TOP 10 TEEN TV SHOWS EVER!
I am a few years past my teens, but the truth is teenage shows are still a part of my regular TV diet. Maybe it’s because of their soapy, inflated drama – the love pangs and triangles, the back-stabbing, the angst of growing up –or because you don’t feel like you need to take them seriously (20-somethings regularly play 15-year-olds): they are fun. We’ve all been teenagers, we can all still connect to that aggrandized and self-centered view of life, when everything seems to be against us; and here is an obvious secret: all of that makes for great drama.
TV was born for another kind of audience, when youth was not the target demographic for everything and families were still its core. It took a while for the change to happen – it seems unbelievable now that every season dozens of shows with aspirations of being the next cover of Seventeen disembark on the networks. “My so-called Life” was one of the first. It came and died soon, but teenagers never left, and they’re still there looking at us from the other side of the small window. Here is a list of the 10 BEST TEENAGE SHOWS in my opinion. May they live in there long!
(2 shows are on number 10, I thought they deserved a tie)
10. GOSSIP GIRL (2007- )
It’s bad – oh so bad. But this show where the protagonists constantly swap beds, plot to destroy each other and travel in private jets still makes for an irresistible guilty pleasure. Who cares that Serena, Blair and company are so over-the-top and ridiculously rich that nobody could relate to their life-style. It’s what it’s all about, isn’t it?
and 10. THE O.C. (2003-2007)
It went down fast, but this show introduced the format of superrich kids living the life of privilege and dealing with outrageously dramatic problems (drugs, shootings, a crazy stalker masquerading as a classmate). Plus Seth was cute!
It is terribly underrated – and maybe rightly so, because this ABCFamily show (one of its earliest, before SECRET LIFE OF THE AMERICAN TEENAGER and PRETTY LITTLE LIARS took over the network) set early on low ambitions and a casual tone that are part of its appeal. Raunchy, rich in characters, the plots are often silly, but KTT is one of the best fraternity houses, the dialogues and side-gags can be hilarious, and Scott Michael Foster and Clark Duke have two of the best characters on TV. The inspiration behind GLORY DAZE…?
8. GILMORE GIRLS (2000-2007)
The fast talking mom-and-daughter duo could mix obscure pop culture references with heartbreaking humanity and hilariously funny dialogues (if you were fast enough to catch them). You rock Lorelais!
7. GLEE (2009- )
It is one of the most uneven shows I’ve ever seen – and it’s only in its second season. But Glee still remains powerful because of the uniqueness of its format, the talent of its cast, the sometimes biting humor (thank you Ian Brennan for making Sue Sylvester who she is) and the fun of it all.
6. EVERWOOD (2002-2006)
Created by Greg Berlanti (BROTHERS & SISTERS) this might be the blander version of the teenage/family drama. But the stories were well-written and the characters were relatable and real. It’s respectable, charming and it can be watched by everyone.
5. VAMPIRE DIARIES (2009- )
Yep. This show about vampires has nothing of TWILIGHT and a lot of kinky sexual innuendos and tense character relationships. Aside from a bumpy start, the dialogue is witty, the darkness of the tone makes it distinct from happy teenage-TV-land and the actors, although too hot to be true (Nina Dobrev, Ian Somerhalder, Paul Wesley) sell the roles with relish. It is pure screen pleasure. Yum!
4. FELICITY (1998-2002)
Not exactly teenage realm (that would be high-school), but this college drama created by now ultra-famous J.J.Abrahms was once a gem of early adult anxieties. Keri Russel was great as Felicity and her love triangle with Noel and Ben had us teetering at the edge of our seats and split audiences like the Edward vs Jacob. Pity the last season destroyed the good name of the show, built over three years of strong writing and acting, and turned it into a joke. I’ve never been as embarrassed as when seeing Felicity perform a magic spell that threw her into the awful final twists.
3. MY SO-CALLED LIFE (1994-1995)
Who were Claire Danes and Jared Leto before this teenage melodrama introduced them to our homes? This was 1994, pre Dawson and pre every other TV teen icon. Angela Chase was the kind of teenager who wrote her pains on a diary and felt that every problem was a huge life drama. The show was occasionally naïf for nowaday audiences; but most of the time it was right on the spot. Poignant, forward-thinking (one of Angela’s best friends was gay, the other was a rebellious girl, both had a stark family life, oh, and all of them were outside the cliques), ruthless (no point gets over-sentimentalized, not even Angela and Jordan’s first kiss), and sometimes even ambiguous. There were no simple answers, and everyone, including the parents (is that a first for teenage shows?) was imperfect and real. It’s no wonder the fans rallied when the show was cancelled after one season, in one of the first internet-based movements to save a series. That was some damn good television.
2. VERONICA MARS (2004-2007)
Brassy Veronica Mars had an eye for trouble, an over-developed ability for deduction and rule-breaking, a tough, witty yet sometimes vulnerable personality and inescapable charisma. She is one of the best young female characters ever created. Nancy Drew should be ashamed.
The show had its ups and downs (it started up, went a little down, then plunged to the depths in its third season), but it was never bad. Actually, it was really good. The plots were well-written and paced, the dialogue was alternatively funny, emotional and audacious, the characters were uneven, but would at its worst be a little bland (Duncan, Meg – the writers took care of them soon) and at its best be the finest characters in a teen show - especially when breaking stereotypes. VM brought us some absorbing plot-turns, a remarkable father-daughter relationship, and of course one of the most intense romances in teen TV: the doomed Veronica and Logan. Kristen Bell was born to play the title role, and everything else was just right – until it wasn’t.
1. FREAKS & GEEKS (1999-2000)
Before Judd Apatow became king of comedy (THE 40 YEAR OLD VIRGIN, SUPERBAD, KNOCKED UP) he had two TV series centered on the young: one that offered some good things in its too-short life (UNDECLARED), and one that was pure genius. FREAKS & GEEKS was a teenage show unlike all others – because it was nothing like any of the teenage fare seen before, or after it. Contrary to formula, Apatow took his premise seriously, and showed us how teenagers are, and have always been, no exageration, no softening it. Set in the 80s, full of irony and cold-hard reality, centering on the outcasts of society – but not making them “cool”, this is a funny, uncomfortable, genuine and sympathetic look at the awkwardness and rawness of teenage years, the relationships with parents, friends, the girl troubles and poor decision-making. It is pure fiction gold, well-acted, well-written, and unique all-around. I wish there were more like this – it proves that teenage shows can actually make for respectable fiction. It only lasted one season, but that makes it great cult TV.
By the way, it also brought us popular faces Linda Cardellini (ER), John Francis Daley (BONES), Martin Starr (PARTY DOWN), Busy Philipps (DAWSON’S CREEK, COUGAR TOWN) and major movie/TV stars (and Apatow loyals) Seth Rogen, Jason Segel and James Franco. You can’t deny the guy had an eye for talent.