Degrassi High

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Degrassi High
Degrassi High logo.png
GenreTeen drama
Created by
StarringSee cast here
Country of originCanada
Original languageEnglish
No. of seasons2
No. of episodes28 (list of episodes)
Production
Running time30 minutes (including commercials)
Production companyPlaying With Time Inc.
Release
Original network
Picture format4:3
First shown inCanada
Original releaseNovember 6, 1989 (1989-11-06) –
January 28, 1991 (1991-01-28)
Chronology
Preceded byDegrassi Junior High
Followed bySchool's Out
External links
Website

Degrassi High is a Canadian television series and the third series in the Degrassi franchise, which was created by Linda Schuyler and Kit Hood in 1979. A direct sequel to Degrassi Junior High, it debuted on CBC in Canada on November 6, 1989, and on PBS in the United States on January 13, 1990.

The series follows the same Toronto-based ensemble cast from the previous series, now having graduated to high school, as they face most of the same issues as its predecessor, except with the addition of more controversial and extreme issues and challenges, including abortion, cancer, death, suicide, and AIDS. Like the previous series, it was jointly produced by Hood and Schuyler's Playing With Time and Kate Taylor of WGBH-TV Boston, and was produced in association with the United States Corporation for Public Broadcasting with participation of Telefilm Canada.[note 1] The school used in the series is the Centennial College campus in Toronto, Ontario, and like its predecessor, the series shot in and around the Greater Toronto Area.

The series premiered on CBC in the same 8:30.p.m Monday time slot as its predecessor, and received similar international critical acclaim to its predecessor. Despite this, the two-part series premiere A New Start was edited by PBS in the United States to remove scenes of pro-life protesters outside of an abortion clinic, which angered the show's producers. It received six awards, including a Prix Jeunesse and four Chris Awards,[1] and seven nominations, including for several actors. The series officially concluded with the made-for-television movie School's Out, which aired on CBC on January 5, 1992,[2] marking the end of the franchise's Degrassi Classic era,[3] until the debut of Degrassi: The Next Generation on CTV nine years later.

Development[edit]

Concept and creation[edit]

In November 1988, after the premiere of the third and final season of Degrassi Junior High, Linda Schuyler alluded to the potential of a high-school followup when discussing the direction of the franchise with the Montreal Gazette.[4] It was decided to continue into high school as the actors were becoming older, which would also make way for more controversial topics, including abortion, which was addressed in the series premiere.[5][6] According to Schuyler: "As the kids get older, the only way we can remain true to this age group is by growing with them. Therefore, the issues get more complex."[7]

In the series finale of Degrassi Junior High, the titular school is destroyed in a fire.[7] To keep the entire cast together, a creative decision was made to move the younger students displaced by the fire to the new school to join those that had already graduated.[8] Conversely, the grade 7 students introduced in the third season of Degrassi Junior High were accelerated to grade 9 for an unspecified reason.[9] To give the series a "harder-edged feel", several older characters were introduced.[8] Reflecting the growing independence of the aging characters, Degrassi High began to give more focus to the characters' lives outside of school, with scenes taking place at nighttime, on the street, or at the characters' jobs.[10] In contrast to Degrassi Junior High, in which the extras were still made known to the viewers, the newer series would include a team of "extra extras", who would simply appear for no other purpose than to fill the background.[10]

A group of nine teenagers gathered in front of a chalkboard, smiling at the camera.
Promotional image of the cast of Degrassi High. Back row L-R: Yick Yu (Siluck Saysanasy), Dwayne Myers (Darrin Brown), Lucy Fernandez (Anais Granofsky), Archie "Snake" Simpson (Stefan Brogren), and Christine "Spike" Nelson (Amanda Stepto). Front row clockwise from left: Bryant "BLT" Thomas (Dayo Ade), Joey Jeremiah (Pat Mastroianni), Liz O'Rourke (Cathy Keenan), and Caitlin Ryan (Stacie Mistysyn).

Filming[edit]

The series was filmed at the Centennial College campus on Carlaw Avenue in Toronto. The building, which was formerly a teacher's college, was previously used to hold auditions for Ida Makes a Movie, the first installment of the Degrassi franchise, in 1979.[11] The building was chosen as despite being part of a college, it more closely resembled a high school.[10] Other filming locations included the Rose Donut Shop on Carlaw Avenue, where character Michelle Accette briefly works after moving away from her conservative father.[12] Filming ended on the series in October 1990.[13]

Opening sequence[edit]

The Degrassi High theme song is a reworking of that of Degrassi Junior High. Like the previous series, the theme was composed by Lewis Manne and Wendy Watson, and sung by Watson. The theme is transposed to A# major and follows the same structure and lyrical content as its predecessor, with optimistic lyrics such as "Everybody can succeed/In yourself you must believe/You better try at Degrassi High!". The opening sequence starts with a stop-motion sequence of an alarm clock sitting next to a group of textbooks, as a person gets up from the bed, takes the textbooks, and leaves.

It follows the same format as its predecessor, with various scenes of characters in and around the school, omitting individual cast credits. The opening sequence ends with a zooming shot of a girl's backside as the logo forms. The opening sequence also contains several scenes that were not seen in the series, including a scene in which a character finds his bike smeared with peanut butter. According to Kit Hood, the scene was removed as the actor had grown too much to be a believable bullying victim.[14]

Set decoration[edit]

According to Kathryn Ellis, "A Degrassi character's bedroom is the most telling set for that character".[15] The bedroom of character Lucy Fernandez was made from drywall and located in the school library, with her bed being the same used in other character's bedrooms.[15] The childhood bedroom of character Liz O'Rourke, seen in a dream sequence in an episode where the character struggles with memories of her childhood sexual abuse, was made to look "larger than life" to make the young Liz seem extremely small, with the walls being painted blue for a "cool, almost cold atmosphere".[16] For the bedroom of character Arthur Kobalewscuy, various items from the previous series were re-used, as well as rock posters of the fictional group Gourmet Scum, to indicate that the character was maturing in his tastes.[16]

Episodes[edit]

Season 1 (1989–1990)[edit]

No.
overall
No. in
season
TitleDirected byWritten byOriginal air dateProd.
code
11"A New Start: Part 1"Kit HoodYan MooreNovember 6, 1989 (1989-11-06)101
22"A New Start: Part 2"Kit HoodYan MooreNovember 6, 1989 (1989-11-06)102
33"Breaking Up Is Hard to Do"Kit HoodSusin NielsenNovember 13, 1989 (1989-11-13)103
44"Dream On"John BertramYan MooreNovember 20, 1989 (1989-11-20)104
55"Everybody Wants Something"Kit HoodYan MooreNovember 27, 1989 (1989-11-27)105
66"Nobody's Perfect"Eleanor LindoSusin NielsenDecember 5, 1989 (1989-12-05)106
77"Just Friends"Kit HoodKathryn EllisDecember 12, 1989 (1989-12-12)107
88"Little White Lies"John BertramSusin NielsenDecember 19, 1989 (1989-12-19)108
99"Sixteen: Part 1"Kit HoodYan MooreJanuary 9, 1990 (1990-01-09)109
1010"Sixteen: Part 2"Kit HoodYan MooreJanuary 9, 1990 (1990-01-09)110
1111"All in a Good Cause"Eleanore LindoSusin NielsenJanuary 16, 1990 (1990-01-16)111
1212"Natural Attraction"Kit HoodYan MooreJanuary 23, 1990 (1990-01-23)112
1313"Testing One, Two, Three.."John BertramSusin NielsenJanuary 30, 1990 (1990-01-30)113
1414"It Creeps!!"Kit HoodYan MooreFebruary 6, 1990 (1990-02-06)114
1515"Stressed Out"John BertramYan MooreFebruary 13, 1990 (1990-02-13)115

Season 2 (1990–1991)[edit]

No.
overall
No. in
season
TitleDirected byWritten byOriginal air dateProd.
code
161"Bad Blood: Part 1"Kit HoodYan MooreNovember 5, 1990 (1990-11-05)201
172"Bad Blood: Part 2"Kit HoodYan MooreNovember 12, 1990 (1990-11-12)202
183"Loyalties"John BertramSusin NielsenNovember 19, 1990 (1990-11-19)203
194"A Tangled Web"Kit HoodYan MooreNovember 26, 1990 (1990-11-26)204
205"Body Politics"Phillip EarnshawSusin NielsenDecember 3, 1990 (1990-12-03)205
216"Crossed Wires"Kit HoodYan MooreDecember 10, 1990 (1990-12-10)206
227"The All-Nighter"Eleanore LindoKathryn EllisDecember 17, 1990 (1990-12-17)207
238"Home Sweet Home"Kit HoodSusin NielsenDecember 24, 1990 (1990-12-24)208
249"Extracurricular Activities"John BertramYan MooreDecember 31, 1990 (1990-12-31)209
2510"Showtime: Part 1"Kit HoodYan MooreJanuary 7, 1991 (1991-01-07)210
2611"Showtime: Part 2"Kit HoodYan MooreJanuary 14, 1991 (1991-01-14)211
2712"Three's a Crowd"Phillip EarnshawSusin NielsenJanuary 21, 1991 (1991-01-21)212
2813"One Last Dance"Kit HoodYan MooreJanuary 28, 1991 (1991-01-28)213

Release[edit]

First-run broadcast[edit]

Degrassi High premiered on November 6, 1989, on CBC with the two-part episode A New Start, a week following the documentary Degrassi Between Takes.[17] In the United States, the series debuted on January 14, 1990, on PBS.[18] In Australia, it debuted on ABC TV on September 2, 1990.[19] On the ABC, broadcasts of the series were preceded with a disclaimer that read: "Viewer Advice: The following episode of Degrassi High contains themes appropriate to a teenage audience. Some parents may consider it inappropriate for younger children".[20] Re-runs aired on ABC-TV until 1995.[21]

Post-broadcast distribution[edit]

The series continued in re-runs on CBC during the late 1990s. On September 1, 1997, the series debuted on Showcase, where it aired back-to-back with Degrassi Junior High.[22]

Home media[edit]

The series was released on VHS by WGBH-TV Boston Home Video[23] in the United States on March 7, 2000, both as separate tapes containing two episodes each and a full box set.[24][25] It was later released as part of the Degrassi High: The Complete Collection DVD box set by WGBH on October 9, 2007,[26] and the Degrassi High Collection set by Force Entertainment in Australia on March 12, 2008.[27][28]

Season Set details DVD release dates Special features
Region 1 Region 2 Region 4
Degrassi High: The Complete Series
  • Discs: 4
  • Episodes: 29
  • 1.33:1 aspect ratio
October 9, 2007[29]

December 13, 2016[30]

Region 1:
  • Pop Quiz! - Degrassi High trivia
  • Degrassi High wallpaper
  • Printable materials for educators
  • Printable cast interviews
Degrassi High Collection
  • Discs: 5 (includes School's Out on separate disc)
  • Episodes: 29
  • 1.33:1 aspect ratio
March 12, 2008 N/A

Reception and impact[edit]

Critical reception[edit]

The series received a similar positive critical reaction to its predecessor for its realism and sincerity in dealing with adolescent issues, with many critics in particular acclaiming its premiere episode, A New Start, which centres on a student becoming pregnant and deciding to have an abortion. Writing for The Toronto Star, Antonia Zerbisias acclaimed the series premiere, asserting that it was "a gutsy show, particularly in the light of the current political and emotional climate [of the 1980s]", and singled out the exploration of both sides of the abortion topic. Furthermore, she quipped that if the show was an American prime time show, "the whole thing would turn out to be a hilarious mix-up. We'd have lots of eye-rolling, sophomoric one-liners about burgeoning bellies and then ooops! Turns out the smart alec kid brother merely murdered the bunny for a school science project."[31] Writing for The Province, Lee Bacchus had mixed feelings about the debut. While feeling the show continued its predecessor's realism, Bacchus felt that it simplified the issue to "the bumper-sticker level of righteous moralism" and "lofty platitudes".[32]

Writing for The Age, Margaret Geddes declared that the series gave Australian soap operas such as Neighbours and Home and Away "a run for their money", but unlike the "trite morality plays" she felt were pervasive in those shows, Degrassi High was more realistic and thoughtful. Furthermore, she noted a comparison between the series and the British series Grange Hill.[19] Writing for The Los Angeles Times, Lynne Heffley declared that Degrassi High had proved itself to be one of the most "gutsiest shows on television".[33] Profiling the show in the lead-up to the debut of its final season, Kelli Pryor of Entertainment Weekly called it the "thirtysomething of the book-bag set".[13]

Censorship[edit]

The series premiere was shown uncensored on CBC. In the United States, scenes of anti-abortion protesters were removed by PBS. Kate Taylor, co-producer of the series and of WGBH Educational Foundation, defended this as an "[a]esthetic decision" that made the ending "more powerful, more poignant".[34] This was done without the consent of Playing With Time, the show's production company, with Kit Hood denouncing it as an "an American ending -- happy, safe but incomplete" and requesting his name be removed from the credits of the PBS broadcast.[35][36] Likewise, when the series re-ran on Noggin's teen block The N in 2005, A New Start was omitted,[37] as well as the third episode Breaking Up Is Hard To Do, as it referenced the events of A New Start.[38] When the episode "It Creeps!", which centres around several students shooting a horror movie in the school, aired on ABC-TV in Australia in 1991, various scenes depicting graphic violence were removed. When the episode was shown again unedited on ABC2 on March 28, 2009, two viewers complained.[20][39]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ At the end credits of each season, they are listed under the "Produced in association with" section. On some episodes from the DVDs, a logo ident is played at the end.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Polger, Mark Aaron (2005). "Degrassi Online - Awards". Degrassi Online. Archived from the original on January 8, 2008. Retrieved December 7, 2007.
  2. ^ Blakey, Bob (January 5, 1992). "Highlights". The Ottawa Citizen. p. 27. Retrieved May 31, 2021.
  3. ^ Ellis 2005, pp. 4
  4. ^ Wesley, David (November 5, 1988). "Degrassi doors re-open". The Gazette. p. 156. Retrieved May 17, 2021.
  5. ^ Sontag, Sharon (November 3, 1989). "Degrassi High moving on to meatier issues". Calgary Herald. p. 35. Retrieved May 17, 2021.
  6. ^ Dunphy, Catherine (November 4, 1989). "Dilemma At DeGrassi". The Toronto Star. Archived from the original on October 24, 2005.
  7. ^ a b Nicholls, Stephen (November 6, 1989). "Abortion: Degrassi takes on explosive topic". The Ottawa Citizen. The Canadian Press. p. 33. Retrieved June 2, 2021.
  8. ^ a b Kennedy, Janice (June 17, 1989). "New school year has already started for the kids of Degrassi High School". The Gazette. p. 175. Retrieved June 2, 2021.
  9. ^ Ellis 2005, pp. 167
  10. ^ a b c Barss, Karen (1990). "What's New at Degrassi". Degrassi High Newspaper. WGBH. p. 3. Retrieved October 13, 2021.
  11. ^ Ellis 2005, pp. 111
  12. ^ Ellis 2005, pp. 110
  13. ^ a b Pryor, Kelli (April 12, 1991). "Degrassi High". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved May 3, 2021.
  14. ^ "Kit Hood Interview July 1998". October 15, 2007. Archived from the original on October 15, 2007. Retrieved May 30, 2021.
  15. ^ a b Ellis 2005, pp. 118
  16. ^ a b Ellis 2005, pp. 119
  17. ^ Riches, Hester (October 30, 1989). "Audiences eagerly await Degrassi kick-off". The Vancouver Sun. p. 20. Retrieved June 2, 2021.
  18. ^ Southgate, Martha (January 14, 1990). "'Degrassi High': Unflinching look at teens". The Des Moines Register. p. 124. Retrieved June 2, 2021.
  19. ^ a b Geddes, Margaret (September 9, 1990). "'Degrassi' has real life touch". The Age. Archived from the original on October 18, 2007. Retrieved June 2, 2021.
  20. ^ a b "Degrassi High". About the ABC. Retrieved June 2, 2021.
  21. ^ "E-mailer 'stalked soap star'". The Sydney Morning Herald. August 31, 1999. p. 4. Retrieved June 7, 2021.
  22. ^ "Award-Winning Degrassi Junior High And Degrassi High Come To Showcase Television" (Press release). Showcase. Archived from the original on September 14, 2007.
  23. ^ "BY POPULAR DEMAND, WGBH BOSTON VIDEO RELEASES THE DEGRASSI JUNIOR HIGH AND DEGRASSI HIGH SERIES" (Press release). WGBH. April 5, 1999. Archived from the original on November 21, 2007.
  24. ^ Earnshaw, Philip (March 7, 2000), Degrassi High: Loyalties/It Creeps!, retrieved June 2, 2021
  25. ^ Earnshaw, Philip (March 7, 2000), Degrassi High Collection, PBS, retrieved June 2, 2021
  26. ^ "Correct release date plus front & rear artwork". TVShowsOnDVD.com. Archived from the original on February 5, 2013. Retrieved June 5, 2007.
  27. ^ "Degrassi High Collection". Sanity. Retrieved June 1, 2021.
  28. ^ Degrassi High collection. Australia: Force [distributor. 2008. OCLC 269593812.
  29. ^ - (October 9, 2007), Degrassi High - The Complete Collection, PBS, retrieved May 28, 2021CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  30. ^ Degrassi High: Degrassi High Complete Series DVD, PBS Distribution, December 13, 2016, retrieved May 29, 2021
  31. ^ Zerbisias, Antonia (November 5, 1989). "Degrassi High could give lessons". The Toronto Star. Archived from the original on October 24, 2005. Retrieved June 2, 2021.
  32. ^ Bacchus, Lee (November 6, 1989). "Kids too young to call this". The Province. p. 35. Retrieved June 2, 2021.
  33. ^ Heffley, Lynne (January 13, 1990). "TV Reviews : 'Degrassi High,' 'Wonderworks' Return to PBS". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved June 2, 2021.
  34. ^ "Degrassi High edited by PBS". The Ottawa Citizen. November 4, 1989. p. 37. Retrieved June 2, 2021.
  35. ^ Pai, Tanya (January 25, 2016). "Degrassi, the Canadian teen soap that gave us Drake, explained". Vox. Retrieved April 5, 2021.
  36. ^ Haslett Cuff, John (November 3, 1989). "Degrassi High creators up in arms over PBS cuts to abortion episode". The Globe And Mail.
  37. ^ "A New Start (2)". TV.com. Retrieved October 12, 2005.
  38. ^ "Breaking Up Is Hard To Do". TV.com. Retrieved October 12, 2005.
  39. ^ "Degrassi High - It Creeps! - ABC2 Television Guide". www.abc.net.au. Retrieved June 2, 2021.

Sources