Delighted with Degrassi: Popular TV shows mark 25 years, Young fans pack bandshell at CNE

NAOMI CARNIOL
STAFF REPORTER
The Toronto Star Aug. 30, 2005

It’s hard to believe it’s been a quarter-century since the launch of the TV show that immortalized Degrassi St.

“It’s been 25 years. We have less hair,” said Stefan Brogren (Snake), who was part of earlier Degrassi casts in the 1980s and now appears on Degrassi: The Next Generation. Cast members gathered for an anniversary celebration at the CNE last night.

When the stars walked out on stage, their young fans screamed, jumped out of their seats and ran to the stage. The bandshell was packed with fans like Samantha Pritchard, 14.

“It’s like the same issues teenagers face,” Pritchard said of the show. “It’s like real life.”

Heather Lopez, 16, came from Buffalo for a chance to meet the cast. “I like the fact that (they show) that not every teen’s life is perfect,” said Lopez.

Last night’s event also marked the launch of a new book, Degrassi Generations, by Kathryn Ellis, that chronicles the evolution of the TV series.

The Kids of Degrassi Street aired from 1980 to 1985, followed by Degrassi Junior High (1987-89) and Degrassi High (1989-92). In 2001, Degrassi: the Next Generation was launched.

During a question-and-answer session, some fans asked if their favourites were single. One asked Mastroianni if he still wears Joey Jeremiah’s hat.

The shows were groundbreaking, said Michele Byers, a professor at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax and editor of Growing Up Degrassi: Television, Identity and Youth Cultures, a new anthology.

Most shows at the time featuring teens focused on their relationships with their parents or their teachers, Byers said.

“A show that was told from the point of view of a teenager and was just about the teenage peer group … was in many ways a revolutionary concept.”

And it’s had a lasting influence. At the bandshell last night, fans in their 20s said they’d grown up with the characters.

The new series features some characters from the earlier shows, like Spike and Snake. But it has also introduced a new generation of teens who struggled with issues like abortion.

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