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TV Series Review

Before  Hannah Montana and iCarly; before Beverly Hills, 90210 and Saved by the Bell; there was Degrassi.

The Canadian kid/teen dramedy was created way back in 1979, when phones had cords and text was a noun. It's undergone several incarnations: The Kids of Degrassi Street, Degrassi Junior High, Degrassi High and, since 2001, Degrassi: The Next Generation—a high school-themed show recently renamed, simply, Degrassi.

Over that time, cast members have come and gone like the tides washing into Prince Edward Island. Seniors graduate and freshmen arrive. Characters get married, get jobs, get pregnant, get drunk, get arrested. Though never blessed with blockbuster ratings and sequestered to the tiny Nickelodeon spin-off channel TeenNick (at least in the U.S.), Degrassi has been one of television's more influential—and more controversial—programs. While characters on Disney and Nickelodeon's main channel navigate such high school perils as peer pressure and cheating, Degrassi teens grapple with alcoholism, pregnancy (six different characters have gotten pregnant in the larger Degrassi series), homosexuality and a raft of other issues.

One example: During Degrassi High's run, a pregnant girl struggled with pro-life advocates outside an abortion clinic—a plot point that stirred waves of protest and two separate endings: In Canada, the character definitively went through with the abortion, while Stateside, the show wrapped with quite a bit of ambiguity.

So the stage has been set for 2010's Degrassi: The Boiling Point. For most of its history, the various Degrassi series have played out much like all the other standard television programs. Most storylines were neatly resolved in the span of an episode, with a few lingering threads stretching over a full season. With The Boiling Point, Degrassi goes all telenovela on its fans, getting started by firing off nightly episodes (Monday through Friday) for six weeks straight. The season's full run will stretch to a whopping 48 episodes, leaving perhaps even the most ardent Degrassi fans sated.

It may leave them titillated, too. Teens obsessed with love—and by love I mean sex—have found a kindred spirit in this show: Premarital hanky-panky is accepted, even encouraged, and sexual patter commonplace. The two-hour Boiling Point premiere introduces a brother-sister relationship that wades into incestuous waters. And in mid-August, Degrassi is expected to introduce its first transgender character—a student named Adam who, in reality, is a girl. The Canadian Press reports that the folks behind the show have been in close contact with GLBT organizations as they've developed the character.

"The writing is good," says 15-year-old Jordan Todosey, who plays Adam. "They really go out there with that kind of stuff and I think that this character can really speak for anybody who is outcast or bullied or transgender or anything like that."

Degrassi caters exclusively to tweens and teens. Its cast is filled with teens and twentysomethings. But it's a celebration of not youth, but childishness, a salute to immature behavior with nary a sober, moral mooring in sight. This is a world in which becoming an adult just means driving a car and having sex, not growing up.

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DegrassiTheBoilingPoint: 7192010



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Charlotte Arnold as Holly J. Sinclair; Annie Clark as Fiona Coyne; Landon Liboiron as Declan Coyne; Jessica Tyler as Jenna Middleton; Paula Brancati as Jane Vaughn; Shane Kippel as Spinner Mason; Miriam McDonald as Emma Nelson






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Paul Asay

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