Excellently written and boasting a cast that actually looks and acts like real kids, this series provides provocative, engaging, and socially conscious programming for teens and adults. The show's braintrust doesn't hold back when it comes to facing tough but relevant issues, which means that these teens have sex, drink, do drugs, bully, and turn violent against each other. There's Fiona (Annie Clark), a sexually insecure teen who finally comes out as a lesbian; Alli (Melinda Shankar), whose conservative Muslim upbringing doesn't change her appetite for popularity and the opposite sex; Adam (Jordan Todosey), a transgender teen who comes into his own with the help of some true friends; Jenna (Jessica Tyler), a teen mom who makes a tough choice for herself and her baby boy; and Clare (Aislinn Paul), who struggles to come to terms with her mom's new relationship and the emotionally complicated new family life that comes of it.
It's impossible not to get invested in the characters' lives and to sympathize with their feelings during emotionally rocky times. Degrassi isn't a comfortable, heartwarming series that solves all its self-created problems in its allotted 30-minute window and leaves you feeling joyful at its end. It's designed to put you on edge and make you confront tough situations, and it does so without relying on any of the sensationalism that allows viewers to dismiss the content as dramatic effect. This accomplishes two things: First, it forces parents to picture their own teens in the characters' shoes, and second, it offers them a unique opportunity to start a discussion with their kids about tough issues that arise in the content. Fortunately the caliber of the show itself makes it equally entertaining for you and your teen to watch. What's more, if you're an alum of the original Junior High series, you'll find particular enjoyment in seeing a few stars from that incarnation return to the screen as the grown-ups in this one.