Degrassi Becomes a Cult Hit Depicting Violence and Heartaches

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Teens Flock to the Digital Cable Drama Where Angst and Conflict Are Part of the Daily Routine


ABC News


Oct. 18, 2005 — A little school in Canada is generating a lot of attention stateside from teens (and some adults!) who are tuning in to find out if Craig and Ashley have broken up or if their friends will ever forgive a former pal for inciting a school shooting.


Now in its fifth season, "Degrassi: The Next Generation" has become a powerhouse for evening programming on the digital cable channel The N, which airs the series nightly mixing new and repeat episodes.


As gossip and teen angst are portrayed between reruns of "Moesha" and "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air," the Canada-based series is clearly winning the popularity contest. When the show's actors took part in a mall tour this past summer, 40,000 teens showed up. The series even caught the attention of filmmaker Kevin Smith, who appeared in several episodes last season after having followed the original "Degrassi: Junior High" on PBS in the 1980s.


The current crop of students is a mix of bookworms, punks, popular kids and awkward teens who have become superstars to the young fans of the show. "From my perspective, it couldn't be more wonderful," said series creator Lynda Schuyler, who developed the franchise in Toronto 25 years ago.


"As a producer I thought, 'I wonder if we're doing the right thing? We've had a success. I don't know if we should necessarily play with that,'" said Schuyler. "And to have it be embraced in such a way — not feeling stale, but feeling fresher than ever — is a wonderful place to be."


What separates this show from other teen programming is its outright determination to deal with shocking topics with no sugarcoating. In between the spirit squad practices and school dances at Degrassi High, Schuyler is incorporating story lines that may give parents nightmares about what is happening in schools.

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