New wave of off-beat Canadian television shows entice viewers

By on October 31, 2002

A new realm of television shows is out there providing camp appeal that’s missing from the bulk of American shows aimed at teenagers.
Two Canadian networks, Noggin and WAM, seem to specialize in teen shows that are entertaining and imaginatively created.
These five shows are ridiculous conceptually, and even more outrageous considering they’re actually on television.
“Mentors”- This sci-fi / fantasy adventure transports a different historical figure to the present day to solve contemporary problems. For example, doesn’t it make sense to transport Confucius in a time machine so he can help your hockey team win the big game? How about Anne Oakley establishing ethics in a paintball match?
Kids all over America are going to think Einstein can help you win a wet t-shirt contest or that Napoleon’s special blend of fertilizer will get your marigolds going. It’s so crazy, yet it tastes so good.
“Degrassi High: The Next Generation” – This is a Canadian staple that was resuscitated this year for a new run with the same old problems. Each week a different hard-hitting teen issue is tackled: menstruation, obesity, or “why does my dad beat me with a golf club?.”
This show seems like it’s straight from John Waters synapses; A satirical escapade where every scene must contain 2.3 slang terms and the stereotypes are finely honed to the point. You’ll see your best friend represented by “Terri,” the fat girl with no self esteem, or “Paige,” the promiscuous vixen with a heart of gold-plated hormones.
“Walk in Your Shoes” – This is just like MTV’s “Flipped,” but for Canadian teens, and a much more “what the hell were they thinking-ish?” feel. Two kids with entirely opposing lives get to switch for the day: Rapper John & Country Bumpkin, girl from India and girl from Boston, or rodeo girl & beauty pageant damsel.
One of the best episodes involved taking an anorexic-esque cheerleader and fitting her with a fat-suit so she can feel the overwhelming scrutiny that the “big-boned” suffer from. A quote straight from the cheerleader after realizing her glandular-impaired chunky chum was president of a mentoring club: “I never thought overweight people could be in leadership roles and respected.” Instant vintage.
“Atlantis High” – This is neo-Twin Peaks fashioned specifically for teens, but with enough spellbinding “huh?” moments to fill a Louis Vuitton airbag, and make you do double takes for the entire duration of the episode. It tells the story of Giles, who moved to a new town where nothing is the way it seems, and aliens are possibly controlling the inhabitants of the sordid burg.
On one hand there’s the army, in their sky blue floral uniforms. In the other direction, you’ll notice a female character playing both herself and her boyfriend. As an added side dish, the macho, black-haired rebel of the bunch doubles as a super hero in day-glo pink spandex.
Just for show, the buxom black psychiatrist talks to patients poolside. This is a thick-ass “Saved by the Bell” milkshake all swirled together with Snickers, Skor bars and a pinch of Dr. Phil wisdom.
“The Tribe” – Wait. Weren’t you just waiting for a post-apocalyptic soap-opera where all the adults die off from a plague and the teens are left to form rugged gangs, ala Mad Max? Well the WAM network has you covered.
Each week different ‘tribes’ battle over barren turf with foxy corset-adorned leaders and dollar-store production values. And the clothes. The clothes are the best part. New Wave powder-blue minimalist wigs, face paint with indecipherable symbols that hold significant meaning, and early 90s rave gear that’s a mix of aluminum foil and chartreuse latex. Who conceived of this concept, convinced people to then invest money, and on top it, found a network to house this contrived amalgamation?
To put it into perspective as a math problem: “Passions” plus “A Walk to Remember” times “The A-Team” equals “The Tribe.” Enough said.


About Adam Michael