If you’re a proper ’90s-kid-turned-’00s-kid like me, you probably watched or at least heard about “Degrassi: The Next Generation.” For those of you who need a refresher, you’re in luck.
“Degrassi: The Next Generation” is a Canadian show about a group of middle/high school kids. There is lots of drama. It’s like a soap opera version of high school life. The show started in 2001 and, from a quick Google search, it appears to still be going in some capacity. At this point, though, the show is apparently going to switch to a new era and be reestablished as “Degrassi: Next Class.” And it will be streaming on Netflix.
Anyway, “Degrassi: TNG” was an important TV show of my youth. The show started playing on The N (a Nickelodeon spinoff channel which has since been rebranded as “TeenNick”) in around 2002. I started watching it pretty quickly after being romanced by the previews which indicated a lot of mature content. I was all about watching mature content when I was 12. Because I thought I was — you know — mature.
Surely enough, the show tackled subjects like eating disorders, self harm, teen sex, mental health disorders, and so much more. I was really into the show for a few years, but either it got too ridiculous or I just outgrew it.
All of that is to lead up to this: Did you know that the Degrassi of today is actually the fourth TV series in the Degrassi universe? The concept was born all the way back in 1979 with “The Kids of Degrassi Street,” followed by the more successful “Degrassi Junior High” which was renamed “Degrassi High” when the kids got older.
When I watched “TNG” I always wondered why Emma’s mom was called Spike and Mr. Simpson was called Snake. And why was that car salesman Joey always popping up? Well, all of that was explained when I discovered that these three (plus Caitlin and some of the other adults that would randomly pop in) were actually some of the main characters from “Degrassi Junior High” and “Degrassi High.”
My curiosity got the better of me one day back around 2010 when I was scrolling through the Amazon Instant Video offerings and discovered that both series were available with Prime membership. I binge watched the fuck out of some original “Degrassi.”
And, not to sound like a hipster, it was so much better than “TNG.” Sure, it wasn’t in high def and it was cheesy in some parts, but overall I thought the storylines were even more ballsy considering the year the show aired and the age of the actors.
“The Next Generation” claims that it “goes there.” Well, “Degrassi Junior High” and “Degrassi High” “went there” before the kids on the TNG were even born!
The original “Degrassi” tackled similar issues to those tackled in “TNG.” When you compare them, some of the storylines from “TNG” actually seem to be borrowed from the predecessor. The thing that I think puts the ’80s series ahead of the ’00s series is this: it was only 5 seasons and therefore they never ran out of good ideas.
TV shows in the ’80s didn’t seem to take a good thing too far like we do these days. In my opinion, most TV shows should end around their 6th season. Going above that will often lead to the show being stretched too thin. Actors leave, the plots get lazy, and it becomes more about the money than about telling a good story. Just look at “How I Met Your Mother” (yes I’m still bitter).
This happened with “Degrassi: TNG.” After about 5 seasons, the show became more and more melodramatic. Characters morphed into completely different people just for the sake of a shocking story.
I recommend “Degrassi Junior High” and “Degrassi High” for anyone looking for a fun show with some depth. It is about teenagers, but it’s a show
that I think even adults will enjoy — especially anyone familiar with the series.
Have you seen any of the “Degrassi” shows? What do you think?