By KATE AURTHUR
Coming out, school shootings, self-mutilation: the Canadian series “Degrassi: The Next Generation” is known for aggressively taking on every teenage issue. In Canada it’s shown in prime-time on CTV, a broadcast network aimed at audiences of all ages. But in the United States, “Degrassi” is on N, a cable channel that aims at teenage viewers. When N has deemed the show’s content potentially problematic, it has edited an episode’s content, rearranged the order of episodes or, in the case of a third-season show about abortion, not broadcast an episode at all.
“It isn’t like we have a piece of paper with a bunch of rules on it,” said Sarah Tomassi Lindman, N’s vice president of programming and production. “You always have to look at everything in context and decide whether it feels appropriate and responsible in the context in which it’s being presented.” She said N now worked with Epitome Pictures, the “Degrassi” production company, “from the earliest stages” in order to make sure episodes work for both sides.
Season 2 of “Degrassi” was released on DVD, unedited, last month. Kate Aurthur compared the DVD and N versions of some episodes and discussed N’s changes with Ms. Lindman.
On DVD: In drama class, Spinner (Shane Kippel) has to act out a scene with Paige (Lauren Collins); he gets an erection in front of everyone. We can see the cause of Spinner’s embarrassment before he runs out of the room. Paige’s response: “That is why no one should ever wear track pants.”
On the N: The visual has been edited out; we only see the faces of the laughing kids and a grimacing Spinner. Ms. Lindman: “Thinking about the N specifically, as well as U.S. broadcast standards, even through clothing, erect penises are things you do not see on basic cable or broadcast television.”
On DVD: In the Season 1 finale, Ashley (Melissa McIntyre) gives a party and takes Ecstasy; instead of spreading the happy, she alienates everyone. “Guys, where are you going?” she says to an emptying room. “Come on, it’s a party!” But not until the fourth episode of Season 2 does she fully suffer the friendless consequences of her bad behavior.
On the N: The drug-taking and drug-fallout episodes were shown as a pair during Season 2. “We felt that the episode didn’t really show enough negative consequences for her actions,” Ms. Lindman said. “We chose always to air those two episodes together, so if you saw Ashley taking Ecstasy, you would automatically see the consequences of her decision.” They were also sandwiched between public service announcements about drugs. “Those were to talk specifically about some of the dangers of drug use that we felt the episode didn’t really get into,” she said. Daniel Clark, who plays Sean, delivered the anti-Ecstasy warnings.
Topic: Date Rape
On DVD: In a two-part episode, an older soccer player from another school brings Paige upstairs during a party. She likes him, but she’s uncomfortable, and asks him to “take it slow.” Instead, he takes out a condom. She says no. He pushes her down, and begins sexually assaulting her. The camera goes to the window. Paige can be heard protesting: “I said no. Stop. Please. Dean, get off me. Stop, please. No.”
On the N: The channel held the episodes until later in the season, when they could be shown with an episode in which Paige decides to press charges. The rape itself was edited so that Paige’s pleading was lessened. “We made the decision editorially that you got the point of what was going on without necessarily having it drag out for quite so long,” Ms. Lindman said.
Topic: Child Abuse
On DVD: In a two-part episode, Craig (Jake Epstein) is attacked by his psychopath father, who hits him, throws him against shelves and onto the floor and kicks him four times. Later, a despondent Craig plays chicken with an oncoming train and is almost run over.
On the N: The kicking is not shown. “It was kind of like the date rape one,” Ms. Lindman said. “We felt that you could get the point that he was being badly physically abused by his father without the extended scene that Epitome had shot of that abuse.” Later on the train tracks, Craig’s near suicide is omitted. “We felt that was potentially imitatable behavior,” Ms. Lindman said.