Thursdays, 7:00 p.m., CBC
(repeats Fridays, 5:30 p.m.)
It would be too easy to dismiss Edgemont, the new teen drama series that premiered on CBC in January, as more prurient soap-opera pap. But if you sit down with a few episodes, as I did, you'll find that it's somewhere in between Dawson's Creek and Degrassi High -- with only a touch of The Young and the Restless thrown in to keep the pot boiling.
Edgemont is a fictitious suburb outside Vancouver in which a cast of high-school students grapple with the challenges, dilemmas and conflicts that confront them every day. Most of the action takes place at the school and there are no adult characters; parents and teachers are only talked about.
The story centres on Mark and next-door girlfriend Jen, who have been friends for years. Mark and his younger sister and brother are trying to cope with their parents' impending divorce while Mark also struggles with his love life and his marks. Meanwhile, there's a new girl in school, Laurel (Kristen Kreuk), beautiful and sophisticated (from Toronto, natch), who draws the attention of the boys and the jealousy of scheming Anika, who spreads nasty rumours about her rival.
Edgemont has a couple of things going for it, and they're the Big Two of television: writing and acting. The plots deal with some big-kid issues -- like sex -- and the show is not recommended for young children. The dialogue on the show is fairly crisp and relatively free of that hollow, "We have to talk" kind of line that plagues most shows aimed at this age group. When Mark finds that his little brother is missing, he utters the s-word with sharp believability. The banter between pals Mark and Scott, like much of the show, straddles the line between good-old-boy jocularity and crisis management. "God-dess at nine o'clock," Mark tells Scott when Laurel walks into the café.
Dominic Zamprogna, as Mark, is cool and brooding, while Sarah Lind plays Jen with a voice of velvet and a convincing presence. Scott (Myles Ferguson), a hapless romantic who has fallen in yet-unrequited love twice since the series began, is played with a likable goofiness. In this week's episode, he falls for a gorgeous born-again Christian who just happens to think sex is a wonderful thing. Also this week, the school is abuzz with talk of Mark and Jen's sex life.
Edgemont makes you wonder whether you're watching dime-store sensationalism or carefully planned lessons about the dangers of sex, lies and rumour. Regardless, if you should happen to get caught up in one well-paced episode, the final, teasing cliffhanger might have you making plans to watch the next one.