Tag Archives: MTV

Degrassi returns on a new network with the Next Class

New Year, new network and a new class. Yes, Degrassi makes its triumphant return to television in 2016 after upheaval in 2015. First came word last summer that Nickelodeon had cancelled the long-running teen series for U.S. viewers. That was followed by the news MTV Canada would no longer broadcast Degrassi in this country. After much hand-wringing on sad-face emoticons, the good news was announced: Degrassi was moving to Family Channel in Canada—it debuts Monday at 9 p.m. ET/PT—and Netflix in the rest of the world.

“A few years ago we were doing a read-through and Lyle [Lettau], who plays Tristan, said, ‘Why are we not on Netflix?'” recalls longtime series star and series producer Stefan Brogren. “And everyone said, ‘Yes Lyle, we’d all love to be.’ But that started us thinking about where our audience is at. Where are they watching these shows?” The audience was headed online, streaming content, and the Degrassi: Next Class folks decided if they had the chance to pitch the program to Netflix they would. Brogren is quick to compliment the online network, marvelling at the lack of notes and being left alone to follow the season story arc everyone wanted to follow.

The same is true of the relationship with Family, where Degrassi: Next Class takes pride of place in the channel’s new teen block, F2N. Brogren says their Canadian carrier has been just as supportive of the show’s direction, which kicks off with 10 episodes, and fans will see a lot more truth than they’ve seen from the iconic show amid the tales of high school students beginning their journey into adulthood. Of course, there are issues to tackle along the way, from homophobia and racism to substance abuse and the complications of dating in the social media age.

Back for more drama—and laughs—are Ana Golja (Zoe Rivas), Ricardo Hoyos (Zig Novak), Eric Osborne (Miles Hollingsworth III) and Sara Waisglass (Frankie Hollingsworth) alongside Brogren, who plays Principal Archie “Snake” Simpson. The New Class title is fulfilled by new cast in Jamie Bloch and Dante Scott, who play Yael Baron and Vijay Maraj, respectively.

“Yael is a girl in a man’s world,” Bloch, who most recently co-starred on Wingin’ It, says. “She’s very into video games and technology. She’s quiet and keeps to herself and doesn’t like to be the centre of attention.” Bloch had originally auditioned to play a lesbian character named Maude, but changes resulted in new student Yael.

“No, she is not a lesbian, and that becomes very clear near the end of the season,” Bloch says with a laugh.

“Vijay is very outgoing and energetic and a little bit dramatic,” Scott says of his character. “He’s always there to talk to if you need him—I think he’s a really good friend to have—and can take a negative situation and turn it into a positive.” Tonight’s debut episode oozes positivity; Scott says its because of characters like Vijay and stories that delve into hope and a bright future for the Degrassi kids.

“This season feels a little like old-school Degrassi did,” Brogren says. “We were able to have more fun while at the same time telling exactly the stories we wanted to tell. For all the trouble that goes on at Degrassi you still want to be there.”

Degrassi: Next Class airs Monday to Friday at 9 p.m. ET/PT on Family Channel for two weeks and streams on Netflix outside of Canada beginning Jan. 15.

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Degrassi’s secret to success

“Isn’t it extraordinary that it’s gone this long?” There’s definitely a hint of wonder in Linda Schuyler’s voice when she says that. And why not? In a television world where fickle viewers and nervous networks can mean the end of series before it ever gets a footing, Degrassi marches on.

Tuesday’s return of the teen drama to MTV is Season 14 of the current incarnation, a stunning achievement on its own. But factor in  the fact the franchise will be celebrating 35 years in 2015 and the mind boggles. You’d think that after that amount of time, Schuyler or Stephen Stohn would consider walking away and resting. You would be wrong.

“I love it. We learned something early on in The Next Generation, which was to have the courage to graduate our kids,” she explains. “There is a fear in TV that if you lose a tranche of people you’re going to lose your audience. We were scared to graduate that first group because in the classic show we basically stayed with the same kids for almost 100 episodes.” Schuyler and the Degrassi team have found a formula for success by bringing in new students and allowing the audience to get to know them while the old favourites are still in class. Aside from constantly replenishing the performers, the writing room is injected with fresh voices too. The result? A project continually rejuvenated by fresh blood.

From the very beginning Degrassi dared to tell real-life stories about teens to teens. Teenage drinking, pregnancy, bullying, abuse and sexual lifestyle choices have always been front and centre in scripts, a trend that continues Tuesday night with “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” Clare (Aislinn Paul) sees her carefully planned world turned upside down over a dalliance with Drew (Luke Bilyk), Miles’ (Eric Osborne) relationship with Tristan (Lyle Lettau) may have an impact on his father’s political plans, and Zoë (Ana Golja) and Becky (Sarah Fisher) butt heads over cheerleading. Those three storylines aren’t necessarily new to the franchise, but fresh cast means they can be tackled from a new point of view.

“We’ve run many different gay storylines, but when you bring in different characters you can look at it from a different side of the prism,” Schuyler says. “You get a new take on an old storyline, plus there are new things happening in the media all the time that keep us inspired and thinking. Nothing is taboo.”

Degrassi airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. ET on MTV.

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