Series / Degrassi Junior High

"Canadians have always been innovators, and this show was a trend-setter. There would be no Beverly Hills 90210 if Degrassi Junior High hadn't done it first with poorer, uglier kids."
Host, 2008 Gemini Awards
To this day, the fumes from the hairspray used in this show are still hanging in a massive, immobile cloud somewhere over Lake Ontario.

The second series in the Degrassi franchise (third if you count the half-hour film Ida Makes a Movie as freestanding, as it originally had been intended), and the one that put Degrassi on the map for good. It re-used some of the actors from The Kids of Degrassi Street, but playing different characters. The series lasted from January, 1987 to March, 1989. A total of 42 episodes in three seasons.

The series was created by CBC as an educational tool for teens, to teach them about "hot button" topics like eating disorders, teen pregnancy, losing parents, etc. Most episodes followed a fairly standard formula: one of the kids has A Day in the Limelight where they deal with some nightmarish problem. At the same time, another kid has a comic adventure that mirrors the main A plot (Two Lines, No Waiting). At the same time, several arc plots floated around the show, and each episode would move the arc forward a bit (often serving as Foreshadowing for the A and B plots of later episodes).

Described like that, it sounds like a crappy Very Special Episode. What made it more than that was the willingness to (sometimes) have unhappy endings, and for the consequences to last more than an episode — when a character fails a grade, the whole next season shows him struggling with the stigma.

When it first aired, the show was ground-breaking for dealing with these hot topics without censorship or neat happy endings; it became a cult hit in America via PBS. The most notable American fan was one Kevin Smith, who later achieved his life's dream of romancing the character Caitlin (the same character he named Caitlin Bree in Clerks after) in Degrassi: The Next Generation. (There are persistent rumors that Aaron Spelling wanted to license an American version of Degrassi, but couldn't get the rights, so he created Beverly Hills 90210 instead.) After all the shows that have come since, it doesn't look very daring. Most notably, it treats gays sympathetically, but doesn't dare have a gay main character or even a gay recurring character; guest stars have to do. (The current Degrassi series, as of Season 12, has had multiple gay, lesbian, and bi main characters and even a trans main character.) There are also several dated moments that were plausible for 1980s teens, but are bizarre now, like when The Ditz hears about anorexia for the first time and wishes she had it.

Fans of Degrassi: The Next Generation will be surprised at how more conventional the show is. Adults are right more often in Degrassi Junior High (it tends to use Parent Ex Machina instead of Adults Are Useless). But the biggest difference is that the entire cast of the older show are naive, frightened kids at heart. Even The High School Hustler and the Alpha Bitch turn out to be insecure and uncertain when the mask is removed. This sets it apart far more than the omnipresent '80s Hair — modern shows tend to have teens who are far more crafty. (Compare the Alpha Bitch on both shows. Stephanie, in the older show, bullies people because she's in deep denial about how needy, insecure, and naive she is. Paige, on the new show, is a ruthless shark with no fear and no weaknesses.)

Followed by the sequel series Degrassi High.

Another American fan was Albert of The Agony Booth, who has plans to recap every DJH episode.

This show provides examples of: