'Degrassi' guy graduates:The N, Martin go to college: Charity Shea stars in new N drama Best Years

By DENISE MARTIN

Charity Shea stars in new N drama ‘The Best Years’ about a girl’s first year in college.

The N has greenlit a new drama from Aaron Martin, showrunner on the net’s top-rated skein “Degrassi: The Next Generation,” about a girl’s freshman year in college.
Nick’s teen-targeted net has ordered production on 13 one-hour episodes of “The Best Years” (working title), which has begun shooting in Toronto for a premiere next summer.

Blueprint Entertainment will produce in association with Canada’s CanWest MediaWorks. Martin exec produces with Blueprint principals Noreen Halpern and John Morayniss.

“Best Years” stars Charity Shea (“Alpha Dogs”) as Samantha Best, a young woman with a full-ride scholarship to a prestigious Massachusetts university. Episodes will follow Samantha, who grew up in and out of foster homes, as she contends with academics, a new group of friends and a part-time job while struggling to find her own identity.

Jennifer Miller, Athena Karkanis and Brandon Jay McLaren also star.

Amy Friedman, senior VP of development and creative director for the N, said finding a college-set drama was paramount for net execs, noting the female-skewing cabler had increased its median age to 16 in the past year.

“There really hasn’t been a true college drama for girls since ‘Felicity,’ ” she said. Similar to that skein, “Best Years” will begin with Samantha’s first day at college, “the first day of the rest of her life.”

Friedman said the show, although a drama, will have a light touch.

“It’s like ‘Degrassi,’ grown up. It’ll be juicy,” she said. “What’s so great about college is that it’s this huge collection of all these different people from across the social and economic spectrum, colliding in class and in the dorms.”

Friedman added that the out-of-the-gate series commitment to the show reflected the network’s confidence in Martin as a showrunner.

Martin said the show is more adult but is by no means a “message show.”

“Samantha’s story is all about becoming independent for the first time,” he said. “It’s not so much about issues as it is about life lessons big and small, from dealing with difficult roommates to changing majors.”

Martin was head writer-showrunner on “Degrassi” during its first four seasons on the N, winning the 2004 Canadian Screenwriting Award for his work on the series.

The N, available in 52 million homes, has invested heavily in original dramas. Also on the 2007 sked are “The Block,” second season of “Beyond the Break,” new episodes of “Degrassi” and a third season of “Instant Star.”

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