This is a landmark episode in the series for two reasons.
It’s the first episode that is from the series proper, whereas the first four “episodes” were short films that become the first four episodes of the show. You can think of them as four pilot episodes that were aired over several years.
The second reason is that while the show isn’t in the same universe as the rest of Degrassi, they did take elements from it that would be incorporated into the rest of the franchise. Such is the case with this episode where Stacie Mistysyn’s character Lisa wants to become a reporter. She ultimately would in the other entries in the franchise as the character Caitlin Ryan.
In the last episode called Noel Buys A Suit, we saw Noel go through the tough process of having someone new marry his father at some point after the death of his mother. While the episode primarily focused on him, we could also see his father’s fiancee Gayle begin to develop a healthy relationship with Noel so that she wouldn’t be marrying into a hostile situation. We also saw Noel’s father convey to Noel that he’s marrying Gayle because he loves her, not because she’s a replacement for Noel’s birth mother or that he is somehow disappointed with Noel for all the help he’s been giving him at work and at home. That’s why it’s odd and disappointing that despite this episode focusing on Noel’s sister Lisa, Gayle seems to have disappeared into thin air. She will return later on. Still, it’s a little disorienting when you watch the episodes back-to-back.
With all of that out of the way, let’s talk about Lisa Makes The Headlines.
The episode starts off with us seeing Chuck go to deliver some newspapers followed by a newspaper truck stopping to make a delivery to the De Grassi Grocery.
Okay, so let’s try to piece together the life of Lewis Manne’s “character” so far.
We know that in 1979, he either owned or worked at a camera store based on his appearance in the episode called Ida Makes A Movie.
A few years later he attended the wedding of Noel’s parents.
Now we know that he either lost the camera store, was fired, or has a second job delivering newspapers.
I love trying to create a narrative for this guy who in reality is just making cameo appearances because he was their music guy for the show. According to IMDb, he even wrote a famous song for Degrassi Junior High/Degrassi High called Everybody Wants Something.
We’ve already met Chuck. This is Casey, played by future Degrassi High cast member Sarah Charlesworth.
Casey and Lisa have started a newspaper together.
Much like a film noir, this episode opens with narration from Lisa, which we’ll get throughout the episode. She explains that she wants to be a reporter because people want to read the news whether it’s good or bad. You can start to foresee the problem she’ll deal with in this episode, especially since the title is Lisa Makes The Headlines.
While Lisa still has to eat her breakfast, Casey is off to start the plot by visiting Ida’s house to sell subscriptions. We find out that Fred still exists.
Casey has caught him while he is vacuuming and listening to music. She’s able to sell Fred a subscription to the paper and before leaving, Casey asks if she can borrow some joke books. Fred tells her sure, he will tell Ida that she stopped by the house. He doesn’t say anything about the joke books. This little miscommunication is what will turn into something else as Lisa takes her first swing at investigative reporting for The Degrassi Journal.
They print the paper using a press that Casey’s mom lets them use. Casey’s mother being played by Sarah Charlesworth’s own mother, Barbara Charlesworth.
They go to sell the papers on a street corner, and we meet Lisa’s first potential customers played by twins Dale and David Callender.
I only mention them because come Degrassi Junior High, a set of twins will be important characters on the show. Like this entire series, it’s a look into the what would become the Degrassi universe.
All the stars are returning for this episode. Noel’s here as you would expect him to be.
Even the Do Not Litter Sign from the first episode (as shown below) makes a return.
It turns out the secret club still exists too, but is meeting on an unusual day. This starts to peak Lisa’s interest since Noel doesn’t seem to want to tell her why they are having a meeting on a different day than they usually do.
Irene is here as well.
They are meeting on a different day so that Ida won’t be there while they pick out a present for her. Irene knows this sweatshirt is perfect for her after that whole Bigfoot incident a few episodes ago.
To make sure that Ida doesn’t sneak up on them, they’ve made Chuck their lookout. You can see how happy he is at having to do that job.
I hate to break it to you guys, but your secret club meeting security has already been compromised by gaffer Jim Aquila as shown by the boom mic in the lower-left-hand corner.
The boom mic is showing up in so many episodes, it’s practically becoming a character. Judging by the fact that it looks silver, it might be the same boom mic from the last episode.
Casey and Lisa aren’t selling any papers. Casey thinks that they need a “scoop” of some sort.
Lisa: But this is Degrassi St. Nothing big ever happens around here.
Expanding that statement to Degrassi as a whole makes that line hilarious in retrospect. Yeah, nothing ever happens here. A twin getting pregnant while the other doesn’t. A teenage father jumping off a bridge. Pedophilia. Eating disorders. A penis measuring contest. Everything the writers thought they could get away with happens on Degrassi.
While passing by Ida’s house, they run into her and ask why she isn’t at the club meeting. Ida is her usual self, and tells Lisa to get her facts straight about when the club meets. I mean she’s the president, so she would be the first to know if the meeting time changed.
Half of the fun of writing about this show at this point is catching some of the faces Zoë Harrison makes.
Finding out that Ida doesn’t know about this meeting makes Lisa jump to the obvious conclusion that the other members of the group are going to do something bad to Ida. This includes her brother.
At the Canard residence, we find Noel playing Scrabble with his father. Lisa has graduated from knock-knock jokes to trying to solve a symbolic Rubik’s Cube.
Lisa is upset that she won’t be able to get a “scoop” for the paper. She doesn’t take kindly to her brother making fun of the paper either.
Noel says he’s willing to be interviewed, and Lisa starts champing at the bit.
However, immediately asking a relevant question about the secret club meeting gets her the response that it’s none of her business.
While Lisa doesn’t know it yet, Scrabble tells us where this is going: Robbery.
If you take a look at the other words, then you’ll find that some of them have an attachment to the first four episodes. The one ending with “al” is “pal”.
Going back to Chuck for a second, we can see the front page article of the Toronto Sun is about a boom in crimes committed by children.
You might think this paper would lead Lisa to think a kid may have committed a crime on Degrassi St., but it doesn’t. We just cut to her feeding her cat Meow Mix. It’s just more foreshadowing.
Lisa decides that if her brother won’t talk to her, then she is going to go and talk to Ida to see what she knows.
Ida tells her that she is missing a couple of joke books. The joke books we saw Casey borrow earlier in the episode. Ida acts appropriately in that it’s nothing big, and since anyone could have taken them, there’s no way anyone is going to track them down.
Lisa assures Ida that she can find the missing books.
Instead of looking into this possible robbery, the first thing she does is run to Casey to publish a newspaper article about this supposed robbery. She says to Casey that “all” of Ida’s books were stolen and possibly other things as well. Casey is so amazed that she fails to mention she borrowed some books from Ida. To make matters worse, we hear Lisa, via a voiceover, tell us that the article is going to say that “all” of Ida’s stuff was stolen. We went from a few joke books that Ida is missing to all of her books are missing to all of her stuff missing in the span of about two minutes.
Almost 20 years later, Lisa would find that she lived long enough to see herself become an actual robber on Degrassi.
As you can see from the screenshot above the one from Degrassi: TNG, this article has made Lisa and Casey’s paper a hit. It probably helps that in promoting it, they even throw in that people should lock their windows and doors. Lisa has deluded herself so much that she believes that this story and the subsequent sales of their newspaper means that her and Casey have a “good” newspaper.
Irene picks up a copy of the paper which is how it makes its way back to the secret club, leading to one of my favorite lines in the episode. Chuck says that if this happened to him then he would have called in the RCMP. That stands for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. The RCMP are the rough equivalent of the FBI in that they have jurisdiction at the federal level. So it would be like the FBI being called in to investigate a local robbery of a couple of joke books.
After discussing Lisa and her paper further, they conclude that they shouldn’t say anything, but instead let her embarrass herself.
Ida and Noel give some excellent looks.
Lisa brings home a copy of the newspaper for Noel to look at and give his opinion on. An opinion she refuses to listen to because he tells her that her story is false. She takes great offense. She’s even more determined to catch this thief.
In the next scene, Lisa is jumping to the conclusion that Noel must be a “rat” that is trying to keep this story out of the paper. Casey also jumps to conclusions by telling Lisa that Noel isn’t acting the way he is because he wants to see her fail. He’s acting that way because something “fishy” is going on. Again, she still doesn’t mention that she borrowed a couple of books from Ida.
Lisa comes home, and hears Noel talking on the phone. By hearing him on the phone, I mean she hears him at exactly the right moment to make her even more suspicious.
She goes up to Noel’s room, and with a little poking around, she finds the sweatshirt the other members of the group got for Ida.
Noel catches her in his room. Lisa says she knows about his “plan”. Does she think he is going to start robbing other places on Degrassi Street? That’s the way it sounds.
Now we have an important conversation between Lisa and her father as he washes her hair.
I think the shot above sums it up quite nicely since without context I could just as easily have led into it by saying, “clearly somebody needs to straighten out Lisa even if her father’s methods are a bit extreme.”
He gives her some good advice about being a responsible journalist. However, without context for her questions, his advice leads her in the wrong direction. Cut to the next shot, and she is printing a paper that not only says that the “Theif Confesses”, but also that Noel himself stated that “he did it just for fun.”
Not exactly what her father thought she was asking him concerning whether it is a journalist’s responsibility to report news even if its bad. She also ignored his statement about having facts.
I feel stupid, but it did take me till that shot in this episode to notice that the secret club only accepting people whose names start with an I, N, or C means that the club is Degrassi Inc.
The episode has to bring things to a close soon, so Casey’s mom has some papers that need to be given to Ida’s mother. Casey figures she’ll drop off the joke books that she borrowed while she is delivering them.
After we get a shot of some of the club members complaining about Lisa and wondering whether she’ll publish a story about finding their present for Ida, we finally get something that is sorta like the summary on the back of the DVD.
Lisa wonders whether she should publish this “story” about her brother being a thief considering he is her brother.
Casey returns the joke books to Ida, which Ida recognizes as the missing books. She thinks it’s funny considering that this whole robbery story sprung from a couple of joke books and one of her friends being so eager to be a journalist. She takes it with a grain of salt. She doesn’t blow up like she might have a few episodes back when she was younger.
Casey does the right thing by running off to tell Lisa before she starts selling their newspaper which contains an unsubstantiated story based on misconstrued information.
Just before Casey arrives, Lisa tosses the newspaper. The show could have left it there, but it doesn’t. Casey takes the newspapers out of the trash because they not only owe Noel an apology, but it is their responsibility to print a corrected story explaining what really happened.
Lisa apologizes in person at the secret club. When Noel realizes that no one read the paper where Lisa actually named names, he rushes her into the secret club because Ida is coming. They are ready to give her the surprise birthday party they had been setting up for Ida while we followed Lisa.
This party doesn’t just seem like an ending to this episode. I think they tried to gather as many of the children we had been introduced to at this point together in order to celebrate what had been four separate short films being turned into an ongoing series. You can even see a reminder of the first episode, Ida Makes A Movie, as Fred’s war helmet is on the wall of the club.
Another thing that leads me to believe that is the fact that Ida was the character the series started with and that first episode had themes similar to this one in it.
A final nod to the first episode that I spotted is that the sweatshirt doesn’t say Ida Lucas. It includes the meaningless middle initial that she thought would be impressive to the judges of the film contest.
To cap off the episode we get a mature conversation between Noel and Lisa which amounts to him telling her that she should have listened to him, but that she shouldn’t take this a sign to not pursue becoming a journalist. He even goes so far as to ask her whether she knows why she’s here. The answer he gives her is that she is the only reporter on Degrassi Street. That’s what makes her unique.
I liked this episode. I appreciated the visual nods to film noir.
I thought it was neat to not give us visuals to show us that she is snowballing the few things she wanted to hear into something they don’t add up to, but instead, gave it to us by mostly keeping us in her head with voiceovers where the only voice is her own.
It reminds me of a story I recently heard on a computer security podcast. The main host told a story about somebody who used to work for them that would jump to a possible explanation for a bug in a piece of software they were working on. Having this possible bug in their head gave this person a vested interest in proving that they were right. The host would have to remind them that they were going to look over everything rather than jump to a conclusion. The lessons in this episode don’t only apply to journalism.
Next time, we meet Sophie who will also jump to conclusions about somebody being a thief.