Degrassi: The Next Generation is a continuation of the 80's series Degrassi High, which itself was a spin-off of Degrassi Junior High and The Kids of Degrassi Street. The current show, like its predecessors is set in Canada and filmed on location. Most of the action in this series takes place in and around Degrassi Community School.
The show has a couple of links to its older namesake. In Degrassi High, the character Christine Nelson (AKA Spike) had a baby at age 16. This child, Emma, now in her teens, is one of the main characters in the new show. Also, Joey Jeremiah reappears as step-father to Craig, another current student at Degrassi. Former Degrassi High student Archie "Snake" Simpson, ends up marrying Christine and becomes Emma's step-father. Caitlyn Ryan, Joey Jeremiah's girlfriend in the old days also makes a reappearance on the new show and reunites with her old flame.
The series begins on a serious note; an episode in which Emma is almost raped by a man she meets online. Like the prior Degrassi series, this show often takes a refreshing stand on current social issues. It tackles such topics as child abuse, gay rights, racism, gangs, drugs, alcohol, cutting, internet pornography, teenage sexuality, pregnancy ,and abortion.
All the characters in Degrassi are unique, but somehow unlikeable.
- Emma Nelson - a self-righteous environmentalist who seems to have good morals, yet isn't very likeable as she is rather bossy and seems to see things in black and white.
- Manny Santos - formerly a sweet and naive latina girl and Emma's best friend. In a quest to reinvent herself, she became and still remains the school slut.
- Toby Isaacs - Geeky, chubby, bespectacled computer hacker. Toby is J.T.'s best friend and, though J.T. can get away with hanging at the popular kids lunch table, it seems like Toby never will. He tries way too hard to be cool. His step-sister is Ashley.
- J.T. Yorke - Kind of a floater. He was a geek in the first season, but now seems to get along with just about everyone. He's an intelligent kid, but he can't help being the class clown.
- Liberty Van Zandt - One of Degrassi's finest students, yet she still can't seem to do anything right. She didn't make the floor hockey team, she has multiplexia, and she stutters during the morning announcements. She has a mad crush on J.T., and, though he teases her sometimes, it doesn't seem like he'll truly return her love.
- Ashley Kerwin - First a prep, then a goth, now a rocker. It seems like the major changes Ashley goes through in her life, from boys dumping her to her father turning gay, cause these shifts in Ashley's style. Nevertheless, she is one of the more honest and down-to-earth girls of Degrassi. No matter what, she will always stay true to her music and give her backstabbing friends a second chance. Her step-brother is Toby.
- Sean Cameron - One of Emma's ex-boyfriends. He also dated Ellie. Shawn has a knack for getting in trouble with the law. At his last school, he deafened another student in a fight. He currently lives with his brother. It seemed that his criminal past was behind him, but in later episodes he is back to his old tricks, stealing DVD players and such from the school.
- Jimmy Brooks - Ashley's ex #1. They started off together, then broke up, got back together, and broke up again. Jimmy's laid-back black guy, but he's never afraid to say what's on his mind. He's wealthier than his best friend Spinner, and they sometimes fight over this.
- Terri McGreggor - BBW of Degrassi who seems to be pretty dumb. She lets Paige boss her around for fear of losing all her other friends, and also was in an abusive relationship that she went through twice. She's a pretty bad poet, too. But high school has a lot of types like this.
- Paige Michalchuk - The most popular girl in school, despite not being very attractive. She has a real mean streak, but comes off as a sweet girl deep down inside. She goes out with Spinner and is also rather intelligent, if manipulative. Her brother Dylan is homosexual.
- Gavin Mason (AKA Spinner) - Kind of a pig, and homophobic to boot. Still, he is a good guy and would never let his violent urges get the best of him. His real name is Gavin, and he is called Spinner because he has ADD and gets real hyper when he forgets to take his Ritalin. Brother of Kendra.
- Ellie Nash - Self-destructive gothic-type girl with red hair. She used to date Marco until he came out of the closet. She's a bit of an art babe and likes to do all that creative stuff like journalism projects and such. She currently dates Sean.
- Hazel Aden - Paige's best friend with a limited personality. It just seems like she'll do anything Paige says, though she does seem friendlier. We'll see if her character gets any more of a development in the series. She has dated Jimmy.
- Marco Del Rossi - Gay character who, when coming out of the closet, got a lot of crap from his friend Spinner. He is now on good terms with him, and he has quite a mutual crush on Paige's gay brother. It seems like his friendship with Ellie is fading as the two of them have separate romantic interests.
- Craig Manning - Child abuse victim who is now in the care of Joey Jeremiah. He used to go out with Ashley, but cheated on her with that slut Manny. He's a musician like Ashley, and has a band with Jimmy, Marco, and Spinner.
- Rick - Terry's abusive boyfriend. He gets violently angry whenever Terry won't do as she's told. He's an insecure baby, but his actions landed Terry in the hospital with a concussion. Rick's a weird, creepy, socially inept guy who probably would benefit from some therapy. His character finally leaves the show after dishing out one too many beatings.
- Chris Sharp - One of Emma's boyfriends during the series. He's black, a DJ and likes to freestyle in the halls. A cool chap.
- Dean - Football player from a rival school of Degrassi. He raped Paige at a party, and she got back at him through a song by her girl band PMS. This event was a major catalyst for her relationship with the crass but ultimately decent guy, Spinner.
- Kendra Mason - Spinner's adopted Asian sister and member of the floor hockey team. We haven't seen much of her lately; it seems like she's gone the way of Chuck Cunningham. She dated that gross Toby for awhile and there was an episode dedicated to him acting creepy and clingy towards her. But I think she's gone.
- Dylan Michalchuk - Marco's gay boyfriend and Paige's older brother. Dylan is into playing and watching sports (he's the star of the Degrassi Panthers hockey team), while Marco seems more interested in more artsy things like Ellie. Nevertheless, these two hit it off in a recent episode.
Well, if I forgot anyone, please let me know! The series is appealing to fans of the old series because it includes several members of the old gang, now adults. You get to see the continuing relationships of Spike and Snake, Joey and Caitlin! Plus that old standard by The Zit Remedy ("Everybody's got something") gets played quite a bit.
In the United States, it airs on Noggin, or The-N. New episodes don't come out nearly as often as they should. This is because The-N chooses to take a single year of episodes and divide them up into two years worth of episodes. Since the show is on like 6 times a day there are endless repeats of the same episodes for many months on end.
It is important to note that The-N doesn't show us the exact same show that is broadcast to the Canadian audience. The-N edits some of the episodes for content and language. Also, some episodes The-N has chosen not to run at all, most notably is a recent episode where Manny becomes pregnant after having sex with Craig and opts to have an abortion. For some reason, The-N felt the topic was too controversial to put on the air. It doesn't make sense to me, since they show teens using ecstasy, teens cutting their wrists, and teens having sex. Why wouldn't they be able to show a teen choosing to have an abortion?