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Degrassi embarks upon another gloriously dramatic season

Degrassi: The Next Generation begins its 12th season tonight. We discuss some of the many lessons we’ve learned thus far from the long-running show!

Stars of Degrassi

Apparently the market for dramatic Canadian teenagers is extremely resilient: Today marks the premiere of Degrassi: The Next Generation‘s 12th season on the air. Yes, you read right — that says 12th. These days TV shows are lucky if they make it beyond four seasons. But with Degrassi‘s ongoing rotation of students traipsing in and out of the fictional Toronto school every year — each one with a more complicated problem than the last — it’s clear why our favourite homegrown TV show has lasted as impressively long as it has.

This season we see the addition of four new faces to Degrassi‘s halls: Mike Dallas (played by Demetrius Joyette), the homophobic hockey team captain; twins Luke and Becky Baker (Craig Arnold and Sarah Fisher), whose conservative values cause a bit of a stir; and Campbell Saunders (Dylan Everett), a sophomore who joins the hockey team. When mixed with the already juicy characters and storylines that have been carried over from season 11, we have no doubt season 12 will be the biggest soul-searching, lesson-learning extravaganza yet.

We really have learned a lot from our beloved Degrassi characters these many years. It’d be futile to try to name all the things we have gleaned from its colourful collection of students and staff, but we thought we’d acknowledge some of the more important ones to celebrate the beginning of the show’s newest season. Thanks, Degrassi, for continuing to teach so many valuable lessons. Here’s to another 12 seasons!

There is no such thing as too much drama

From struggling with sexual identity, to drug addiction, to rape, to physical and emotional abuse, the students of Degrassi have been through the ringer when it comes to personal drama. There are no vanilla, Dawson’s Creek– or The OC-style love triangles here; at Degrassi, more is more when it comes to complication. The show gets ragged on a little because of its excessively hightened drama, but clearly they’re doing something right at that school. Twelve seasons of school shootings, backstabbing and teenage pregnancies later, Degrassi has lasted longer than practically every other show of its kind.

Teenagers on TV can look like teenagers in real life

For the most part, TV shows set in high schools feature very young-looking 20-year-old actors to play teenage students. And while we have no problem watching Mark Salling and Lea Michele sing their little hearts out on Glee, we often have a hard time suspending our disbelief that these full-blown adults are actually in high school. Not to mention, of course, that they’re impossibly better looking than any normal-looking teenager. Degrassi has prided itself from the very beginning on hiring regular-looking teenage actors to play regular-looking teenagers. It’s refreshing to turn on Degrassi and be reminded that most 15-year-olds don’t have beautifully defined cheekbones or bulging triceps; rather, they have acne and baby fat. Without Degrassi, we’d all put our kids on growth hormones for not looking 25 by age 16, as other shows would have us believe we should.

There is fame after high school

Degrassi is what some might call a launching pad for the stars of tomorrow. Some of the show’s graduates, such as Aubrey Graham (a.k.a. Drake), Shenae Grimes and Nina Dobrev, have gone on to achieve international fame and huge career success. Degrassi is a way for emerging actors to make their starts and acquire the recognition and training that can eventually make them world-renowned stars. And if there’s one thing we Canadians love, it’s being able to lay claim on world-famous celebrities.

There is always someone whose life sucks more than yours

Whether you come from a broken home or you’re captain of the cheerleading team, there is no way to avoid the storm of suck that will inevitably rain upon you. And that doesn’t just go for teenagers: We all go through our share of drama, even as our high school days become more and more distant memories. But Degrassi has taught us that no matter how bad things get, there’s always a large class of TV teenagers waiting to make us feel better about our comparatively uncomplicated lives.

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