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''Degrassi'' is a Canadian teen drama franchise created by Kit Hood and Linda Schuyler in 1979. It follows the lives of youths who lived on or near the eponymous De Grassi Street in Toronto, Ontario. The franchise spans five main series: ''The Kids of Degrassi Street'', ''Degrassi Junior High'', ''Degrassi High'', ''Degrassi: The Next Generation'' and ''Degrassi: Next Class'', as well as television specials and made-for-TV films. ''Degrassi'' was originally produced by Playing With Time Inc., a production company owned by Hood & Schuyler. ''The Kids Of Degrassi Street,'' which made its debut in 1979, began as four annual after-school specials before switching to a weekly format in 1982. ''Degrassi Junior High'', which aired on CBC from 1987 to 1989, featured actors from the previous series but in new roles and established the show's canon. It was followed by ''Degrassi High'', which followed the same characters in high school, from 1989 to 1991. Both shows were broadcast on PBS in the United States where they gained a cult following. ''Degrassi: The Next Generation'', which saw several original characters return in adult roles, was produced by Schuyler's new company Epitome Pictures and originally premiered on CTV in 2001, simultaneously airing on TeenNick and Nickelodeon in the United States. After nine seasons, it was shortened to ''Degrassi'' and ended in 2015. ''Degrassi: Next Class'', the last ''Degrassi'' series to date, aired on Family in Canada and released on Netflix in early 2016, and ended in 2017. ''Degrassi'' has had a significant cultural impact since its inception in 1979 and has attracted critical acclaim, accolades, and controversy for its depictions of teenagers. Several actors from the franchise have achieved wider recognition and stardom since their time on the series, most notably Canadian actor-turned-rapper Drake, who starred in ''The Next Generation''.


History


In 1976, Linda Schuyler, a Grade 7 and Grade 8 teacher at Earl Grey Senior Public School in Toronto, founded Playing With Time, Inc. with her partner Kit Hood. By 1979, Schuyler had been encouraging her students to use video as a form of storytelling. Bruce Mackey, Earl Grey's librarian and a friend of Schuyler, ordered several books about filmmaking, one being ''Ida Makes a Movie,'' by the American author Kay Chorao. After meeting lawyer and future ''Degrassi'' producer Stephen Stohn for advice, she went to New York to make a deal with Chorao to adapt the story into a film. The original book involved cats making a movie, so this was adapted into children. Mackey's house was used as a filming location. After the movie debuted in late 1979 on CBC, the network ordered two more episodes, and then by 1982, they ordered five more episodes, and the series of short films became its own TV series. The episode ''Griff Gets A Hand'' (which starred future "Wheels" actor Neil Hope as Griff) received the International Emmy for Best Program for Children and Young People. A new ''Degrassi'' series began development in 1986, this time with new characters and centered around the fictional eponymous school near the same street. The first to audition was Pat Mastroianni, who would play Joey Jeremiah. Several of the actors from The Kids Of Degrassi Street would return with new roles, including Neil Hope, Stacie Mistysyn, Anais Granofsky, and Sarah Charlesworth. It was at this time that Playing With Time started a repertory company, with fifty children selected from auditions. The young actors then took a three-week workshop in which they would develop their acting skills and become comfortable and confident with the work. Those who had already been through said workshops would go through more advanced workshops where they would work on their personal performance goals. The cast would sit in a circle for a read-through, and would give input on the script. Various storylines were based on real things that occurred to the actors, such as Spike being insulted for her hair by a diner owner in the season 3 episode ''Black And White''. The repertory company also meant that even major characters could be relegated to the background if not the main focus of the episode. The resulting series, ''Degrassi Junior High'', premiered on CBC on January 12, 1987. It became the beginning of the ''Degrassi'' canon, as several students would become adult characters in the following series. The show also aired on PBS in the United States starting from 1988. The show would feature the franchise's first controversial storyline, in which Christine "Spike" Nelson becomes pregnant. The fears of controversy were allegedly so much that two endings were filmed. Nonetheless, the episode, ''It's Late,'' the eleventh episode of the show's first season, would win an International Emmy, for which Emma Nelson, Spike's daughter and central character of the later series, was named. The popularity of the show led to international publicity tours by members of the cast throughout North America and parts of Europe. By the beginning of the sequel show ''Degrassi High'' in 1989, the show had amassed over one million weekly viewers in Canada. However, it was decided to end the show after the original characters graduated, and filming wrapped on ''Degrassi High'' in late 1990. In early 1991, as a TV movie to serve as the series finale was being developed, six Degrassi actors: Amanda Stepto, Pat Mastroianni, Stacie Mistysyn, Rebecca Haines, Siluck Saysanasy, and Neil Hope, travelled around Canada to interview teenagers about various health and social issues for the six-part documentary series Degrassi Talks, which aired almost a year later, and a month following the TV movie, School's Out. School's Out was controversial among fans and critics for its unusual characterization of popular characters and for two instances of the word "fuck", one uttered by Stefan Brogren (Snake) and Stacie Mistysyn (Caitlin), that became the first instances of the word uttered on primetime Canadian television. Yan Moore explained the reason for the swearing: "There was a tension growing, especially between Joey and Snake. Snake had this tremendous frustration and the word had never been used in the script before. So, when Snake finally lost it with Joey, the word was included.".Nonetheless, the TV movie drew in 2.4 million Canadian viewers. In 1999, a reunion of the original cast took place on the CBC youth show Jonovision, hosted by Jonathan Torrens. The reunion became particularly popular, causing Yan Moore and Linda Schuyler, now running Epitome Pictures, to develop an interest in creating a new ''Degrassi'' series by December 1999. It was originally planned as a reunion show centered primarily around the original cast, but it was decided that it wouldn't work effectively. Moore noted that Emma, Spike's daughter, would be entering junior high school by the new millennium and the show was retooled to center around Emma. Epitome would propose the idea of ''Degrassi: The Next Generation'' to CTV in October 2000, and Ivan Fecan, CEO of CTV's parent company, ordered thirteen episodes of the new show. Filming began on July 3, 2001, and the show premiered on CTV on October 14, 2001


Series




''The Kids of Degrassi Street''

''The Kids of Degrassi Street'', created by Linda Schuyler and Kit Hood 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'' 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. The two series (which are sometimes considered one five-season series) center around students attending the fictional Degrassi Junior High School and Degrassi High School in Toronto. It tackled topics such as teenage pregnancy, racism, AIDS, eating disorders, child abuse, learning disabilities, and others. The series spawned characters such as Joey Jeremiah, Caitlin Ryan, Christine "Spike" Nelson, and Archie "Snake" Simpson, who became associated with the franchise and appeared in later installments. 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 several 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 although WGBH released the uncensored version of the film onto video later. A six-part non-fiction 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 Schuyler and Stephen Stohn as ''Degrassi: The Next Generation,'' with Emma Nelson, the baby that Spike had given birth to in Junior High, as the central character, and featuring several of the original cast members, now adults, in recurring roles. It became the biggest series of the franchise, overshadowing its predecessors, lasting fourteen seasons and gaining a massive cult following. ''The Next Generation'' featured several actors who went on to achieve wider recognition and stardom since their time on the series, most notably Canadian actor-turned-rapper Drake, who starred in ''The Next Generation''. Drake portrayed Jimmy Brooks, a basketball star who became physically disabled after he was shot by a classmate. When asked about his early acting career, Drake replied, "My mother was very sick. We were very poor, like broke. The only money I had coming in was romCanadian TV." He appeared in a total of 100 episodes between 2001 and 2008. Nina Dobrev, who portrayed Mia Jones, went on to star as the lead character of the popular supernatural teen drama television series ''The Vampire Diaries''. Chloe Rose, who portrayed Katie Matlin, and Raymond Ablack , who portrayed Sav Bhandari, went on to star in the acclaimed web series ''Teenagers'' together. 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, 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. On January 15, 2009, Program Partners, a subsidiary of Sony Pictures Television, announced that they had acquired the syndication rights to the show, which started showing daily on local stations in the United States during the early evening fringe hours (between 5 and 7 pm) in September 2009. 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 July 16, 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 a spin off series called ''Degrassi: Next Class'' aired on Netflix for four seasons from 2016 to 2017.

''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. On March 7, 2019, Stefan Brogren confirmed the show was cancelled after four seasons.


Books


During their run, the original Degrassi series (''Kids Of Degrassi Street, Junior High, High'') received several novelizations. Most of them centered around a particular character, and were either loosely based on story lines from the series, or expanded upon those not addressed in the TV series. Several of the Degrassi Junior High books, including ''Spike'', ''Melanie'', ''Caitlin'' and ''Snake'', were reprinted with an updated cover in the 2000s. The episodes of the non-fiction ''Degrassi Talks'' were also adapted into books in 1992, with a front cover photograph and a biographic interview of the actor who hosted the original episode. From 2006 to 2007, four graphic novels based on ''Degrassi: The Next Generation'' were released as part of the ''Extra Credit'' series, with the books centering on the characters Ellie Nash, Emma Nelson, Spinner Mason, and Marco Del Rossi respectively. There were also several other non-fiction books based on the franchise, including ''The Official 411: Degrassi Generations'', a behind-the-scenes history book written by Degrassi writer and publicist Kathryn Ellis, and ''Growing Up Degrassi: Television, Identity and Youth Cultures'', a collection of scholarly essays on the franchise by Michelle Byers


Reception and impact





Accolades


The Degrassi franchise has had a significant cultural impact since its premiere in 1979, and has attracted critical acclaim and various accolades, such as two Gemini Awards, an International Emmy, a Peabody Award, several Teen Choice Awards and Young Artist Awards, among other awards and nominations. Praise for the franchise has centered on its perceived "rawness" compared to other teen drama series, including realistic depictions of various youth issues, its multicultural diversity, and age-appropriate casting. However, the series has also received controversy, with various episodes being banned from airing in several countries including those involving pregnancy and abortion; in one instance, ''Degrassi High'' character Erica Farrell's abortion plot-line was edited by PBS in the United States to leave her decision ambiguous, and The N refused to air a similar story on ''The Next Generation'' involving character Manny Santos for two years. Schuyler explained to ''Entertainment Weekly'' in 2012 regarding the franchise's longevity: "The show set out to be an authentic — and I use the word authentic very carefully; I don’t use the word realistic –- an authentic portrayal of teenage years. And although we get a lot of character loyalty, our audience is fascinated by that high school experience." ''Entertainment Weekly'' called it "a cult hit", and ''The New York Times'' named it "Tha Best Teen TV N da WRLD (The best teen TV in the world)".


Comparisons to Beverly Hills, 90210


The franchise, most usually the original series, is compared (most often favorably) to higher-budget and newer teen shows that have aired since, one in particular being ''Beverly Hills, 90210,'' which began its run shortly before the end of ''Degrassi High''. Unlike those shows, who mostly cast professional actors in their twenties and thirties to play high-school students, ''Degrassi'' often cast same-aged, inexperienced actors from the Greater Toronto Area. Likewise, where as later teen dramas often depict more upper-class teenagers and depict various scandalous, sensational story lines involving sex and drug addictions that are mostly resolved in a deus ex machina style, ''Degrassi'' portrayed lower-middle class teenagers and would often show the consequences of transgressive behavior, which would sometimes last the entire season or series, and its portrayal of regular teenagers was viewed as more authentic than the teen dramas that have followed.Baxter, Sarah M., "Watching High School: Representing Disempowerment on Teen Drama Television" (2012). Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository. 644. Degrassi actor Pat Mastroianni, who in 1992 called ''Beverly Hills, 90210'' "silly" and a fad comparable to New Kids on the Block, later said in 2019 that the two shows were "yin and yang", stating: "''Beverly Hills, 90210'' had the best stuff, the best clothes and the best cars, and on ours, we had the Clutchmobile and the clothes were probably from the Salvation Army”. Conversely, the differences between ''90210'' and ''Degrass''i have been the subject of scholar studies that suggest they are representative of the cultural differences between Canadian and American youth at the time. It has been rumored that Aaron Spelling, creator of ''90210'', had initially attempted to adapt Degrassi, but was refused the rights, however, Linda Schuyler has denied it.

References



External links


Degrassi.tv

CTV- Degrassi: The Next Generation

Australian Broadcasting Corporation- Degrassi: The Next Generation
{{Degrassi Category:1970s Canadian teen drama television series Category:1980s Canadian teen drama television series Category:1990s Canadian teen drama television series Category:2000s Canadian teen drama television series Category:2010s Canadian teen drama television series Category:Degrassi (franchise) Category:Canadian television soap operas Category:Television franchises