By Barb Chabai
Degrassi Junior High: The Complete Series
Degrassi Junior High has always been commended for its "real appeal" - using authentically gawky, blackhead-covered teens to re-enact scenes that could have happened in any hallway in any middle school in Canada. And just like in flashbacks of those awkward adolescent years, it's the popular kids who get the most attention while those of real substance stand on the sidelines.
On Degrassi, The spotlight was reserved for prissy Caitlyn, Caitlyn, Caitlyn (nothing like having a seizure to upstage a sleepover) and Joey "thank God my privates fit inside my fedora" Jeremiah. Even Wheels, with his dead parents, and Spike, with her accidental impregnation, got into the act with showy, prolonged storylines.
But it's time to give props to the bit players who were, for the most part, props on 42 episodes - blurred images of kids figuring out locker combos, perching on the front steps or fidgeting in desks while the central characters chewed the scenery. Sure, they were tossed a speaking role bone on occasion, but even then, only to polish up a scene where the protagonists could shine.
Yet, without the sidekick, the fall guy, the accomplice, girl with braces, kid in the cafeteria or just enough bodies to fill a school bus, Degrassi Junior High would not only have had a population of just seven or eight students, it would be relegated to an after-school special instead of becoming the TV classic it is today. So here's to Degrassi's D-list, like:
Bartholomew Bond, AKA the blond Brillopad, was actually in a few subplots as a friend of Scooter and Tessa - who later breaks the chains of geekdom to become a slut. But we digress. Bart's the nerdy brainiac (we can tell by the bowtie), yet, when he and Scooter get duped into buying what they think are "sea creatures" for the aquarium, you realize that he's not quite Rhodes scholar material.
Mr. Walfish, AKA the hip English teacher, kept his sleeves rolled up and sat on the corner of his desk to show he was really in touch with the kids (and that he was much cooler than stick-up-his-butt Mr. Raditch). In a desperate attempt to be liked, he let Lucy skip class to work on her awful slasher flick and, like a caring big bro, broke the news that fancypants pirate-slash-poet Claude offed himself in the can. Catch phrase: "Would you all turn to page..."
Dorothy, AKA Arthur's irritating, freckle-faced younger cousin, who was always lurking in the background. The pesky fifth wheel in the nerd squad, Dorothy plays the peacemaker when long time friends Arthur and Yick fight. Perhaps best known for her secret crush on Yick who, let's face it, was not all that studly and should've been flattered by any female attention.
Maya, AKA the girl in the wheelchair, is supposedly Caitlyn's best friend but acts more a conscience on wheels. Like the pot they smoked together, Maya brings out the worst in Caitlyn (we can tell by the scowl), chastising her choice in social causes and goateed poets. Likewise, Maya realizes that Caitlyn is a self-serving little snot, but knows she still needs someone to push open the big gym door for her.
Nick, AKA that other guy in Dwayne's gang, is the strong, silent jock in the letterman jacket who loves torturing the unfortunate under class. He's feared in the hallways purely by his association with bully Dwayne, although tough chick Tabi probably could've whooped his ass. When he finds out his main man's HIV Positive, it really brings out the redneck in this close-minded ignoramus.
Simon, AKA Alexis' dopey model boyfriend, has the personality of drywall. Technically, he's a main character by association, but was nothing more than a spaced-out accessory. He started out as the object de lust of teen tart Stephanie Kaye, but preferred being on a short leash as the manservant and much, much later, unfortunate husband of loudmouth frump Alexis.
Kathleen's alcoholic mother, AKA the probable reason Kathleen's such a cranky beeyatch, comes to light as a drunk when the Degrassi quiz show team goes over to Kathleen's house. Doesn't excuse being so irritable to her only friend Mel or for starting rumours that Ms. Avery's a lesbian - but suddenly, it does what an abusive boyfriend and eating disorder couldn't: make us feel sorry for her.
Nancy, AKA the chubby yearbook/newspaper girl, is a fringe character, yet, she seems to appear in every episode. We say it's time to start a "Spot Nancy in the Hallway" drinking game! Oh, er... sorry, Kathleen. Anyway, Nancy's an overextended overachiever, easily exasperated by the shenanigans of those less than focussed when it's time to do some serious work. Or lunch.