With school back in session, it feels like the perfect time to think about our favorite shows that chronicle the teenage experience. Whether it’s the trials and tribulations of the average middle school or a high school having to deal with some unexpected supernatural abilities, we all can relate in one way or another.
Around 30 of The Young Folks staff voted in two rounds to rank the best teen TV shows of all time, and you’ll see we have a nice mix of new and older shows that fairly represents our own generations. We each share why these shows made a last impact on our adolescence years and deserve recognition from generations to come.
Count down the top 25 TV shows about teens with us, and let us know if you agree with our ranking.
25. Teen Wolf
Oh, Teen Wolf. The hours I’ve spent watching you, defending you even, and finding reprieve when all I needed was a show that would simply entertain me. When it started, it was fresh-faced and a fun new adventure on a channel that didn’t often put out material of its ilk, and its genre-heavy tones led to passionate fans. If the series had managed to keep the focus on the friendships, the relationships between the teens, and had kept the idea of teens dealing with the supernatural rather than the other way around, perhaps it would have been higher on the list. – Allyson Johnson
24. Freaks & Geeks
Similar to its characters, Freaks and Geeks was an outcast compared to most high school shows set in the 80s, but it was one with an irresistible urge to bond over. Creator Paul Feig’s immaculate portrayal of adolescence is a brisk blend of hilarious and awkward, while also not shying away to consistently confront aspects like peer pressure and bullying. Little to none of the main characters could be classified as “popular,” but it stands as the show’s biggest high mark for its honest and sometimes subversive portrayal of certain high school cliques where there’s definitely more than meets the eye. It’s a shame that Freaks and Geeks wasn’t treated right by NBC, but the escapades of the Weir children and their friends will undoubtedly last a lifetime. Also, there will never be another ensemble cast that’s enjoyed more post-show success than this one. – Tyler Christian
23. Veronica Mars
Combining a noir setting and an inimitably snarky heroine, Veronica Mars followed its titular character as she attempted to solve the mystery of her best friend’s murder, as well as whatever other mystery came along from week to week. The dichotomy between the fast-paced, quippy dialogue and the dark tone set by the dark mysteries plaguing Neptune made for a unique cult hit fans consistently revisit today. Unfortunately, the show was short-lived thanks to the creation of The CW, but was resurrected as a movie a few years ago in one of the most successful kickstarter campaigns we’ve seen yet. – Bri Lockhart
Watching reruns of iCarly will send you back to a simpler era, when Fred Figglehorn was an online sensation and the 2012 “apocalypse” was still on the horizon. Although the show was undoubtedly an attempt to capitalize on the YouTube craze that hit young people in the late 2000s, it never felt manufactured or heartless due to its quirky, lovable characters and unique concept. Carly, Sam, and Fred, its web-show-hosting protagonists, were far from one-dimensional, air-brushed, fame-hungry teens—they wore t-shirts with absurd captions like “Blueberry Socks,” frequently filmed “random dancing” segments, and partook in regular activities like going to school and watching American Idol, which made them easy to relate to. The show was notable for its high-profile guest stars, which included Jack Black, Kenan Thompson, and even First Lady Michelle Obama. – Brittany Menjivar
21. Pretty Little Liars
It begins with a mystery – the murder of Alison DiLaurentis and the stalking of her friends, and then for the next few seasons, we are embroiled in mystery after mystery trying to decipher clues and theories to work out who might be behind the various antics that are happening in Rosewood. And even though most people just think that Spencer, Aria, Emily, Hanna and company should just pack and leave Rosewood behind (especially after all the trauma that they have experienced) what the show does well is that it makes us curious to fill in the details about all the various mysteries, and after all these years, we still want to know more. We feel protective over the characters and want them to be safe. It has fostered a sense of affection in us; we feel as if we are friends with the Liars. – Caryn Welby-Solomon