25 Years of Degrassi

School's Back at Degrassi: TV's Most-Watched Canadian Drama Returns Sept. 19 on CTV

Toronto, ON (September 1, 2005) – Fresh from a summer vacation filled with multiple award wins and a hugely successful U.S. tour, it's back-to-school this fall for Degrassi: The Next Generation. Celebrating the 25th Anniversary of the Degrassi franchise, the internationally- acclaimed series returns with 19 new half-hour episodes airing Mondays at 8:30 p.m. ET, beginning Sept. 19 on CTV (check local listings).

The 25th Anniversary of the franchise will be marked by a one-hour documentary on CTV airing Sept. 17 as well as with the new companion book Degrassi: Generations, set to be released Sept. 6.

It's a Canadian power hour on Mondays on CTV with Degrassi: The Next Generation, Canada's most-watched original drama, scheduled to immediately follow Corner Gas, Canada's most-watched comedy series (Mondays at 8 p.m. ET). Last season, Degrassi: The Next Generation became the Number One Canadian drama for Teens (T12-17) and Adults (A18-34, A18-49 and A25-54).* The provocative Nov. 30 episode (dealing with oral sex) brought in almost one million viewers, the series' most-watched episode ever. Season Four also garnered international media attention with celebrity guest appearances by Kevin Smith, Jason Mewes and Alanis Morissette. Now, the series is set to celebrate its 100th episode in an all-new season.

In Season Five, the first class of students from Degrassi: The Next Generation will finally graduate. The new season begins with Manny anxious to pursue an acting career. Unfortunately, she is not prepared for the harsh realities of the industry and contemplates plastic surgery. Meanwhile, Craig receives an unexpected birthday present from Ashley and another character struggles with an unplanned pregnancy. Dealing with topics involving sexuality, drugs, religion and self-esteem, Degrassi continues to tackle tough issues in a realistic way.

"Not only are we proud of the accolades that Degrassi has received this past year, but also in how the series continues to evolve," said Susanne Boyce, President of Programming for CTV and Chair of the Media Group. "It's been five years and Degrassi is still pushing boundaries, still getting teens talking about really important issues."

In July, Degrassi: The Next Generation bested four American series to win "Outstanding Achievement in Children's Programming" at the Television Critics Association (TCA) Awards in Los Angeles. This marks only the second time that a non-American series has won an award in this category - the first being Degrassi Junior High in 1988. Three weeks later, Degrassi: The Next Generation topped 11 U.S. nominees at the Teen Choice Awards and brought home the coveted Teen Choice surfboard as "Choice Summer Series." This marks the first time a Canadian series has ever been nominated for - and won - this award.

In celebration of the 25th anniversary of the Degrassi franchise, CTV will broadcast an original documentary, The Degrassi Story on Saturday, Sept. 17 at 7 p.m. ET (check local listings). Classic Degrassi alumnus Stefan Brogren (currently featured in Degrassi: The Next Generation) leads viewers on a retrospective look at life with Degrassi over the past quarter-century. Brogren goes on the road, reconnecting with other Classic Degrassi cast members while providing a behind-the-scenes look at the lives of current cast members of the latest incarnation of the franchise.

"Timing and good fortune have played a hugely important role in the success of Degrassi over the years," said Linda Schuyler, President, Epitome Pictures Inc. "My single best fortune is to have had 25 years to work with a large group of talented, open, honest, funny, endearing, Canadian teenagers who have allowed two generations of international audiences the privilege of watching them grow up on television."

Twenty-fifth anniversary celebrations are in full swing with a back to school "must-have" item for Degrassi fans, the official Degrassi:T.N.G Student Planner. Chocked full of fun facts, photos and important dates, the planner is currently available in stores across Canada. As well, Degrassi: Generations, an illustrated history and the "Official 411" of the Degrassi franchise from its beginning 25 years ago to the present, debuted August 29 during a special Degrassi event at the CNE Bandshell and hits stores September 6 from Fenn Publishing / Madison Press.

The Degrassi: T.N.G. cast is halfway through a U.S. tour that, when it is over, will have hit 12 cities in 12 weeks. Each stop features an autograph booth and a trivia centre where fans can win exclusive Degrassi merchandise. An August stop in Los Angels drew over 4,000 fans and a July stop in Orlando drew an incredible response as almost 1,000 fans waited three hours to meet their favourite stars. Proof of the excitement that the series is generating south of the border: on the day of the event, the local retailer took down their Harry Potter displays and replaced them with Degrassi DVD sets. Dates for the second half of the tour are as follows: Detroit (September 10), Boston (September 17), Chicago (September 23), New Jersey (September 24) and Baltimore (October 1). Fans are encouraged to log on to the Degrassi website, www.degrassi.tv, for more mall tour details.

With nearly 400,000 registered users, the Degrassi website has won several awards, including the 2003 Gemini for Most Popular Website as well as the Best Interactive Award in 2002 and 2003. Produced by Snap Media in association with CTV, Telefilm, and the Bell Fund, www.degrassi.tv provides enhanced storytelling on the web in timed synchronization with television broadcasts around the world. Degrassi's online community continues to interact inside the virtual Degrassi school in record numbers through the creation of personalized locker pages, journal entries, d-mails and messages posted on the club message boards. In addition, these virtual students are able to visit the online guidance office for help and advice on a huge range of topics that includes everything from gossip to gay parents (offered through affiliated sites such as Health Canada, Kids Help Hotline and the Media Awareness Network).

Degrassi: The Next Generation stars Sarah Barrable-Tishauer as Liberty; Deanna Casaluce as Alex; Lauren Collins as Paige; Ryan Cooley as JT; Jake Epstein as Craig; Stacey Farber as Ellie; Jake Goldsbie as Toby; Aubrey Graham as Jimmy; Shane Kippel as Spinner; Andrea Lewis as Hazel; Mike Lobel as Jay; Miriam McDonald as Emma; Adamo Ruggiero as Marco; and Cassie Steele as Manny. Also returning are Dalmar Abuzeid as Danny and Shenae Grimes as Darcy. Jamie Johnston will be a new addition to the cast as Peter.


Also returning are Stefan Brogren as Archie "Snake" Simpson; Pat Mastroianni as Joey Jeremiah; and Amanda Stepto as Snake's missus, Christine "Spike" Nelson. Kevin Smith and Jason Mewes return as guest stars and eTalk Daily's Tanya Kim makes a special guest appearance.

Degrassi: The Next Generation is produced by Epitome Pictures in association with CTV. The series was co-created by Linda Schuyler, co-producer of the original Degrassi series, and Yan Moore. Schuyler and Stephen Stohn serve as Executive Producers. Kathleen Meek is the CTV production executive working with the series. Bill Mustos is Senior Vice-President, Dramatic Programming for CTV. Susanne Boyce is President of CTV Programming and Chair of the Media Group. Degrassi: The Next Generation has been successfully licensed in Britain, France, the U.S and Australia by AAC Kids, an Alliance Atlantis Division.

Epitome Pictures and its affiliate companies have been producing quality Canadian programming since 1976, including the multi-award winning, internationally recognized Degrassi franchise, The Kids of Degrassi Street, Degrassi Junior High and Degrassi High, which still air throughout the world. Epitome Pictures has also produced the series Liberty Street and Riverdale as well as several MOWs.

Delighted with Degrassi

Popular TV shows mark 25 years

Young fans pack bandshell at CNE



The Toronto Star Aug. 30, 2005

It's hard to believe it's been a quarter-century since the launch of the TV show that immortalized Degrassi St.

"It's been 25 years. We have less hair," said Stefan Brogren (Snake), who was part of earlier Degrassi casts in the 1980s and now appears on Degrassi: The Next Generation. Cast members gathered for an anniversary celebration at the CNE last night.

When the stars walked out on stage, their young fans screamed, jumped out of their seats and ran to the stage. The bandshell was packed with fans like Samantha Pritchard, 14.

"It's like the same issues teenagers face," Pritchard said of the show. "It's like real life."

Heather Lopez, 16, came from Buffalo for a chance to meet the cast. "I like the fact that (they show) that not every teen's life is perfect," said Lopez.

Last night's event also marked the launch of a new book, Degrassi Generations, by Kathryn Ellis, that chronicles the evolution of the TV series.

The Kids of Degrassi Street aired from 1980 to 1985, followed by Degrassi Junior High (1987-89) and Degrassi High (1989-92). In 2001, Degrassi: the Next Generation was launched.

Series veterans Amanda Stepto (Spike), Pat Mastroianni (Joey) and Stacie Mistysyn (Caitlin) were among those on hand.

Eleven of the younger stars at the celebration included Lauren Collins (Paige), Andrea Lewis (Hazel), Stacey Farber (Ellie) and Ryan Cooley (J.T.).

During a question-and-answer session, some fans asked if their favourites were single. One asked Mastroianni if he still wears Joey Jeremiah's hat.

The shows were groundbreaking, said Michele Byers, a professor at Saint Mary's University in Halifax and editor of Growing Up Degrassi: Television, Identity and Youth Cultures, a new anthology.

Most shows at the time featuring teens focused on their relationships with their parents or their teachers, Byers said.

"A show that was told from the point of view of a teenager and was just about the teenage peer group ... was in many ways a revolutionary concept."

And it's had a lasting influence. At the bandshell last night, fans in their 20s said they'd grown up with the characters.

The new series features some characters from the earlier shows, like Spike and Snake. But it has also introduced a new generation of teens who struggled with issues like abortion.

Silver anniversary, silver screen: Epitome develops Degrassi feature

by Sean Davidson

Playback June 6, 2005 page 1

The makers of Degrassi: The Next Generation had a good month in May - bringing in a movie script and $50,000 in spending money just as they are closing in on the silver anniversary of their successful youth franchise.

Producers Linda Schuyler and Stephen Stohn of Epitome Pictures have, for some time, been looking to take their CTV show to the big screen, and, late last month, received the draft script from series writers Tassie Cameron and Aaron Martin.

"We have the first draft in hand," says Stohn. "It just arrived."

The proposed film is in development with help from Telefilm Canada, which no doubt sees the popular Degrassi brand as a better-than-average shot at becoming a commercially successful English-Canadian film. Telefilm also has a hand in the Trailer Park Boys feature, set to shoot this summer in Nova Scotia.

Stohn would not comment on the broader plans, but sources close to the project say Epitome is courting U.S. director Kevin Smith for a late summer shoot. Smith (Dogma, Jersey Girl) guest starred on three TNG episodes last season, along with his sidekick Jason Mewes, and is an outspoken fan of the Degrassi shows.

"We need to absorb this draft and talk with the people that might be involved," says Stohn, possibly going back for more funding for a second draft. Whether the movie will come together "is still anybody's guess."

Two books and a TV documentary are also in the works. Toronto-based Madison Press will unveil its behind-the-scenes collection Degrassi: Generations and a branded student planner at this month's BookExpo Canada - the former will be on shelves in Canada, the U.S. and Australia by fall - just as 90th Parallel Productions puts the finishing touches on a one-hour Degrassi retrospective for CTV.

The doc features franchise star Stefan "Snake" Brogren in informal chats with past and present cast members.

"My marching orders were 'Give them what they want.' 'Them' being the fans," says director Mike Sheerin. "It focuses mainly on the older, classic Degrassi, but the new show is definitely in there."

It is in post with editor Nick Hector (Dying at Grace) and is expected to air in the coming season. Smith appears in the documentary and also wrote the foreword to Degrassi: Generations.

Meanwhile, the series won $50,000 and the first Shaw Rocket Prize on May 25, voted best Canuck kids show by a jury of some 400 schoolchildren and five international broadcast execs - besting Poko, Franny's Feet and Shoebox Zoo.

The show has "plenty of plot integrity, sophistication and depth," according to one student jurist. "It also has realistic conflicts and is definitely thought-provoking." The win follows and in many ways echoes a glowing review that ran earlier this year in the New York Times Magazine, which cheekily proclaimed TNG "tha Best Teen TV N da WRLD!"

Stohn notes that the Times piece, the doc, the book and movie are putting a lot of momentum behind the Degrassi name, just as its next season gets underway in Toronto.

Season five of TNG will also see the return of showrunner James Hurst, who left the series last season to help launch Epitome's other teen drama, Instant Star. TNG writer Shelley Scarrow takes over on Star, now shooting its second run.

TNG marked a high point in October when it drew its highest ratings ever, just under one million according to BBM, with a controversial episode about bullying and school shootings.

TNG airs on The N in the U.S., where its edgier stories have been known to cause a stir, and is also carried in the U.K., Australia and France.

It is the fourth series to bear the Degrassi name, following Kids of Degrassi Street, Degrassi Junior High and Degrassi High, all of which aired on CBC in the '80s and early '90s. Stohn and Schuyler turned out an MOW in 1991 and then took the latest series to CTV in 2001.

The coming season is being trumpeted as the franchise's 25th anniversary.

Degrassi, Canada's Celebrated Teen Series, Marks its Silver Anniversary

CTV and Epitome Pictures Inc. announced on Wednesday, May 25, 2005 that principal photography has begun on 19 new half-hour episodes of the award-winning, prime-time Canadian drama Degrassi: The Next Generation, marking the 25th anniversary of the Degrassi franchise. In addition, the upcoming season will culminate with the finale episode marking the series 100th episode. Shooting is scheduled to run through November with the fifth installment of the series debuting on CTV as part of the 2005-2006 season.

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