In 1979, Linda Schuyler, a former schoolteacher, and Kit Hood, a commercial editor, acquired the rights to the book Ida Makes a Movie by Kay Chorao and adapted it into the first episode of what would become The Kids of Degrassi Street.
The 26-episode series, produced by Playing With Time Inc., aired from 1980 to 1986 on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC). From 1987 to 1989, Linda and Kit created the second incarnation of the franchise, Degrassi Junior High, which was produced in association with CBC and the PBS flagship station WGBH. The show followed the lives of a group of students attending the school and tackled difficult topics such as drug use, child abuse, teenage pregnancy, homosexuality, homophobia, racism, and divorce. The series was critically acclaimed for its sensitive and realistic portrayal of teenage life.
Degrassi Junior High featured many of the same actors from The Kids of Degrassi Street, including Stacie Mistysyn, Neil Hope and Anais Granofsky. In the spring of 1989, the third incarnation, Degrassi High, began production and premiered that same fall on CBC, running for 28 episodes over two seasons. In the summer of 1991, production began on the Degrassi television movie School’s Out, and in January 1992 the MOW premiered to 2.3 million viewers on the CBC.
Following a successful run in syndication on the CBC throughout the 1990s, the franchise was remounted by CTV in 2001 as Degrassi: The Next Generation. The series aired on The N network in the US (a branch of Nickelodeon known today as TeenNick) and distributed worldwide.
In the tenth season of Degrassi: The Next Generation, the series title was simplified to Degrassi, and continued to run on Teen Nick and CTV’s affiliated station MTV Canada, until the show’s fourteenth season.
In 2015, Epitome Pictures, a DHX Media company, introduced a new installation to the Degrassi franchise. The first season of Degrassi: Next Class is currently in production, and will be available on Netflix around the world and Family Channel in Canada, beginning early 2016.
To date, the Degrassi franchise has been airing, on-and-off, for 35 years and includes a total of 485 episodes.