Will the ‘Degrassi’ reboot be Canadian 'Riverdale'?

The darker new series has one big ‘Riverdale’ connection.
January 14, 2022 11:38 a.m. EST
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It’s official: class is back in session. We’re talking about the next generation of Degrassi students, of course, now that HBO Max has confirmed a new iteration of the popular Canadian franchise is on the way.

The streaming service made the big reveal in a social media post on January 13, leading to a downright frenzy for fans of the show. 

Lara Azzopardi (The Bold Type, Mary Kills People) and Julia Cohen (Riverdale, A Million Little Things) are behind this new version, which will be a serialized, hour-long drama. Given that, does this mean the new Degrassi will be kind of like Riverdale, a.k.a. a dark drama about teens with problems so outlandish, every plotline seems just short of believable?

You know, Riverdale, which has introduced things like a Gargoyle King, cults, bear attacks, an underground boxing ring, and, in the most recent season, a weird fertility death sacrifice involving the once-beloved Archie Andrews? Yeah, that show—the one that has been widely accused of going off the rails since its decent and entertaining first two seasons.

It seems likely that there will be some Riverdale influences on the new Degrassi, since Cohen actually wrote and produced on the show. Naturally, that seems to especially worry some of the fans out there. 

Riverdale isn’t the only factor that has fans on high alert. HBO Max has also been home to the Gossip Girl reboot, Euphoria, and the upcoming Pretty Little Liars spinoff—all other dark and dramatic series about the high school experience. And sure, there’s lots of love for those shows, but viewers are also pretty particular about how they want their Degrassi to be true to the franchise they know and love.

In making it more dramatic, as the producers promise, fans hope the original charm isn’t lost. After all, Degrassi is known as the show that tackles realistic and tough issues that everyday teens face, without glamourizing them.

So what do we know about the new Degrassi anyhow? Other than Azzopardi and Cohen inking deals to steer the ship, we know that there are 10 planned episodes that will film in Toronto this summer for a 2023 broadcast. We also know that WildBrain, the original franchise owners, is involved. And why would the Powers That Be over there sign off on something they didn’t approve?

It’s also worth noting that the original creators, who made this series into what it is today, are completely on board with the new iteration. In a joint statement, they reminded everyone that these new bosses also wrote on Degrassi back in the day, so they are familiar with the brand.

“Having produced the first six series in the long-running Degrassi franchise, Linda and I think the time is perfect to pass the baton over to Lara Azzopardi and Julia Cohen for a brand-new generation of Degrassi,” wrote Linda Schuyler and Stephen Stohn.

“We worked with Lara and Julia as writers on Degrassi in the early stages of their careers, so we are particularly proud of how their careers have soared over ensuing years. Now they can lend their brilliance and creativity to showrunning what has turned out to be a great and enduring franchise.”

So far, no cast has been announced, but it’s safe to say there will be some high expectations there, too. After all, this is the franchise that gave us Drake, Nina Dobrev, Stephan James, Stacey Farber, Shenae Grimes and Degrassi guest stars Stephen Amell and Shay Mitchell.

For now, HBO Max seems all-in—in addition to announcing the reboot, it's also acquired the rights to all 14 seasons of Degrassi: The Next Generation, which will begin streaming in the spring.

Degrassi debuted back in 1980 as The Kids of Degrassi Street on CBC. Degrassi Junior High and Degrassi High were up next, before Degrassi: The Next Generation kicked off in 2001. Degrassi: Next Class is the latest iteration of the show. That debuted in 2016 and wrapped after four seasons the following year.

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