Degrassi is a Canadian drama franchise with over 621 episodes across all incarnations. It follows the lives of a group of teenagers who lived on or near De Grassi Street in Toronto, Ontario. The five main series are The Kids of Degrassi Street, Degrassi Junior High, Degrassi High, Degrassi: The Next Generation and Degrassi: Next Class.
The early Degrassi series were produced by the small production company owned by Kit Hood and Linda Schuyler, Playing With Time Inc. The recent version of Degrassi, produced by Epitome Pictures, aired on MTV Canada and on VRAK.TV (dubbed in French) in Canada and was simultaneously broadcast on TeenNick (and in syndication) in the United States. Degrassi: The Next Generations's eighth season aired on BBC Switch in the United Kingdom.
The second incarnation of The Next Generation, Degrassi: Next Class, is jointly produced by Netflix and Epitome (a subsidiary of DHX Media). The show began airing in January 2016 on Netflix internationally and on Family (F2N) in Canada.
The Kids of Degrassi Street
The Kids of Degrassi Street, created by Linda Schuyler, was the first in the Degrassi franchise. It originally spawned from four short films: Ida Makes a Movie, Cookie Goes to the Hospital, Irene Moves In, and Noel Buys a Suit, which aired as after-school specials on CBC Television in 1979, 1980, 1981, and 1982, respectively. The series continued from 1982 to 1986. Many actors from The Kids of Degrassi Street, including Neil Hope, Stacie Mistysyn, Anais Granofsky, and Sarah Charlesworth, would go on to appear in Degrassi Junior High and Degrassi High; however, their names and families were changed. The show dealt with age-appropriate issues such as bad luck chain letters, honesty, divorce, and even death.
Junior High and High
Degrassi Junior High aired for 42 episodes from 1987 to 1989. Later, much of the cast continued over into the spin-off series, Degrassi High, with some extra cast members and a new high school. Degrassi High aired on CBC and PBS for two years from 1989 until 1991. These series are often compared to Saved by the Bell and Beverly Hills, 90210, the latter of which began airing in the United States at the same time, except 90210 used actors who were in their twenties to play teenagers, whereas Degrassi used people who were the same age they were playing. As with Saved by the Bell, Degrassi High follows teenagers going through everyday normal teen social issues, but problems are not solved within the episode; some plot-lines often continue through multiple episodes. Unlike Saved by the Bell or Beverly Hills, 90210, Degrassi Junior High and Degrassi Junior High's low budget production offered a more authentic portrayal of average school aged students which the audience found to be more relatable. Cast members often did their own makeup and wardrobe. Additionally, both Degrassi Junior High and Degrassi Junior High were filmed in actual Toronto area schools rather than in television production studios.
A few months after the end of Degrassi High, a 90-minute made-for-TV film entitled School's Out was produced, which concluded the series. It sparked controversy and anger amongst fans and critics for the unusual characterization of familiar characters and infamous scenes of sexuality and coarse language. U.S. viewers saw a toned-down version in 1993, which did not feature the profanity Canadian viewers heard (WGBH released the uncensored version of the film onto video). A six-part documentary series entitled Degrassi Talks aired soon after.
Hood and Schuyler subsequently worked on a similar series, Liberty Street, which applied the Degrassi format to a series about people in their twenties living on their own for the first time. Pat Mastroianni, one of the most famous actors from the Degrassi series, appeared in Liberty Street as well, although playing a different character.
The Next Generation
In 2001, the Degrassi series was revived by Stephen Stohn as Degrassi: The Next Generation. During the series Degrassi Junior High Christine Nelson gave birth to a baby girl named Emma, who became the lead character of the fourth show. This Degrassi series deals with issues that many teenagers must face in high school. It had a successful run and has grown its own distinct cult following amongst teenagers and adults alike. This series was broadcast on CTV, MuchMusic, MTV, and currently Family Channel. Outside Canada, it was rebroadcast to the United States on the cable channel TeenNick (The N prior to 2010) from 2002 to 2015, and also on MTV, BET and SOAPnet (until 2014), and to the Netherlands on Z@PP, to Brazil on the cable channel Multishow, to Australia on ABC3 and Nickelodeon, to Mexico, Peru, Venezuela and Chile on the cable channel MTV Latin America, and to Poland on the Canal+'s channel ZigZap.
This newer version of Degrassi has thus far dealt with more topics including online predators, suicide, censorship, gangs, self-harm, school shootings, imprisonment, rape, abuse, drugs, drinking, and murder, displaying the many challenges teenagers face in high school and the early years of college.
On 15 January 2009, Program Partners, a subsidiary of Sony Pictures Television, announced that they have acquired the syndication rights to the show, which will start showing daily on local stations in the US during the early evening fringe hours (between 5 and 7 pm) beginning in September. One of the reasons of the program's sale in syndication is that its programming content complies with federal E/I programming requirements.
The broadcast company put together the first Degrassi: The Next Generation film, titled Degrassi Goes Hollywood in 2009, to end the eighth season. Season 9 finished 16 July 2010 with another two-hour film, titled Degrassi Takes Manhattan.
Season 10 premiered 19 July 2010, and marked a change in production style to a telenovela/soap opera format, and for the first time, episodes airing in Canada and the United States on the same day. "The Next Generation" was also dropped from the title, which became simply Degrassi.
Degrassi was canceled after fourteen seasons and spun off into a new show called Degrassi: Next Class.
Degrassi: Next Class is the second incarnation of The Next Generation but is also considered its own show. After TeenNick and MTV Canada dropped the series, the show was picked up by Netflix and Family Channel. This "reboot" of the series was initially set to be the fifteenth season of "The Next Generation" (as casting calls were made for the fifteenth season) but ultimately Netflix and Epitome decided to start it off as a new show, to not confuse new viewers that would watch it on Netflix.
Season one was released on Netflix January 15, 2016, and started airing January 4, 2016 on Family's new teen programming block, F2N. Fourteen cast members from season 14 of Degrassi also reprised their roles.
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- Stephen Stohn [@stephenstohn] (11 June 2015). "@Tom_degassi @Rcarter555 we've been wondering that ourselves. It's really both. But I think it will be easier to call it DNC Season 1" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
- Spangler, Todd (17 July 2015). "'Degrassi' Next Season Coming to Netflix: Why Teen Drama Is Leaving TV After 35 Years". variety.com.
- Stephen Stohn [@stephenstohn] (9 August 2015). "@KDTalks2 yes, tho the characters who didn't graduate are mostly still continuing in DNC" (Tweet) – via Twitter.