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Like most women in their late twenties, I spend my Friday nights watching a soap opera for 11-year-olds.

Ironically, I tell you. Ironically.

Last week I finally caught up on all the Degrassi: Showdown episodes. I know what you’re thinking: “What on earth is Degrassi: Showdown??”

I’ll explain: TeenNick does this thing where they give a “name” to, like, 6 or 7 sequential episodes and pretend it’s some kind of exciting mini-series. The tagline for Degrassi: Showdown (really, there’s a tagline) is “Whose side are you on?” and the whole “theme” is that characters disagree with each other. TeenNick, are you actually trying to insinuate that CONFLICT BETWEEN CHARACTERS is a unique dramatic motif?


Did I mention there’s a music video trailer (with production values that in no way resemble the actual show)?

Underneath the fancy marketing, it’s still the same old low-budget Degrassi. Returning (and rapidly aging) characters include Fiona, who’s having an awkward romance with the even-more-awkward Imogen; Drew, who’s finally split up with prissy Katie (to reunite with sexay Bianca); and fan fave creepy couple Clare and Eli, who are also back together (but mostly offscreen).

Season 12 also brings us a bumper crop of new young’uns, including Maya, Tori, and Insecure Hockey Guy (I didn’t catch his name).

Comparing the incoming and outgoing cast got me thinking: why is it that Degrassi characters seem to grow blander over time?  It reminds me of a phenomenon from the world of statistics: regression to the mean (RTM). The basic concept behind RTM is that things have a tendency to average out over time. (Yes, that’s a gross oversimplification. This is a blog about TV and pizza. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves.)

Degrassi Personality Regression To The Mean (DPRTM): Description and Case Studies

When characters on Degrassi are first introduced, they typically dress and act somewhere between quirky/weird (Imogen) and batshit insane (Eli). After a few seasons they regress to bland everyteen protagonists who just want to go to the prom or work at a newspaper. Sometimes they briefly return to their former personality, usually as part of a story arc for one of those godawful straight-to-TV “Degrassi Travels Somewhere” movies. But generally they settle back to “average.”

Eli

Early Seasons: Weird. Intense. Kind of scary. Drives a hearse and occasionally smashes it on purpose. Serious issues with revenge and self-control. Creative but also nuts. Clothing = Hot Topic Halloween Costume.

Now: Basically an average guy. Kind of polite. Spends most of his scenes leaving or arriving. Dresses like a JCPenny catalog model (but with dark colors).

Claire

Early Seasons: Wears a catholic school uniform for no reason. Repressed. Writes erotic vampire lit.

Now: Wears business casual outfits to her internship at the newspaper.

Ellie


Early Seasons: Goth punk with crazy wardrobe. Sassy. Alcoholic mom. Cutter.

Later Seasons: Has boring job at college newspaper with boring boyfriend (what is it with Degrassi and newspapers?). Wardrobe = J. Crew catalog.

Holly J.


Early Seasons: Megabitch supervillian. Backstabs basically every character. Rage issues.


Later Seasons: Eh, she’s really a nice girl underneath it all. Has a series of low-intensity relationships with weird boys. Finds out she was adopted and takes it pretty well, all things considered.

Fiona

Early Seasons: Super-wealthy but unstable. Passionately kisses her own brother during a fancy party out of spite/jealousy. Buys a potbelly pig. Hates Holly J. and plots her destruction. Alcoholic.


Now: Has a stable relationship with a girlfriend who started out weird but is now getting more normal (RTM!). Becomes BFF of former enemy Holly J.

And those aren’t the only examples. How about Emma transitioning from eco-freak activist to ordinary college girl? Or Johnny going from murder accomplice to Ali’s sarcastic boyfriend?

All in all, it’s a pretty solid theory. Any chance of getting it published? Conference proceedings, maybe? No?

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The unholy mix of orange leaves and heavy snow from the recent freak October snowstorm brought plenty of chaos to our neighborhood: downed power lines, trees bent over like soggy french fries, and cars bumper-to-bumper at the gas station. It was the kind of experience makes you go all apocalyptic and start Googling what, exactly, your body needs to survive.

Beans and rice and Vitamin C, mostly, in case you were wondering.

Even our workplaces lost power for several days, which meant a whole bunch of days spent at home. We didn’t dare venture out far into the destruction and our house was among the few that had heat and power all the way through. This meant:

1) Cat pukes got cleaned up throughout the day instead of en masse in the evening.
2) Becoming really really accustomed to the sound of wood chippers.
3) Catchin’ up on TV.

And by TV, I actually mean Netflix. We’re kind of on the cheap/lazy side when it comes to home technology stuff, so we never bothered to get a splitter to easily go from digital cable to the Wii. Therefore we tend to leave the Wii plugged in all the time and just watch stuff on Netflix, instead of fiddling with the plugs.

The funny thing about Netflix is that it tends to have a brainy-ifying effect on one’s entertainment habits. Critically acclaimed dramas, documentaries, and British comedies that feature complex sentence structures – all are comfortably at home in the Netflix queue. Lifetime Movies, Switched at Birth, Dancing with the Stars, and all the other junk I used to watch on TV? Not so much. In my current queue, I’ve got The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, a documentary on the Theremin, and Jeeves and Wooster: The Complete Series. All my queue needs now is a monocle.

I guess it makes sense – passively sitting by while TV does its thing is a lot less of a commitment than adding something to a list. Who out there wants to admit that, yes, I’m carving out some future time in my schedule for Keeping up with the Kardashians? Isn’t it better when it just “happens”?

Yes. It’s more forgivable.

But…I love bad tv. Really I do. So I’ve kind of felt its absence under the reign of Netflix.

At the end of the week, Mr. Max had to return to the post-Snowtober outside world, but I still had one more day at home. I used the morning for laundry and one of my occasional WiiFit workouts, followed by couch/lunch/TV. Netflix kept recommending Skins, a British series, so I figured I’d give it a shot.

Skins follows the exploits of a group of teen scoundrels (and scoundrettes?) in Bristol. It’s an ensemble cast, so there’s a lot of details to keep track of, but the only important thing to know is that EVERY aspect of the show is designed to horrify parents. And by every aspect, I mean that the teenagers in Skins: drink, smoke, peep at neighborhood middle-aged ladies (who peep back), take pills, drive cars over bridges while clumsily reaching for condoms, etc.

Oh, and they seem to accidentally see teachers naked a lot.

It’s pretty trashy, alright, but it’s like Alice Cooper or a GWAR show – anyone offended by it is probably taking it way too seriously. In short, it’s my new favorite bad TV show.

The group of teenagers in Skins is led charismatic but manipulative leader Tony. Tony is basically an a-hole, but everything he does comes off smoother than molasses.

Yes. Even this.

In other words, Tony is a Gary Stu. Like Ferris Bueller and Wesley Crusher before him, Tony is a super-idealized wish-fulfillment fantasy for teenage boys.

Or TV writers who used to be teenage boys.

Tony is usually accompanied by Sid, his best mate and/or greasier shadow. It’s hard not to feel bad for the poor actor playing Sid – in order to emphasize Tony’s coolness, the writers have given Sid a big-time dose of schlubbiness; I’m talking stained sweatshirt, dirty face, a reliance on naked lady magazines…the whole shebang.

Did I mention his continued virginity is a major plot point?

Naturally, Sid is secretly in love with Tony’s girl Michelle. Michelle’s out of his league, so he settles for hanging around Cassie, a loopy blonde with an eating disorder.

Kinda like Luna Lovegood. But with pills.

I’ve only seen two episodes, but I look forward to binge-watching a bunch of episodes in the near future.

Don’t worry…I’ll throw a documentary in there too.

We saw the final Harry Potter movie and it was…well, it could have been better. I’m not one of those judgmental Susies who deride Harry Potter as a gateway to adult readings of Thomas The Tank Engine. Rather,  I liked the books — and enjoyed catching the movies– very much. But the earth just didn’t move for me with this one.

The air conditioning was pretty wicked, though.

To turn lemons into lemonade, I’ve made a few graphics illustrating possible alternatives to the decidedly utilitarian title of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2.”

Spoiler alert for the spoiler averse.

Credit where due: this is Mr. Max’s gag. But I done the photoshoppin’.

Yoda says kill him off or don’t. There is no try.

Was I the only one scarred by this?

It could have been worse; at least it wasn’t slash fanfiction.

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.

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!