A new season of Degrassi: The Next Generation starts tonight, and I'm not too proud to admit that I'm excited. I'm a big Degrassi fan! I can't help it. But I have to confront an appalling fact about my life, and it's this: I have seen every episode of D:TNG's thirteen seasons. That's 319 episodes. I am a grown woman who has seen 319 episodes of Degrassi.
I never set out to be a Degrassi completist. (Oh, and before you ask: No, I have not seen every episode of the original series. Most of them, though.) I started watching the show with my college roommates back when dinosaurs roamed the earth, but even we didn't really watch it on purpose — I think we were watching Daria reruns and just left the TV on. But then I was hooked. Every few minutes brought a new crisis, a new character with Some Big Deal Thing he or she was dealing with. The show dabbled in slapstick humiliation but also in story lines serious enough to warrant PSAs at the ends of episodes. Also, it was always, always on. Marathons! Specials! There was no end to the Degrassi wormhole.
Those early seasons, with Paige and Spinner and Ashley and Craig and Emma and poor, disastrous Manny? Those seasons are fantastic. The first TV episode I ever tracked down to watch online was season three's "Accidents Will Happen," the one where Manny gets an abortion. (The episode didn't air in the U.S. at the time.) But while my fellow grown-up Degrassi fans seemed to give up on the show around season seven or so, during the Darcy era, I never did. I wanted to get to the bottom of Darcy's post-date-rape PTSD! I was happy to see Liberty go off to college and try to put JT's death behind her! (Weep.) And then the next thing you know, years have flown by, and I'm watching Holly J barter with her birth mother for a kidney transplant and openly sobbing when Cam kills himself.
I like Degrassi's progressive politics. I like that it's sex positive; I like that it covers a variety of mental health topics; and I like that every conceivable high-school trauma one could endure has been explored on the show at some point. (Some at multiple points.) I don't even mind the occasionally atrocious acting or that the stories sometimes veer into dumb-dumb town. Everything is high-stakes in high school: Every dance is the most important thing; every test is a crisis waiting to befall you; every conversation has the potential to turn into your first great love. Episode 320, here I come.