There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that Degrassi will outlive us all. Tonight marked the end of the 12th season of the show, bringing the total number of episodes to 317—in addition to “special” episodes and documentaries—without even including the fact that this particular show is the fourth in the Degrassi franchise. This longevity is fascinating but it’s not too surprising. It isn’t an amazing or well-written show (characters often disappear and storylines are dropped, leading us to still wonder whether or not Paige actually contracted HIV) but it’s definitely built to last.
There is often an “issue of the week” formula, especially during the early years, which is preachy and explicit enough to work well in junior high classrooms but also cheesy and hilarious enough to work in college houses (for the entirety of senior year, a white board displaying drinking game rules hung prominently in my living room). This formula is hit or miss; sometimes, Degrassi adeptly tackles subjects like teen abortions or date rape but sometimes they focus episodes about drunk girls bringing pigs to school or creepy Canadian cannabis cults.The show is more bad than good, sure, but that’s never the point. The point seems to be as absurd and entertaining as possible and sometimes, like tonight, it works.
“The Time Of My Life” centers on our current crop of Degrassi High seniors attending prom and graduation as they prepare themselves for the next big step in their lives. For many students, this means fleeing Canada to go to college in the states and for lucky actors, this means fleeing Teen Nick to try their luck on a CW show. The episode is divided into three pairings: the friendship between Jake/Mo and the romantic relationships between Eli/Clare and Imogen/Fiona.
Mo and Jake are the simplest and least consequential. Though both are graduating, they each have different plans, causing Mo to worry about the future of their friendship. It’s a typical storyline about Dude Feelings and the inability of tough high school guys (one plays football, the other … builds things) to express their Dude Feelings to each other. Mo’s girlfriend, Marisol, gets Jake to show up to prom and all is well for about ten minutes until its revealed that she paid Jake to do it. Mo gets hammered (as scorned guys are wont to do at senior prom), pukes on his girlfriend’s shoes (as drunk teen characters are wont to do), and later makes up for it with a flash mob at graduation belting out “The Time Of My Life” (as terrible boyfriends who want to make their girlfriends die of embarrassment are wont to do). Everything is resolved neatly and, with any luck, none of these characters will return next year.
Fiona and Imogen take the prize for the dumbest storyline of the night. The two lovebirds are planning on attending fashion school together but because Imogen failed all of her classes (all? Really?) she has to stay back an extra year—just as Fiona did the year before. Their problems only get worse when Fiona’s mother returns from house arrest in New York City (nothing on this show is worth explaining, trust me). She spent the flight talking a famous Italian fashion designer into considering Fiona for an internship position in Rome because that’s the sort of thing that happens on Degrassi. Imogen, the worst “quirky artsy girl” stereotype I’ve ever seen on television, has a perfectly normal reaction: She meets up with the fashion designer, impersonates Fiona, and sabotages her chances. The two girls eventually make up but only so their official break-up later in the episode has more emotional resonance. However, the entire storyline is so awkward and completely absurd that I can’t even imagine the thirteen-year-old viewers of this show caring at all.
This brings us to the main couple. Eli and Clare are easily Degrassi’s most ridiculous couple. In one episode, he purposely crashes his hearse just to prove how much he loves her—doesn’t that just bring back memories of high school? They constantly fight and break-up. He finds solace in MDMA; she finds solace in her step-brother’s arms. They are overdramatic, unrealistic, and completely annoying. Degrassi fans love them. Eli and Clare are broken up as the episode begins which means Clare going to prom with a gay student and Eli’s trying to win her back with a literal horse and carriage. Predictably, they get back together and seal the deal in a hotel room.
Also predictably, it doesn’t end there. This is Degrassi, after all, and nothing is ever perfect. When Alli zips up Clare’s prom dress, she finds a mysterious lump and, according to television law, all mysterious lumps definitely mean cancer. There’s a nosebleed, a biopsy, and a cliffhanger. In Degrassi, a prom dress in the first act of the show doubles as Chekhov’s gun in the third. See, to love Degrassi means to give in to Degrassi. You have to give in and accept the sheer ridiculousness of the show, you have to expect that storylines will go one step in the wrong direction, and you have to quietly accept that everything stupid can and will happen. But this absurdity is the reason why the show is so addicting to watch. Honestly? If the world ends and all that’s left are cockroaches and new Degrassi episodes, I’m not going to complain.
- I really hate that annoying earworm of a theme, especially the current version, but I was really thrown off by the lack of it tonight.
- This episode’s biggest misstep is that Clare didn’t lose her virginity to Eli in his hearse.
- If Clare does indeed have leukemia, it fits in nicely with two of Degrassi’s biggest tropes: Rehashing old storylines from a few seasons ago and having shitty things happen to teenagers shortly after having sex.
- It’s very rare that I actually laugh with Degrassi instead of at it but Mo’s reaction to seeing Jake at prom was the funniest thing.
- Tonight I learned that if you want to sound crazy, try explaining characters’ backstories to someone unfamiliar with the show.