Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Degrassi: Old and New

“Whatever it takes, I know I can make it through.” These are the famous opening lines to Degrassi: The Next Generation, but they really speak volumes to the entire franchise. 

The Kids of Degrassi Street was where it all began. It was the first iteration of the franchise and was composed of four episodes varying in length that aired consecutively between 1979 and 1982 on the CBC. Most of the cast would move on to the full time series Degrassi Junior High and Degrassi High with different names, families and story lines.

Degrassi Junior High had its run from 1987 through 1989 while Degrassi High ran from 1989-1991. These were the original two series and they had a very organic feel to them as the cast were mostly non-professional actors and the budgets were pretty low. The two series touched on a lot of controversial topics that were not in the mainstream media such as homosexuality, teen pregnancy, child abuse, racism, homophobia and much more. The show always approached these topics with a high level of tact and responsibility. This run of the franchise also created some much loved generational characters such as Joey Jeremiah, Snake, Spike, The Farell twins, Wheels, BLT and many more.

The franchise received a revival in 2001 with Degrassi: The Next Generation. This modern version of the Degrassi world did exactly what the original run intended to do. Speak to its audience about issues that pre-teens and teens face. With a 20 year gap, the show was able to develop and create episodes geared to even more controversial and issues that were brought about by technological advances that didnt exist during the original run such as cyber bullying, online predators, sex, suicide, self-injury, abortion, domestic violence, date rape, murder, school shootings and much more.

Degrassi is a real street in Toronto's East End

 The modern run of Degrassi also brought back some familiar faces from the original series who portrayed parents, teachers and other adult figures of the new cast. The Next Generation received acclaim worldwide rather quickly and went on to have a 14 season run ending in 2015. From the show a few cast members went on to become quite famous such as Nina Dobrev (The Vampire Diaries), Devon Bostick (Diary of a Wimpy Kid), Shenae Grimes (90210) and of course Drake.

The franchise continues on now with Degrassi: Next Class thanks to Netflix and Family Channel. This version is set in the world of Degrassi but is not a continuation of The Next Generation. It is currently 3 seasons long and has been green lit for a 4th.

How long will the Degrassi franchise survive? On television? Who really knows. In the hearts of multi generations of Canadians? Forever.

What is 150 of our favourite Canadian things? Read about it here

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