A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this edgy Canadian teen drama presents strong topics and controversial issues that are relevant to real-life teens. Discussions about sexual behavior, substance abuse, and other issues aren't as explicit or titillating as in some more contemporary teen dramas. Instead, they're realistic, sparking honest, open discussions that include thinking about the consequences of your behavior and figuring out how to cope with difficult situations. Some episodes have a far heavier tone than others do, and the amount of controversial material varies widely from episode to episode, so parents might want to preview episodes before letting kids watch. Ultimately, like its successor, the show is one of the best shows on TV for teens because of its realism and responsibility.
What's the story?
DEGRASSI, OLD SCHOOL is the new name for the popular Canadian series -- originally titled Degrassi Junior High and later, as the characters aged, Degrassi High -- that found a lot of stateside fans when it aired on PBS in the late '80s and early '90s. Still airing today in repeats and available on DVD, the series follows a group of kids living near (where else?) Degrassi Street in Toronto, Canada, as they make their way through junior high and high school. While their clothes, hair, and vocabulary are very late-'80s, the serious and often controversial issues they deal with are still extremely relevant to today's teens. Some of the series' many recurring characters include Christine \"Spike\" Nelson (Amanda Stepto), Derek \"Wheels\" Wheeler (Neil Hope), Archie \"Snake\" Simpson (Stefan Brogren), Joey Jeremiah (Pat Mastroianni), Bryant \"BLT\" Thomas, (Dayo Ade), Lucy Fernandez (Anais Granofsky), and twins Erica and Heather Farrell (Angela and Maureen Deiseach). In true soap opera style, the characters' personal lives are the main focus of the series.
Is it any good?
Unlike many teen dramas, such as Beverly Hills, 90210, Degrassi provides an edgy, accurate look at kids and school life. The show isn't about being hip or looking perfect, and the characters don't sport flawless bodies and impeccable designer clothes. Instead, Degrassi is committed to discussing teen issues in a strikingly real, straightforward manner.
Topics like standing up for your principles, dealing with gender inequality, and handling boyfriend troubles are mixed in with concerns about unwanted pregnancy, drug use, homosexuality, alcoholism, oral sex, AIDS, and child molestation. The frankness of some of these discussions makes the show too strong for younger audiences, but for the teen and older tween viewers the show is aimed at, it's this very honesty that makes Degrassi worth watching.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the tricky situations teens face in and out of school. How do you cope with the pressure to do drugs or have sex? Families can also talk about making difficult decisions. What are the pros and cons of each choice we make? Are we prepared to live with the consequences of our choices? Unrealistic portrayals of teenagers on television are something that can also be discussed. Does the fact that the teens look like regular teens make the show more realistic? What else sets it apart from other teen series?