THE FACES ARE NEW, BUT THE ANGST IS THE SAME: The latest Degrassi show takes me back to high school


Degrassi : The Next Generation – Press

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THE FACES ARE NEW,
BUT THE ANGST IS THE
SAME
The latest Degrassi series takes me back
to high school.

REBECCA ECKLER

Thursday, June 7,
2001

It just figures I’d run into the boy who ruined my
life in high school at the Degrassi: The Next Generation press
conference yesterday.

“What is going on?” I wanted to
scream. “I’m ATTENDING this event. I’m NOT starring in an
episode!”

Todd, who I haven’t seen in years, was
covering the event for a radio station. In Grade 10, when he
was super-cool, he told me I looked like a “@#%* reptile.” I
went home crying and begging for a nose job.

Needless
to say, the reptile incident still haunts me.

Degrassi:
The Next Generation, which will air on CTV in October,
introduces a whole new generation going through the trials and
tribulations of adolescence. Just as I can’t get the reptile
thing out of my head, I remember almost all of the plot lines
of the first Degrassi shows: Spike getting pregnant; Caitlin
dumping Joey for a black-clad poet; Snake flunking; Stephanie
leaving the house in one outfit and changing into another
sexier one in the school washroom. I still watch the
reruns.

The show made its debut on CBC Television in
1979 with Kids of Degrassi Street. Degrassi Junior High began
in 1986, and that’s when it started to attract a real
following. That show evolved into Degrassi High in 1989, and
went off the air in 1990.

In the late 1980s, Degrassi
was one of the most popular shows on Canadian television,
attracting one million viewers a week. It was also syndicated
in more than 100 countries. There was a movie of the week in
1992 that drew 2.4 million viewers.

Reruns of Degrassi
Junior High have never gone off the air. It’s a
not-so-well-kept secret that some people in their late
twenties get a kick out of watching the reruns while under the
influence of illegal substances.

“I know. It’s so
weird,” admitted Amanda Stepto, who played Spike in the
original series. “People tell us stories about having the
munchies while watching.”

Spike, Caitlin (Stacie
Mistysyn), Joey (Pat Mastroianni) and Snake (Stefan Brogren),
four of the main characters on the original series, were on
hand yesterday, along with the 11 new cast members. They will
star in a reunion episode, the launching point for Degrassi:
The Next Generation. Some of the original cast will have
recurring roles in the new series.

None of new cast,
who are between the ages of 11 and 15, watched the original
series.
“I watched two tapes they sent me,” said
13-year-old Miriam McDonald, who plays Emma on the new series.
“I never watched because I wasn’t born yet. I was a little too
young.”

The character of Emma is Spike’s baby, born in
the original series when Spike was pregnant in high school.
Spike’s water broke, if I remember correctly, at the
graduation dance.

The new cast members, however, are
not like junior high kids of yesterday.

“Yes, of course
I’ve kissed before. Haven’t you?” asked Ryan Cooley, who will
play J.T.

“Yes, but I’m 27. I didn’t kiss a boy until I
was 17. Have you ever been dumped?” I ask him.

“Yes.
The longest girlfriend I had was six months.”

Six
months? At age 13?

“I’ve been dumped, too,” says Jake
Goldsbie, who will play Toby. “The longest relationship I’ve
had was three weeks.”

Will the new show appeal to
today’s generation?

“It was pretty juicy back then,”
says Snake. “Part of the success was the sincerity and honesty
of it all.”

“Yes,” Caitlin throws in, jokingly.
“Everyone will be having sex on the new show.”

Though
the landscape has changed, says producer Linda Schuyler, who
co-created the original series and is responsible for the
comeback, “matters of the heart and relationship issues are
still the same and will be 10 years from now.”

So true.
By the way, the writers of Degrassi: The Next Generation are
more than welcome to use my reptile story. They’ll have to
wait another 10 years, though, to see if I’ll ever forgive the
guy who ruined my high school
years.

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