Degrassi Junior High: 202 “A Helping Hand”

AW HELL NAW! A pedophile invades Degrassi! And Wheels gets glasses! Two devastating plot lines in one!

Season 2 episode 2
Original Airdate: January 11, 1988

Degrassi Junior High is the #1 Canadian pre-teen edutainment drama, as rated by me, mostly because I don’t know of any other Canadian pre-teen edutainment dramas. But Degrassi Jr. High is more than a series of 20-something minute PSAs, it is a pretty accurate reflection of the ruthlessness of junior high, where puberty and its numerous evils spawn. With that said, it is still more than a commentary on middle school suckiness. I can’t write any more of this because I can’t really explain my affinity for this stupid series. Anyhoo, on with the show:

The episode begins with Lucy explaining to the other grade 8’s that Mr. Raditch is in the hospital. Naturally, being the sick, cold-blooded creatures they are, the middle-schoolers rejoice. The kids ramble about the torture they imposed on the last couple of subs, when the substitute to end all substitutes walks in.

Check out that pedosmile. It’s Mr. Colby, the pedophile in the guise of a substitute teacher. Or he may really be a substitute teacher, I’m not sure if you need any sort of qualification to be one anyway. He reminds me of a sub I had when I was Lucy’s age, who carried a leather briefcase around with him everywhere he went. We all knew that middle school subs didn’t actually teach anything, and that he had no reason to be carrying around a briefcase, so one day we asked him what was in it. It was full of about 200 peppermints. He offered them to the class, but no one took any of them.

After class, Lucy and the Twins gab about how attractive Mr. Colby is, with dialogue awkward enough to give anybody a shudder or two.

Meanwhile, we’re introduced to the C-plot of this episode, the ongoing Stephanie/Alexa battle over Simon. Stephanie has recently given up her eighth-grade-hooker garb for a retro, 1800s look in order to shake her shaky reputation. Alexa, the recipient of such clothing, has attracted the attention of Simon, Degrassi’s resident metrosexual Dude Jeans model.

Meanwhile, in the second side-plot (I’m calling this one B), the Zit Remedy is practicing their only song, which has only two lines, and a combined IQ of 6 points. Wheels has to leave, giving no explanation, which angers Snake and Joey. Little do they know that Wheels will one day become a hero. And then he will turn into whatever is the opposite of a hero. I don’t mean to spoil the series for anyone who is dumb enough to watch this show, but Wheels turns into a real miscreant after middle school. If that’s not proof of the evils of middle school, I don’t know what is. This stuff is real.

So anyway, Wheels walks in on Rick and Ms. Avery. Rick is pretty much king of Degrassi because he is thirteen and smokes cigarettes, so he has first dibs on Ms. Avery. But since Wheels is now failing class too, he gets in on some of the action. There’s a dilemma, though: Ms. Avery wants to have “tutoring” at the same time the Zit Remedy practices. This is just a minor dilemma, though. Wheels chooses the good-looking teacher over two tone-deaf prepubescent boys. Oh yeah, and she says something about him needed glasses and improving his marks. I wasn’t really paying attention.

Meanwhile, in plot D, Lucy walks in on L.D., who is brushing her hair for the first time in her life. Lucy just came in there to take a poop, but L.D. harangues her about styling tips. Lucy offers her an at-home makeover (as long as she bothers to shower first), and L.D. replies, “thhssseriousth?” Boy, that girl’s got a lisp.

What are we on now? Plot E? If you haven’t watched the rest of the series, chances are you won’t understand this plot line or the Stephanie/Alexa one unless you pick up the subtle hints the Degrassi writers left behind, like the rehashing of Spike and Shane’s pregnancy situation in every single episode in the first two seasons.

At the end of the day, Mr. Colby compliments Lucy about her paper on her friend Voula, a connection to another episode that only me and a hundred other people on earth have seen. Also seen here is L.D. looking on, jealous and scummy.

This part of the episode is pretty much pointless filler, considering the episode thus far has been pretty intense. As you can tell from the fluffy rainbow thing on Lucy’s wall, this part of the episode is pretty tame. Lucy puts a whole bunch of hideous makeup on L.D.. After she leaves, L.D. takes all of the makeup off. Fortunately, most of it already dripped off her oily face anyway.

Mr. Colby’s at it again. L.D. adresses Lucy about his creepiness, but Lucy asserts that L.D’s just jealous. Both of them are probably right. Lucy just thinks he’s being friendly, proving that she is a total idiot.

I mean, COME ON, this guy’s even got a flasher trenchcoat.

Wheels shows his hot new glasses off for the twins. Oh yeah. Wheels is a stud.

Alexa’s parents force her to return Stephanie’s clothes, because they make her look like “a lady of the evening.” I don’t need to make any jokes about the dialogue here because it makes a joke out of itself.

The guys are looking for someone to replace Wheels, because he got glasses, and no rock star wears glasses. Snake and Joey discover Simon, rocking out on bass in the gym. The two confer and agree that Simon is not that gay and could be the newest Zit.

I don’t know what this is about, but they spend at least 20 seconds focused on this singing janitor lady

Check out those buns. Mr. Colby calls Lucy alone into his classroom, setting up for trouble. Lucy is still oblivious. I didn’t mean to capture this buttshot but I left it in here anyway.

Wheels’s pedo-senses are tingling.

YIKES! No matter how poorly written or poorly acted this is, it’s still creepy. Mostly because the actor that plays Mr. Colby probably was a pedophile/substitute teacher outside of his acting career.

BAM! Wheels’s new glasses give him the added ability of Pedo-Vision(TM). He sensed the awkward tension all the way from Ms. Avery’s room.

As Lucy escapes, Mr. Colby stares Wheels down for intercepting his pedo-moves. Wheels deflects his stare with his new pedo-deflective glasses.

Lucy finally figures it out, 23 minutes into the episode. She’s a slow learner.

Stephanie is back to dressing like a “woman of the evening,” which still doesn’t attract the attention of Simon. She just can’t do anything right.

Mr. Colby has the same sweater in three different colors, another recognizable trait of pedophiles that Degrassi is trying to reinforce with its audience. After the final staredown between Lucy and Mr. Colby, Lucy finally gets the smarts to flee and run to the safety of Wheels.

Wheels – 1
Mr. Colby – 0

The day is saved, thanks to Wheels and his new PedoVision(TM)-enabled glasses. I like this episode because it is still fairly open-ended. Wheels is stuck wearing his goo-goo-goggles, Lucy hasn’t reported Mr. Colby, Stephanie and Alexa are exactly where they started, Spike is still pregnant, and L.D. is still unhygienic. I chose this episode as my favorite episode also because it shows a pretty good sampling of characters and typical situations they get put in. I also chose this episode as my favorite because it didn’t focus on the inane antics of Arthur and the Chinese kid. A lot of the first season seems to do this. The main reason I chose this episode as my favorite, though, is the sheer irony that is Wheels. He is a superhero in this episode, but is blinded to his own vulnerability as he becomes the focus of a pedophile himself. Oh, and he almost kills Lucy in a drunk-driving accident. I forgot about that.

Anyway, here’s to the days when Wheels was the coolest character on Degrassi Junior High, a show that no one should ever have to watch. That’s why I’m here to write this review.