Welcome back to Retro Rerun Rewind! This week, I’m reviewing the classic Canadian teen drama Fifteen. Do you think I meant to say Degrassi? Because this isn’t Degrassi. This is Fifteen.
The Show: Fifteen (known as Hillside in Canada)
Ran for: 4 seasons. 65 episodes aired between 1991 and 1993.
What it’s About: Well, Canadian teens doing Canadian Teen Things, of course. It was a teen soap about kids at a school— Hillside School, obviously— and the serious things teens have to deal with: drugs, divorce, dating, drinking, maple syrup shortages, moose attacks.
My Relationship with It: Until I started compiling a list of shows for this column, I had never heard of Fifteen. At all. I mentioned it offhand to a friend at work, though, and she practically punched me in the mouth in her unbridled excitement. “Fifteen?! I LOVED THAT SHOW! GAAAAHhHHHHHAH!!” She exclaimed punchily as she punched the air in an excited manner. So, if you were rich enough to have Nickelodeon in the early 90s like Jessica, maybe you knew and loved Fifteen. Not me, though.
This Episode: Season 1, Episode 8— “Lean on Me.”
So the theme song sounds like it was composed by a robot built to specifically write music for late 80s/early 90s television shows. It is great. And instead of showing the actor’s name during the opening credits, it shows the character’s name. That’s weird. Also, they all have very generic names. Dylan, Brooke, Theresa, Ashley, Matt. And you know who plays Billy, right? You guessed it, it’s Ryan Reynolds. Rad.
It starts with Cindy the Environmentalist hanging up a poster about saving the earth and then getting really bitchy with someone who says hello to her. I’m already confused. Why is Cindy like this? Is there a history here? Maybe I shouldn’t have started in the eighth episode. Anyway, that scene just like… ends.
Now we’re at a diner— maybe it’s The Max! Maybe Slater will show up and say something super sexist! A small boy in a poofy red shirt named Jake is talking to a very whispery blonde girl. The blonde girl is worried about someone’s drinking problem. (Okay, the quiet blonde is Ashley, and she is worried about her boyfriend Matt.) Anyway, it is established that: 1) Ashley shouldn’t be talking to Jake, 2) Jake should talk to Matt because they are best friends, and 3) Ashley hasn’t done homework in a number of days. Neither one touches their milk; he doesn’t touch his something-that-looks-like-a-cinnamon roll, and I swear to God, I have no idea what is even supposed to be on her plate.
Back at Hillside, the girl who was yelled at by the environmentalist is still at the table, perhaps paralyzed with fear. A plainly dressed boy with floppy hair approaches and makes disparaging remarks about the environmental poster, then says he is getting bad marks in science and if he doesn’t course correct, will not be able to go to “the concert.” I can’t tell if the girl with the book cares or not. No one in this show seems to really like each other or even care that they are all in the same television show.
Okay, so then we learn that she’s sort of miffed because floppy hair kissed her a few days ago and then acted like it never happened. Oh, and not only that, but then when she went over to his garage a few days later, she saw that Brooke was there. Damn. But floppy haired boy swears that Brooke has the hots for a boy in the 12th grade. Then he storms off.
ENTER RYAN REYNOLDS. He looks like the epitome of 1991. it is quickly established that he is this girl’s brother. Exposition is given that they don’t see each other that often anymore, though, now that they live in “different places.” Double damn.
Ryan Reynolds explains that he’ll need to stay at their mom’s this coming weekend because dad, who he lives with, is out of town, but then sister is like, “why don’t we stay at dad’s instead, we can throw a party,” and Ryan Reynolds starts to try to talk her out of it, but then a nameless teen with cool soccer-guy hair walks by and says, “oh, you’re throwing a party this weekend? Cool!” and, well, there you go.
In the locker room, we learn that the guy who overheard about the party is the potential lush, Matt. He’s chatting with his best friend Jake who is still wearing his poofy red shirt. Jake is fiddling with his shoes and complaining about push ups, or something, when he decides it is time to go ahead and accuse his friend of being a drunk. I feel like this will go well.
In response to Jake expressing his concern, Matt says, and I am not kidding about this, “I AM A BIG BOY, GET OFF MY CASE,” and he storms out of the locker room. Jake tries to slam his locker shut but it bounces back open which you can tell was an accident.
Now we’re in the hallway and here’s Brooke and she runs into Matt and asks if he’s heard about the party. I’m not sure what the point of this scene was, exactly, but Brooke looks like a hotter version of Molly Ringwald so I’m totally OK with it.
The environmentalist approaches and she is ranting about all of the paper the school wastes. She is making a scene and she looks like a lunatic. (Side bar: why do they make environmentalists so aggressively unlikable on television shows? Can’t we all agree that we SHOULD care about the environment, and a good first step is to make the characters who are passionate about it less annoying? Great job, Hollywood.) Anyway, now she’s bitching about tuna fish sandwiches. I really, really detest this girl. A handsome dork joins her and also begins complaining about tuna fish. A crowd is watching.
The handsome dork is named Olaf, and Brooke and Matt make fun of him for being from Norway though I’m not sure how you’re supposed to believe them because he does not have any sort of accent whatsoever. The crowd disperses and the environmentalist girl calls everyone “zipperheads” which, I don’t know, could be very insulting in Canada.
Now we’re back at The Not Max, and Dylan is pensively writing song lyrics. God, I hope he shares them with us!!! Brooke is there, and she wants to see them, but he won’t let her. She sits down to talk and he finds out that she broke up with the older boy. He’s very moody and I don’t think he cares. She says, “there IS someone I’m interested in, though.” Dun-dun-DUNNN! And just like that, he is coerced into asking her to the party.
Later, Ol’ Floppy Haired Dylan is back at the school (these kids all seem to come and go an awful lot) and he runs into Ryan Reynolds’ sister, who I just realized is dressed like Laura Ingalls Wilder. She asks him if he is coming to her party, and he acts really rock star about it, but I think he’s basically onboard. He grimaces and says, “I’ve gotta run.” He looks constipated. All of these people look constipated, actually.
Little House rounds the corner and runs into Hot Molly Ringwald. She starts telling her about how Dylan is taking her to the party. FINALLY it feels like something exciting is happening. Then Little House leaves and Ryan Reynolds comes up. And please, let’s just pause for a moment and enjoy his shirt.
Then Hot Molly Ringwald points out that Olaf, the handsome environmentalist, is sitting quietly in the corner by himself. Seriously. That’s what he’s doing. He’s sitting there, by himself. He’s waiting for someone to play chess with him, I guess. He talks to Ryan Reynolds and the whole scene is very… uncomfortable. Ryan Reynolds is acting—and I’m not trying to be funny here, because it is not really a funny thing— like Olaf has previously done something to him. Something molesty, perhaps. I really don’t know what’s happening anymore.
Now we’re back at the diner— dear God, will this ever end— and Little House is talking to Poofy Shirt. He has been to the diner twice today, at least that we are aware of. She is blathering on about Dylan and she’s like, “of course he doesn’t like me, why would ANY guy like me,” and Poofster is all, “lots of guys like you,” and she’s all, “name one,” and he gets all squinty eyed, like a diminutive, Canadian Clint Eastwood, and he says that maybe he does.
Little House leaves as Poofy Shirt tries unsuccessfully to profess his love, and here comes the crazy environmentalist girl, and I swear to God, if this scene doesn’t end with her choking to death on a mini corndog, I’m smashing my computer with a hammer. She sits down and starts talking about her favorite Canadian football team the goddamned environment, of course. She notices Poofy Shirt’s drawing of a frog (?) and gushes about how much she loves it.
In the next scene, we’re FINALLY somewhere other than the school or that godforsaken diner. It’s a shack in the middle of a junk yard!!! Sweet!
Apparently this is where Dylan and his Canuck Good Time Boys Band practices. He’s sitting there with a guitar that I’m pretty sure doesn’t have strings. He’s talking to Ryan Reynolds about Ryan’s sister. Then Dylan asks him to take his math homework back to school the next day because he’s not going. “I think I’m gonna skip school and just practice.” Then he kicks Ryan Reynolds out. This is how serious he is about rocking— he’s too busy to hand in his homework. (He’ll do it, he just can’t be bothered to return it.)
Back at the diner, we’re in a different booth than normal and the whispery blonde is whispering her concern to Matt about his drinking. He gets pissed. It’s a mercifully short scene.
And now we’re back at the junkyard rock shack. Dylan— who has been in the same blue t-shirt for several days now—is talking to Brooke. She’s getting on him about skipping school. He changes the subject to “I heard we’re dating, what’s going on there?” And she says, “are we?” And he starts approaching her and his hands are all cramped up for some reason like he has severe arthritis. I think they might kiss, but he also might try to hockey-fight her.
Okay, nope, they kiss, and the sound is nauseating. It sounds like a fat hand smacking a wet roast. And then it’s over. That’s it. That’s the end of the episode.
There is no party. The environmentalist doesn’t self-immolate to protest the cafeteria’s use of plastic forks. Little House doesn’t burst into the shack and murder suicide Dylan, Brooke and herself.
I feel, in short, horribly let down.
Would I Watch Another Episode?: God, no. Okay, well, for money. Pay me $200 and I will reluctantly watch another episode of his terrible program. It was just so bad. The acting was hideous, the scenes were extremely slow and uninteresting, the writing was plodding and tedious. When it comes to Canadian teen dramas, I’ll stick with Degrassi, thanks.