The Best Years

Set in a fictional Ivy League university, this new drama from "Degrassi: The Next Generation" producer Aaron Martin has all the requisite trappings of a teen soap with one major, nagging distraction -- namely, most of its college "freshmen" look about 29.

With:
Samantha Best - Charity Shea Devon Sylver - Brandon Jay McLaren Kathryn Klarner - Jennifer Miller Dawn Vargaz - Athena Karkanis Trent Hamilton - Niall Matter Noah Jensen - Randal Edwards

Set in a fictional Ivy League university, this new drama from “Degrassi: The Next Generation” producer Aaron Martin has all the requisite trappings of a teen soap with one major, nagging distraction — namely, most of its college “freshmen” look about 29. Slickly produced if too familiar and predictable, it’s one of those college-set projects where nobody is ever seen cracking a book — perfect, in that respect, for a generation squandering their Friday nights watching Nickelodeon’s teen-oriented cable service, which shares a channel position with the preschool-oriented Noggin.

Samantha (Charity Shea) is a poor orphaned girl with a killer smile from South Boston who has won a scholarship to prestigious Charles U. Almost before the first leaf falls, she’s paired with a rich-bitch roommate (Jennifer Miller) and making goo-goo eyes at the college’s new basketball star (Brandon Jay McLaren), sipping cold ones on the roof and prepping for romance.

As if to jump-start a narrative that’s already beginning to sag a little, Martin incorporates a dark twist that quickly establishes the characters’ morality (or lack thereof), forcing them to make clear choices while highlighting the prevailing caste system that proves high school is a state of mind. In a semi-existential riff, he also weaves in the star of a fictional teen TV soap (Athena Karkanis), who begins a flirtation with a bartender (Niall Matter) at the local velvet-ropes club, adding to the class distinction issues without baring any real teeth.

Indeed, other than introducing the characters and injecting a tinge of mystery surrounding Samantha’s past, the premiere doesn’t do much to differentiate “The Best Years” from any number of school-based serials that have preceded it, thus laying most of the weight on the cast to elevate the middling material. Aside from being attractive, however, they’re not uniformly up to it, and the age discrepancy (a little license is fine, but these kids are supposed to be 18) puts the performers more in the “Melrose Place” stage of life than “90210.”

Shot in Toronto, the program will make its debut following a new episode of “Degrassi” — a hit by the N’s standards. If this series wants to emulate even those modest Nielsen grades, however, “The Best Years” is going to have to do better in the storytelling department, and relatively soon.

The Best Years

The N, Fri. June 29, 8:30 p.m.

Production: Filmed in Toronto by Blueprint Entertainment in association with Global Television. Executive producers, Aaron Martin, Noreen Halpern, John Morayniss; producers, Brenda Greenberg, Peter Bray, Wendy Grean cq; director, Grant Harvey; writer, Martin.

Crew: Camera, David Herrington; editor, Paul Day; music supervisor, Michael Pearlmutter; production designer, Ingrid Jurek; casting, Stephanie Gorin. Running time: 60 MIN.

Cast: Samantha Best - Charity Shea Devon Sylver - Brandon Jay McLaren Kathryn Klarner - Jennifer Miller Dawn Vargaz - Athena Karkanis Trent Hamilton - Niall Matter Noah Jensen - Randal Edwards

More TV

  • THE EXPANSE -- "Intransigence" Episode 309

    'The Expanse' Moves to Amazon for Season 4

    Set in a fictional Ivy League university, this new drama from “Degrassi: The Next Generation” producer Aaron Martin has all the requisite trappings of a teen soap with one major, nagging distraction — namely, most of its college “freshmen” look about 29. Slickly produced if too familiar and predictable, it’s one of those college-set projects […]

  • Arrested Development Season 5 review

    TV Review: 'Arrested Development' Season 5 on Netflix

    Set in a fictional Ivy League university, this new drama from “Degrassi: The Next Generation” producer Aaron Martin has all the requisite trappings of a teen soap with one major, nagging distraction — namely, most of its college “freshmen” look about 29. Slickly produced if too familiar and predictable, it’s one of those college-set projects […]

  • Showtime Executive, Gary Garfinkle.Photo: Cliff Lipson/CBS©2012

    Gary Garfinkel, Co-Head of Content Acquisitions at Showtime, Dies at 55

    Set in a fictional Ivy League university, this new drama from “Degrassi: The Next Generation” producer Aaron Martin has all the requisite trappings of a teen soap with one major, nagging distraction — namely, most of its college “freshmen” look about 29. Slickly produced if too familiar and predictable, it’s one of those college-set projects […]

  • KIM POSSIBLE - The cast of

    'Kim Possible' Disney Channel Movie Casts Its Dr. Drakken, Shego, Other Key Characters

    Set in a fictional Ivy League university, this new drama from “Degrassi: The Next Generation” producer Aaron Martin has all the requisite trappings of a teen soap with one major, nagging distraction — namely, most of its college “freshmen” look about 29. Slickly produced if too familiar and predictable, it’s one of those college-set projects […]

  • Ted Danson Remote Controlled Podcast

    Remote Controlled: 'The Good Place' Star Ted Danson on His 'Delicious' Role

    Set in a fictional Ivy League university, this new drama from “Degrassi: The Next Generation” producer Aaron Martin has all the requisite trappings of a teen soap with one major, nagging distraction — namely, most of its college “freshmen” look about 29. Slickly produced if too familiar and predictable, it’s one of those college-set projects […]

  • Josh Holloway Colony

    Josh Holloway on Season 3 of 'Colony' in Trump Era: 'It's Scary, the Parallels of This Show'

    Set in a fictional Ivy League university, this new drama from “Degrassi: The Next Generation” producer Aaron Martin has all the requisite trappings of a teen soap with one major, nagging distraction — namely, most of its college “freshmen” look about 29. Slickly produced if too familiar and predictable, it’s one of those college-set projects […]

  • Mick Betancourt Joins Syfy's 'Deadly Class'

    Mick Betancourt Joins Syfy's 'Deadly Class' in Showrunner Switch

    Set in a fictional Ivy League university, this new drama from “Degrassi: The Next Generation” producer Aaron Martin has all the requisite trappings of a teen soap with one major, nagging distraction — namely, most of its college “freshmen” look about 29. Slickly produced if too familiar and predictable, it’s one of those college-set projects […]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content