original Degrassi Junior High (later Degrassi High) even crop up as teachers or parents on the current Degrassi.

As you might expect from a more than 20-year-old franchise, they sort of struggle to stay current. In addition to edgy plot points (Abortion! Ecstasy! Hoarding!), the scriptwriters frequently resort to piggybacking on other teen entertainment trends. When the Twilight films came out, a character on Degrassi began writing a romance story about (surprise!) vampires. When everyone was abuzz over Friday Night Lights, the previously ignored Degrassi football team suddenly started getting serious screen time. When Gossip Girl was all over Teen People, a brother-sister pair of wealthy socialites enrolled at Degrassi.

XOXO, Gossip Girl (of Toronto).

But the best reason to watch Degrassi is to revel in the anachronistic plots—which are OBVIOUSLY written by 38+ year old screenwriters. In the Degrassi universe, throngs of just-pubesced teenagers hang out at mid-priced cafes drinking coffee and couples in tenth grade solemnly discuss the state of their “relationship.” The fact that everyone on Degrassi has an obsession with cheerleaders – who’s on the cheerleading squad, who isn’t, will the squad get to regionals?!?  — is also the telltale mark of an over-30 screenwriter, because no one under 30 cares about cheerleading in a non-ironic way.

High school parties on Degrassi also  bear a striking resemblance to soirees thrown by suburban publicists.

Whatever happened to beer in a basement?

I KNOW there must be other people over the age of 20 who watch Degrassi, so I’ll be adding episode reviews to my (attempted) blog repertoire. Here’s a sneak peek of this Friday’s episode.

A Face To Die For, filmed in 1996, stars Yasmine Bleeth as Emily Gilmore (LOL), a woman with facial scarring who embarks on an odyssey of self-actualization and, eventually, revenge.

Actually, that’s an oversimplification, because this isn’t just one movie – it’s actually seven separate short films. I will attempt to review them all, in order of appearance.

Film #1: A Cautionary Tale Involving a Naïve, Sheltered Woman

Emily Gilmore is a shy woman lacking confidence due to facial scarring from a childhood accident.

You can tell she’s shy because her hair is in face all the time. Aspiring filmmakers take note: it’s called subtle characterization.

Emily doesn’t just live in the shadow of a set designer’s mood lighting, she also lives in the shadow of her prettier, more confident sister.

So when a mysterious man shows interest in her, she falls into an intense love affair, including the obligatory Lifetime soft-focus sex scene.

Their romance is short-lived, because boyfriend turns out to be EVIL, and cons Emily into participating in a  clumsy robbery to cover his gambling debts. They attempt to steal cash from the antique store Emily works at, and Emily gets caught. Boyfriend gets away.

Message: Be suspicious of guys that act like they’re really into you. They’re probably just trying to rob the place where you work.

Film #2: Women’s Prison Movie

Emily takes the fall for the crime, and goes to prison. She stares winsomely through the prison’s chain link fence, pines for boyfriend, and develops a fast friendship with Sassy Cell Mate, played by Robin Givens.

Robin protects Emily from the prison meanies and gets her to think twice about getting back with boyfriend.

Message: Girl power?

Film #3: Pygmalion

Emily meets a prison doctor who takes a keen interest in her scars, and asks her if he could try to fix them. Emily decides to go through with Dr. Creepy’s experimental surgery.

To prepare her for surgery, Dr. Creepy takes Emily to his colonial estate and gives her a tasteful, non-dumpy wardrobe.

Just your standard hospital stay, right?

The surgery is a success, and Emily and Sassy Cell Mate are out of prison and ready to start their lives over. The now-beautiful Emily accepts Dr. Creepy’s marriage proposal.

Things are looking up – until…

It’s revealed, via this tasteful portrait, that Dr. Creepy has sculpted Emily’s face after the deceased former Mrs. Creepy.

Production note: I guess the props department only had the budget to decoupage a Yasmine Bleeth Maxim spread, color the background with some nontoxic glow-in-the-dark paint, and slap it behind a frame they found in a hotel lobby.

Message: Creepy men with ulterior motives may be hiding something.

Film  #4: Wish Fulfillment Fantasy

Emily runs off.  Sassy Cell Mate has plenty of money courtesy of her former employer, and the two go into the fashion business together. Emily is an instant success, winning a prestigious fashion award only months  into her new career.

Life is good.

Message: It’s fun to be hot, have a great career, and throw it in everyone’s faces.

Film #5: Revenge Wish Fulfillment Fantasy

Emily’s ex-boyfriend shows up and – get this – doesn’t recognize her! In fact, simply by wearing less dumpy clothing, pushing her hair out of her eyes, and standing in brighter lighting Emily is utterly unrecognizable to former friends and family.

After learning that loser ex-boyfriend is now shacking up with her sister, Emily decides to hatch an elaborate revenge plan.

Message: Revenge is a dish best served with really big hair.

Film #6: Somewhat Confusing Revenge Movie

Emily begins a relationship with ex-boyfriend, who still doesn’t know who she is. Now ex-boyfriend’s wife is pissed…and that wife is Emily’s sister, who still doesn’t recognize her.

The whole thing begins to interfere with Emily’s new life, including her blossoming relationship with New Guy, an acquaintance from the old days who also doesn’t recognize her.

I guess he doesn’t look like the brightest bulb, but still.

The whole thing ends in a sloppy brawl between Emily, sister and the ex-boyfriend.

See? Pretty sloppy. Oh yeah, and ex-boyfriend is kind of accidentally killed in the mayhem.

Message: Revenge can end up hurting people who were basically bad to begin with.

Film #7: Happy Ending?

Emily and sister escape from the crime scene and seem to be off the hook for the death of ex-boyfriend. Emily gets in the car with New Guy to get away for the weekend. As they drive away, Emily says, “Before we go, there’s something  I should tell you.”

Hmm, that the cops may be asking some questions because you know, you were kind of involved in a murder back there?

New Guy replies with a warm smile. “Whatever it is I’m sure I already know.”

Emily smiles and sighs contentedly.

Message: Murder is not that bad if the circumstances are confusing. Happy endings are ALWAYS possible. Also,  Yasmine Bleeth is not the same person as Tiffani Amber Thiessen.