Degrassi Junior High

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
To this day, the fumes from the hairspray used in this show are still hanging in a massive, immobile cloud somewhere over Lake Ontario.
"Canadians have always been innovators, and this show was a trend-setter. There would be no Beverly Hills, 90210 if Degrassi Junior High hadn't done it first with poorer, uglier kids."
Host, 2008 Gemini Awards

The second series in the Degrassi franchise (third if you count the half-hour film Ida Makes a Movie as freestanding, as it originally had been intended), and the one that put Degrassi on the map for good. It re-used some of the actors from The Kids of Degrassi Street, but playing different characters. The series lasted from January, 1987 to March, 1989. A total of 42 episodes in three seasons.

The series was created by CBC as an educational tool for teens, to teach them about "hot button" topics like eating disorders, teen pregnancy, losing parents, etc. Most episodes followed a fairly standard formula: one of the kids has A Day in the Limelight where they deal with some nightmarish problem. At the same time, another kid has a comic adventure that mirrors the main A plot (Two Lines, No Waiting). At the same time, several arc plots floated around the show, and each episode would move the arc forward a bit (often serving as Foreshadowing for the A and B plots of later episodes).

Described like that, it sounds like a crappy Very Special Episode. What made it more than that was the willingness to (sometimes) have unhappy endings, and for the consequences to last more than an episode -- when a character fails a grade, the whole next season shows him struggling with the stigma.

When it first aired, the show was ground-breaking for dealing with these hot topics without censorship or neat happy endings; it became a cult hit in America via PBS. The most notable American fan was one Kevin Smith, who later achieved his life's dream of romancing the character Caitlin (the same character he named Caitlin Bree in Clerks after) in Degrassi the Next Generation. (There are persistent rumors that Aaron Spelling wanted to license an American version of Degrassi, but couldn't get the rights, so he created Beverly Hills, 90210 instead.) After all the shows that have come since, it doesn't look very daring. Most notably, it treats gays sympathetically, but doesn't dare have a gay main character or even a gay recurring character; guest stars have to do. (Degrassi the Next Generation does have a main gay character.) There are also several dated moments that were plausible for 1980s teens, but are bizarre now, like when The Ditz hears about anorexia for the first time and wishes she had it.

Fans of Degrassi the Next Generation will be surprised at how more conventional the show is. Adults are right more often in Degrassi Junior High (it tends to use Parent Ex Machina instead of Adults Are Useless). But the biggest difference is that the entire cast of the older show are naive, frightened kids at heart. Even The High School Hustler and the Alpha Bitch turn out to be insecure and uncertain when the mask is removed. This sets it apart far more than the omnipresent Eighties Hair -- modern shows tend to have teens who are far more crafty. (Compare the Alpha Bitch on both shows. Stephanie, in the older show, bullies people because she's in deep denial about how needy, insecure, and naive she is. Paige, on the new show, is a ruthless shark with no fear and no weaknesses.)

Followed by the sequel series Degrassi High.

Another American fan was Albert of The Agony Booth, who has plans to recap every DJH episode.

Tropes used in Degrassi Junior High include:
  • A-Cup Angst:
    • G-rated version: Yick and Arthur are jealous of Snake's height.
    • Melanie also had an episode on the subject.
  • Abusive Parents: Rick's dad, and Kathleen's mom.
  • Alpha Bitch: Stephanie.
  • Anime Hair: Spike's hair was crazy even for the 80s.
  • Anti-Hero: Wheels
  • Asian and Nerdy: Yick Yu. Actually a double subversion. He has to study extra-hard to overcome the stereotype of Asians as dumb jocks -wait, what!?
    • Originally going to be played straight, but the actor thought it was too stereotypical.
  • Big Ego, Hidden Depths
  • Broken Treasure
  • Brother Chuck: Voula, Caitlin's best friend Susie, Rick and many others.
    • The very first episode brings us Joey's best friend Hank. It seems like he will be a major character and will get into all sorts of mischief with Joey over the years. You'll never see him again.
  • The Bully: Dwayne and his two minions. Don't get too attached to the minions. They appear in only one episode.
  • Canada, Eh?: Somewhat subverted. While the accents and some of the language used were a dead giveaway, there was nothing really stereotypical Canadian about the show. It really demonstrated just how Rust Belt Toronto in the '80s was.
  • Can't Get Away with Nuthin': Almost always -- but one episode subverts it completely.
  • Canon Discontinuity: Any and all of the above-mentioned attempts to portray the setting as anyplace other than Toronto.
  • Character Development
  • Casting Gag: Many plots were based on what happened to the actors playing them.
  • Clip Show: The 4th episode of season 3 Season's Greetings.
  • Comedic Hero: Arthur and Yick.
  • Comic Trio: Stephanie and the twins Heather and Erica. Joey, Snake, and Wheels.
  • Control Freak: Kathleen.
  • Darker and Edgier: Typical Kids of Degrassi Street plot - Kid goes downtown to buy clothes on his own for the first time. First major DJH plot - Teen Pregnancy.
  • Date Rape Averted: Happened to Steph in one episode. And Wheels in another infamous Degrassi episode. Watch here and try not to be creeped out.
  • A Day in the Limelight: Pretty much every got gets the spotlight at some point.* Downer Ending: The last episode ends with the school burning to the ground.
  • Demoted to Extra:Happened at least once an episode with some of the leads who clearly appeared not being billed in the closing credits.
  • The Ditz: Alexa.
  • Dropped a Bridge on Him
  • Dumb Blonde: Simon.
  • The Eighties
  • Eighties Hair: Particularly Steph.
  • Extroverted Nerd: Alex and Dorothy.
  • Fake American: Simon who was supposed to be from New York -- the actor didn't even attempt an accent.
  • Foreshadowing: The show was rather good at throwing out hints that wouldn't be followed up on until later. One episode before we learn Kathleen's Freudian Excuse, there's a blink-or-you'll-miss-it giveaway of what's wrong with her. Also notice how cozy Shane and Spike are in the second episode of the first season. This will be important later.
-Have you ever been to a party where something didn't get broken?
Snake, 15 years before he'd go away for a weekend and his stepdaughter would hold a Wild Teen Party that ended with a kid getting stabbed in the street.

Steph(justifying her behavior to win school president): "Boys like that sort of thing!"
Voula: "So do girls!"