The Greatest Teen TV Shows of All Time
Patrick Ecclesine/The CW
On Friday, January 15, Degrassi: Next Class will première on Netflix under their easy-to-binge model, with all 10 new episodes arriving at the same time. The news of the previous iteration's cancellation on its longtime network, Teen Nick, created an outcry not only from its fans who had followed the series since 2001 (not to mention the original class run in the late '80s).
Why do we get so attached to teen dramas, even after we are well out of the age range of its subjects? It's likely because the topics, no matter where and when we grew up, ring true across decades: navigating romance, balancing a rotating cast of friendships, and taking on first experiences. The difference is the lens under which they operate, from the supernatural to the locale, and reality versus suspended reality.
Because you're never too old to appreciate drama, here's a look back at our favorite teen shows of the last few decades.
Degrassi: Junior High, The Next Generation, The Next Class
Run Dates: 1987 - 1989, 2001 - 2014, 2015 - Present
Synopsis: Set at a fictional school in Toronto, Ontario, the students encounter everyday and not-so everyday issues amongst a rotating cast.
Why it's awesome: Arguably one of the most authentic teen shows, Degrassi's stand-out characteristic is that it casts actors who are actually high school-aged, awkwardness and all. They stay true to the actual experience of an average school, with characters who graduate and you never see again. Just when you think they've covered every possible topic, (seriously, this list of 239 is only through 2012) they evolve with current topics such as sexting and online harassment. With the jump to Netflix, they'll likely have more freedom to "go there." Here's hoping for way more polite Canadian cursing.
Friday Night Lights
Run Dates: 2006 - 2011
Synopsis: The story of a small town in Texas where the world revolves around high school football.
Why it's awesome: From the very first episode, it was clear that this would be so much more than just sports. They tracked the lives of an extensive ensemble cast on and off the field. The show grew a cult following as something stylistically different and unapologetically wholesome. You wanted The Taylors to be your parents, Tim Riggins to be your boyfriend, Tyra to be your best friend, and your Friday nights spent on Panther Field.
Run Dates: 2004 - 2007, movie in 2014
Synopsis: The daughter of a private detective in the fictional town of Neptune, California, helps her Pop's business while handling cases of her own.
Why it's awesome: The series immediately sets itself apart by opening with the central mystery of who killed Veronica's best friend Lily and the fallout from her then-sheriff father's investigation of the wrong guy. A series of mini-mysteries present themselves, from finding missing dogs to kidnapping, alongside romantic squabbles and other teen issues. The series was so beloved that seven years after its final episode ended on a strange note, fans had raised enough money to produce a film that tied up all the loose ends of what had happened to the characters 10 years later.
Run Dates: 2003 - 2007
Synopsis: A kid from the wrong side of he tracks is taken in by his lawyer and his family to live in a gigantic mansion in Newport Beach.
Why it's awesome: Even if you haven't seen it, you know it. The O.C. set off a string of other quintessential teen shows in the early 2000s, including a reality show about the California county (we'll get to that later). It catapulted its young stars and became a beacon of cool in fashion and music. Where would Phantom Planet be without that theme song, or Death Cab For Cutie without the stamp of approval from Seth Cohen?
Pretty Little Liars
Run Dates: 2010 - Present
Synopsis: After the leader of their pack goes missing, four friends are stalked by a mysterious "A" who seems to know what happened and wants to make them pay.
Why it's awesome: Just by looking at the title, let alone its placement on ABC Family, you'd never guess that this show gets majorly twisted, majorly fast. Its central mystery has remained over the course of six seasons, but it has gone in some bonkers directions that include a student-teacher romance, a multi-villain conspiracy, and several more deaths. The show managed to seemingly close that chapter in the middle of its current season, but the second half will jump ahead five years to the aftermath — and more mystery, of course.
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