Degrassi Junior High “Parents' Night” (part 2 of 4)
Cut to the Swank Gym, where Mizzzz Avery is holding rehearsals for the big talent show. A kid wearing Fat Albert’s sweater, a hobo’s hat, and big plastic sunglasses is playing a keyboard. And by “playing a keyboard” I mean that he appears to have flipped the switch that starts up one of the preset beats. Out come the horrible sounds of a tinny beat and a tinny piano.
And up on stage, grooving to the beat… well, it’s going to take me some time to find the words to explain this. There’s Caitlin, doing strange moves to the music while wearing pink short-shorts, a pith helmet, and a long, blonde wig. And then there’s Arthur, dancing right along with her, and he’s wearing a long, curly wig. Hang on, it gets weirder.
They’re half-singing, half-talking to the music. Caitlin says, “I’m Phyllis!” And Arthur says, “I’m Fran!” And they both sing, “Goin’ south to get a man!” I’m confident that there are very few words in the English language capable of adequately describing this. What the hell am I even seeing? The only way I can even process these visuals is by assuming that the original idea was to have Arthur and Caitlin do a musical number from South Pacific, you know, as a funny callback to Wheels’ birthday present. But they couldn’t afford the royalties to Rodgers and Hammerstein’s estates, so they just made up a South Pacific-esque musical number on the spot. That’s the assumption I’m making, anyway, for the sake of my own sanity.
As they dance, Arthur and Caitlin accidentally step on each other’s toes, and the number grinds to a halt. Ms. Avery tells them to take it from the top, with more energy this time, and also louder. They start over, and the big question on my mind is… why is Arthur playing a woman? Why is he “Fran” and why are they making him sing about going south to get a man? Doesn’t he have enough problems? Don’t you people know who his sister is? He’s already scarred for life.
And between this and the environmental rap of two episodes ago, it appears Caitlin Ryan is Degrassi’s go-to girl for all heinously embarrassing musical performances.
Meanwhile, Joey, Snake, and Wheels are backstage unpacking their instruments. And here’s the new band’s personnel breakdown: Joey’s on keyboards, Snake’s on guitar (of course—who could forget him shredding on the Presidential Blues back in the pilot?), and as established earlier, Wheels plays the bass. No, there is no drummer. This band never gets a drummer. It’s one of the strangest band lineups in history, and that’s even before taking into account how none of them actually know how to play their instruments.
But Joey and Snake are already fantasizing about shooting their first music video. Joey wants to film it on top of a building, but Snake finds that too clichéd. Instead, he wants to film their video “in a studio, with smoke machines, and dancing girls!” Because that is not at all clichéd.
Joey says, “What do you do, rent your ideas from Bozo the Clown?” I sure don’t get that joke, but I’m completely distracted when Joey puts on a big, spiky ‘80s wig that’s reminiscent of a dead skunk. To be fair to Joey, all keyboard players in the ‘80s were legally required to wear these.
Wheels suggests they try to get the song right before thinking about the video. Good idea. While they’re at it, actually writing the song before trying to play it would also be a good idea, but that doesn’t happen either. Joey continues to talk about how he’s ready for the “thunderbolt” of fame.
Suddenly, Spike appears backstage. Cool, they already have groupies! And like a true, hardcore groupie, this one’s already knocked up!
Spike wants to talk to Wheels alone. Wheels looks confused, but goes with her out into the hallway anyway. And for no particular reason, he brings his bass with him.
Spike says, “You know I’m pregnant, right?” Okay, I realize news travels fast and all, but if this is common knowledge already, why is no one on the Degrassi staff making an issue out of it? Oh, right, this is the same school that allowed a half-naked girl to get molested on the front steps. Carry on.
Spike says she’s thinking about putting her baby up for adoption. Wheels’ face registers no emotion. Spike asks him what it’s like to be adopted, allowing Wheels to reveal all sorts of stuff that’s about to be relevant to the plot. Such as: he doesn’t know his real parents, and he heard they were too young to keep him. Also, he was born at six in the morning. Please don’t ask me how that random detail got dropped in there.
Spike asks if he bears a grudge against his biological parents for giving him up. Wheels looks even blanker than before and goes, “No.” And then he stares out into space for a moment before adding, “I don’t think so.” Okay, I’m glad that’s all settled in his mind.
Meanwhile, on stage, Caitlin and Arthur are wrapping up their wigs ‘n’ pith helmets number. Ms. Avery says the act needs a little work, but tells them not to get discouraged. And by the side of the stage is an easel with a poster board reading “Phyllis and Fran”. You know, that classic musical, Phyllis and Fran.
Ms. Avery calls out the next act, which is Joey, Snake, and Wheels. Wheels is still in the hallway with Spike when his name is called, so there goes all that precious rehearsal time. The curtains part, revealing the three guys with their instruments, and Avery hopes they “know [their] music this time!” Well, no thanks to Spike, they don’t.
They start playing and… Well, basically, they’re just banging around like toddlers who have never seen a musical instrument before. It’s just complete and utter noise, with no structure whatsoever. Out in the crowd, Melanie says, “Sounds awful!” Very astute, Melanie. Kathleen covers her ears, and she’s wearing a tutu, so I can only imagine how amazing her talent show act must be.
There’s confusion by the side of the stage at the easel, as one student wants to put up a poster board saying “Joey and the Joy Buzzers” and another one is trying to put up a sign saying “Snake and the Charmers”. Actually, I think they should make a new sign saying “Quickest Way to Clear a Room”, because that’s what this is.
Spike enters and watches the musical apocalypse. All three guys assume rock star poses, while still playing nothing but noise. Spike just smiles and shakes her head in that “boys will be boys” sorta way, and walks out. Maybe the way these three guys are currently humiliating themselves has suddenly made her feel a lot better about her own life.
And now, the whole band (and I use the term “band” loosely) is leaving school, and talking about how amazing they played today, and how that was the best rehearsal they ever had. I’m really, sincerely hoping it was their first rehearsal, which by definition would have to be their best.
Suddenly, the guy with the gloves in the Samurai is back. Joey and Snake conveniently happen to head off in another direction, leaving Wheels alone to slowly approach the guy. They stare each other down, and the guy asks if he’s Derek Wheeler.
Then the guy drops two bombshells. The first bombshell is that he’s Wheels’ birth father, which actually shouldn’t come as a shock to anybody. The second bombshell is that his name is “Mike Nelson”. No, I’m serious. I realize “Mike Nelson” is a common name, and there are probably about half a million Mike Nelsons just in North America alone, but given all the RiffTrax banners on this site, I had to laugh at that one.
And far be it for me to accuse the Degrassi writers of a lack of creativity, but they already have a character named Spike Nelson. Is “Mike Nelson” really the best name they could think of?
Wheels takes a step back. I’m guessing he’s heeding Mr. T’s advice, and getting ready to run. But Mike Nelson reveals that he knows Wheels was born at six in the morning. Well, that proves it, then. But there’s more: He knows Wheels’ middle name is “Michael”, and he even has Wheels’ “birth necklace”. He tosses it over the fence at Wheels, and it’s a blue and pink necklace, with beads that spell out the name NELSON, which… still proves nothing. But now I have a pretty good idea of how they settled upon Mike’s last name. Because only the best shows on TV build episodes around props.
Also, I’m kind of thinking this was supposed to be a birth bracelet, because it looks way too small to go around a baby’s neck. But everybody in the episode refers to it as a necklace, so “birth necklace” it is.
Wheels think it’s a “fake”, but Mike assures him it’s real. Yes, it really is a necklace that spells out the name “NELSON”. No trickery was involved here. Mike says he only wants to talk, but Wheels is reluctant. So he jots down his phone number on a piece of paper and sticks it through the links of the fence. And then Mike gets in his Samurai and drives off, and most likely gets into a rollover crash immediately after the scene ends.