For millennials who lived for teen drama, Degrassi: The Next Generation was a rite of passage. The show - which was a follow-up to the 80s and 90s series - chronicled the very real lives of teens who dealt with sex, drugs, abortion, rape, school shootings, mental health issues in a way that other soaps geared towards young adults didn’t. One of the cast members - Aubrey Graham aka Drake - would go onto be one of the biggest rappers in the world. But he’s never really forgotten his Degrassi beginnings (his Instagram features him reuniting with former members of the cast), so it makes sense that he’d pay homage to the show that helped launch his career.
The music video for “I’m Upset” shows Drake reuniting with some of his Degrassi family, including Shane Kippel (Spinner), Stacey Farber (Ellie) Adamo Ruggiero (Marco), Lauren Collins (Paige), Jake Epstein (Craig), Christina Schmidt (Terri), Andrea Lewis (Hazel), Melissa McIntyre (Ashley), Linlyn Lue (Ms. Kwan), Stefan Brogren (Mr. Simpson), Jake Goldsbie (Toby), Marc Donato (Derek), Dalmar Abuzeid (Danny), AJ Saudin (Connor), Miriam MacDonald (Emma), Cassie Steele (Manny), Nina Dobrev (Mia), Sarah Barrable-Tishauer (Liberty), and Paula Brancati (Jane). There's even an appearance from actor Ephraim Ellis (Rick Murray) who shot Drake’s character Jimmy on the show.
Drake’s video made us nostalgic, so we compiled the seven most iconic episodes of the series.
The one where Manny gets an abortion
In “Accidents Will Happen” - a two-part episode during season three, Manny realises she’s pregnant with Craig’s baby. Craig had been cheating on his girlfriend Ashley with Manny when she got pregnant. Manny seeks advice from her best friend Emma’s mother who had her daughter in high school and decides to get an abortion. Both Emma and Craig oppose Manny’s choice with Craig wanting to raise the baby with her. Later Emma concedes that it’s Manny’s choice and she should do what she thinks is the right decision. Manny eventually tells her own mother and goes to an abortion clinic. These episodes were infamously banned in the US for two years.
The one where Jimmy gets shot
Perhaps the most famous episodes in the series, “Time Stands Still” - a two-part special - depicts a high school shooting at Degrassi High. Spinner and Jimmy bully Rick who had been physically abusive to his girlfriend Terri - putting her in a coma - but things get serious when Spinner and Jay plan a prank on Rick after he wins a quiz show. A bucket of feathers and yellow paint falls on Rick and the entire crowd laughs at him. Rick then goes home to steal a gun and ends up shooting Jimmy and then taking his own life. For the remainder of the series, Jimmy is paralysed in a wheelchair.
The one where Emma gets an STI
“You gave me a social disease!” may go down in history as one of the most memorable Degrassi quotes. Season four’s two-part special “Secret” follows Emma as she deals with the aftermath of the school shooting and goes a little wild. She meets Degrassi’s resident bad-boy Jay at the ravine to give him oral sex in a van, and in return, she gets an STI and a sex bracelet. At the same time, the episode tackles Craig’s bipolar disorder which is weaved throughout the series.
The one where Paige is raped
In 2002 or 2003, the two-part special “Shout” felt extremely groundbreaking. While Degrassi has featured a variety of episodes surrounding rape since then, this one felt extremely raw and significant. In these season two episodes, Paige - the most popular girl in school - goes to a party and is date-raped by a rival school jock. The scene is difficult to watch as Paige cries and pleads for him to stop, but the aftermath of the rape is what is really affecting: The storyline chronicles the judgment against Paige, the blame she feels and even the trial two seasons later.
The one where Ellie battles with depression
In “Whisper To A Scream,” Ellie finds herself drowning in a sea of depression and problems in her home life. Her father is overseas while Ellie lives with her alcoholic mother. Overwhelmed by everything happening, Ellie uncontrollably starts to self-harm with cutting. Her once-mortal enemy Paige approaches her about it and tries to help, creating a brief companionship between the two characters. This episode showed a candid look at self-harm and mental health on TV that wasn’t really seen before.
The one where J.T. dies
Perhaps one of the most heartbreaking episodes is episode 11 of season six when J.T. (Ryan Cooley) meets an untimely death. Throughout the series, J.T. remains one of the most adored characters on the series as the class clown with a heart of gold. He’s known for sticking by his After standing by his girlfriend Liberty as she gives up their child for adoption and being the go-to friend of Degrassi High, J.T. lands in trouble during “Rock This Town” in season six. While he and Liberty have broken up since the birth of their child, he decides he wants to get back together with her. But as after attending a party, he’s stabbed to death by gang members. TeenNick censored the stabbing, while Canadian TV did not.
The one where Marco comes out
“Pride” is another memorable two-part episode where Marco comes out as gay. During the show, Ellie has been pretending to be Marco’s girlfriend while he decides whether or not to come out. In season four, he secretly tells Spinner who doesn’t take the news well and writes slurs on the walls - something the American version edited out. As a result, Marco is uncertain about telling his friends about his sexuality. On the way to a hockey game, he is attacked by a group of homophobic guys who beat him and destroy his phone. Jimmy is alarmed when Marco doesn’t answer his phone and ends up comforting Marco. It helps Marco realise that he has a support system.