Confession time: I love Degrassi so much. I started watching the Canadian teen show in order to procrastinate writing papers in college and I continued watching it throughout my 20s and (gulp) into my 30th year. Degrassi: The Next Generation premiered in 2001 in the United States and Canada and it's so been so long since I've seen the first episode that I thought it was time for a Degrassi pilot rewatch. Sure, there's a whole other separate pilot for the original series Degrassi Junior High, which spanned the 80s and has several characters that make it to the new series, hence The Next Generation.
A lot of the early episodes of Degrassi used to split itself into plotlines for the old characters, like Joey Jeremiah, Cailtin Ryan, Archie "Snake" Simpson, and Christine "Spike" Nelson, whose daughter Emma (Miriam McDonald) enrolls in Degrassi Community School in the first episode. The two-part pilot, called "Mother and Child Reunion," not only deals with Spike's 10-year high school reunion with the old Degrassi gang, but also the kids' issue of the week: Online dating. Okay, not technically OKCupid or Tinder because it was 2003, but Emma meets a charming boy online and wants to meet him, despite warnings. Guess what? The boy isn't a boy, but a creepy man. Someone call Chris Hanson.
But most of the pilot deals with the older characters' stories, which could make watching it a very confusing experience for someone who has no idea what happened in the old Degrassi (e.g. me, 10 years ago). A better introduction to the series is the third episode, called "Family Politics" (Drake makes his debut in that one as Jimmy Brooks, BTW). If you're dead-set on watching every Degrassi ever and add "Mother and Child Reunion" to your collection, read on.
Here's what you should know about the class of old Degrassians when watching the pilot to Degrassi: The Next Generation.
Spike Had Emma At Age 14
In 1988, wild-haired Spike and her boyfriend Shane McKay decide to have sex for the first time — at a makeout party. And it's on this night that Emma is conceived. Ultimately, Spike decides to keep Emma and she raises the future Degrassian throughout the rest of the Canadian series. Shane is undecided on whether he wants to be a dad or a teenage boy, so sometimes he's there for Spike and sometimes not, but he does pay child support. In high school.
Shane decided to use his money for one payment on concert tickets instead. He takes LSD at the concert and was found under a bridge that morning. He remained in a coma for awhile, has severe brain damage, and his mental state was much different when he woke up. Later on in Degrassi: The Next Generation, viewers learn that he's currently in an assisted living facility.
Caitlin and Joey Are OTP
Oh, the saga of Joey and Cailtin. If you though Ross and Rachel's romance on Friends was drawn out, well, sit down for this one. The fedora-wearing Joey and the brilliant Caitlin had an on-and-off-and-on-and-off again romance throughout the series. They grow closer when Joey gets left back in Grade 8, she enjoys the music of his band The Zit Remedy, and she develops a crush on him, but he doesn't return her affections.
Later on, Joey does seem to come around, but then things in high school — of course — get complicated. They get crushes on other people, they break up, and see other people. By the end of high school, Joey and Caitlin seem to be better together, until the Degrassi: School's Out TV movie tied up loose ends and, well, made this couple even more complicated. Joey tries to convince Caitlin to get engaged-to-be-engaged, but Caitlin's not sure. Later on, she gives in, accepts the ring, and loses her virginity to Joey (and she thinks it's his first time, too).
Her doubts seem to be founded, though — she soon discovers Joey has been having sex with Tessa Campanelli all summer long. He apologies to her, but things will never be the same between them — or will they?
Joey's Wife Died
Off-screen, Joey seems to have grown up a lot. During the 2003 pilot, he owns his own used car dealership, he married a woman named Julia Manning, and they had a daughter named Angela. But then Julia died of cancer. By the time The Next Generation comes around, it's been a year since her death and Joey's reluctant to start dating again.
It's also worth noting that future Degrassi heartthrob Craig Manning is Julia's son from her previous marriage to an abusive doctor.
Lucy Used To Be Blind
Lucy doesn't make many appearances in the new incarnation of Degrassi, and her first appearance in the pilot is her buying a car from Joey. Now, this doesn't seem important on the surface, but it becomes more notable when you realize that Lucy used to be blind. In the pilot, Lucy can see again!
While Joey and Caitlin were embroiled in their love triangle in the School's Out TV movie, Lucy was crowned valedictorian of the grade. While at a graduation party, Lucy leaves with an intoxicated Wheels to get more chips, but they get into a very bad car accident in which a little boy dies and Lucy goes blind.
Spike Had A Crush On Snake
Once she had the single mom thing down, Spike struggled to get back into the dating game. She had a crush on Snake that was never quite satisfied in the old series. In The Next Generation, Snake is now Emma's teacher at Degrassi. Snake and Spike start secretly dating and it's awkward for Emma at first, but ultimately, she sees him as a father figure by the time Snake and Spike tie the knot.
Joey is always singing a certain song and it's time to point out what that song. No, it's not the Degrassi theme, but "Everybody Wants Something," the one and only single by his band The Zits/The Zit Remedy. Sing along to the video above.
So even before Degrassi: The Next Generation premiered, there was a whole lotta drama that came before it — and even those stories will suck you in, too.