Degrassi Documentary Series to Uncover 40 Years of Teen Drama Legacy

degrassi documentary

WildBrain, the family entertainment producer that owns the iconic Canadian teen soap “Degrassi,” is teaming up with Canadian production company Peacock Alley to create a three-part documentary series. The documentary will delve into the rich history of “Degrassi” and the profound impact it has had on the teenage experience over its 40-year legacy.

Set to feature behind-the-scenes footage and interviews, the docu-series aims to explore the show’s lore, its creators, cast, crew, and the devoted fan base. It will also highlight the influence “Degrassi” has had on generations of filmmakers.

The Degrassi universe originated in 1979 when former schoolteacher Linda Schuyler and her partner Kit Hood, owners of the production company Playing With Time, created the franchise. It commenced with “The Kids of Degrassi Street,” evolving from three half-hour short films. The series gained prominence through the critical and commercial successes of “Degrassi Junior High” (1987) and “Degrassi High” (1989), featuring an ensemble cast of students dealing with various issues. The international sensation garnered millions of viewers in Canada and received numerous accolades. The telemovie “School’s Out” concluded the franchise in 1992.

In 1999, Schuyler and Yan Moore, the original Degrassi series head writer, started developing a new TV drama following a reunion of the original cast. Initially contemplating a school-reunion theme for adults, they shifted focus to younger characters, particularly Emma Nelson, born to “Spike” Nelson at the end of “Degrassi Junior High.”

The first episode aired on CTV in October 2001, with confirmation of its U.S. premiere on Noggin in Q1 2002. That’s the version of Degrassi many of us grew up on.

Running from October 14, 2001, on CTV to August 2, 2015, on MTV Canada, the series revolves around a new ensemble cast at Degrassi Community School, addressing a myriad of challenges like sex, teen pregnancy, bullying, drug abuse, and mental health issues.

“Degrassi” served as a launching pad for the careers of several well-known personalities, including recording artist Drake, Andrea Lewis, Raymond Ablack, Nina Dobrev, Shenae Grimes, and Jake Epstein. The series boasted guest appearances from Billy Ray Cyrus, Keke Palmer, Kevin Smith, and Dan Levy, among others.

With spin-offs like “Degrassi: The Next Generation” and “Degrassi: Next Class,” the show holds the distinction of being one of television’s longest-running teen franchises.

“With more people today watching ‘Degrassi’ around the world than ever before, its enduring popularity is driven by its unflinching honesty and authenticity, tackling topics and issues that teenagers everywhere face,” said WildBrain CEO Josh Scherba. “Peacock Alley brings award-winning talent and credentials to this project, and we look forward to working with them to share this exclusive inside view of ‘Degrassi’ with fans everywhere.”

Director Lisa Rideout expressed her excitement about the project, stating, “I’m thrilled to be showcasing the enormous impact ‘Degrassi’ had on the viewers, the cast, and crew, and to be telling the incredible story of one of Canada’s most successful and unique franchises.” Rideout, who grew up watching the show, emphasized its role in addressing the awkward and unspoken truths of youth for over four decades: “‘Degrassi’ not only helped teens feel less alone, it also didn’t shy away from what we wanted to know about puberty, sex, relationships, and so much more.”

The upcoming Degrassi documentary will be directed by Lisa Rideout, with WildBrain’s Josh Scherba, Stephanie Betts, and Angela Boudreault, along with Peacock Alley’s Carrie Mudd, serving as executive producers. Erin Sharp is on board as the producer.

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