30. “Degrassi” (1979-1986; 1987-1991; 2001-2015; 2016-2017)
“Degrassi” is forever. The Canadian teen TV franchise began life in 1979 as “The Kids of Degrassi Street,” followed by “Degrassi Junior High” and later, “Degrassi High,” which ended in 1991. After a ten-year hiatus, “Degrassi: The Next Generation” returned in 2001 with a new group of teens (including, yes, Drake, as Jimmy Brooks) — played by age-appropriate actors — along with the return of several characters from “Degrassi Junior High”/”Degrassi High,” now adults. But even as the show evolved, its focus on real issues that real kids faced remained: Tough subjects like drugs, sex, pregnancy, abortion, suicide, assault, gang violence, sexual identity, body image, and much more have all been addressed throughout the franchise — including the 14 seasons of “Degrassi: The Next Generation.” The latest installment, “Degrassi: Next Class,” debuted in 2016 on Netflix.
29. “Euphoria” (2019-present)
Say what you will about Sam Levinson’s plot-hole ridden mess of an HBO series, but one thing is certain: “Euphoria” changed teen TV forever. Starring Zendaya as a depressed drug addict, the aesthetic-first drama applies as much nuance to contemporary issues as its makeup artists exhibit restraint with glitter (which is to say: essentially none.) Still, the ludicrously campy show is jaw-dropping in its commitment to delivering intensely dark, modern content to audiences grappling with the slippery ethics and general ennui of living in the 2020s. Hunter Schafer, Jacob Elordi, Alexa Demie, Sydney Sweeney, Angus Cloud, Maude Apatow, Barbie Ferreira, and more appear in roles the actors are certain to spend their careers revisiting. —AF
28. “Suburgatory” (2011-2014)
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This short-lived ABC comedy remains memorable for its distinct quirks. While it technically began as a father-daughter story about life in the suburbs, the show quickly built out its unique perspective on the world of the affluent and accordingly strange. As depicted by the show, “Suburgatory” allowed us to embrace the shallow nature of Chatswin as a town, while also finding the underlying humanity with all of its characters. Most importantly, while Jane Levy was an engaging lead as the jaded Tessa, Carly Chaikin regularly stole the show as (theoretically) air-headed Dalia, who often offered the show’s most profound insights on teen life in her amazing time on screen.
27. “Red Oaks” (2015-2017)
“Red Oaks” doesn’t skip over the jump from high school to college, nor does it treat everything as a buildup to graduation and departure. For three seasons, the sweet Amazon series looked at that moment of transition as an opportunity: a defining point in time where kids in school became adults of the real world. Its stories about an amateur tennis pro from a low-to-middle class family and his relationship with an artist looking to rebel against her family’s upper-class attitudes took advantage of their youthful vision to tell more stories about their parents’ lack of ambition. Things changed for everyone on “Red Oaks,” even as it revolved around a temporary oasis: a country club where adults came to relax and kids worked toward their future. Gregory Jacobs and Joe Gangemi’s series was about moving past stasis and seizing chances as they come your way. It’s a distinctly teenage feeling, but one that the wise try to grasp again and again as they get older. “Red Oaks” captured that vibe and made it contagious. Watch, be inspired, and don’t forget your friends.
26. “Élite” (2018-present)
Teen drama hits peak juiciness at Las Encinas, a prestigious Spanish boarding school where scholarship students Samuel (Itzan Escamilla), Nadia (Mina El Hammani), and Christian (Miguel Herrán) find themselves embroiled in a murder mystery in Season 1. Told nonlinearly, creators Carlos Montero and Darío Madrona replace more traditional narrative twists and turns with outrageous reveals and chaotic pivots that have kep tthe show’s entertainment value piping hot even when its thriller elements get put on the back-burner. “Élite” has streamed five seasons on Netflix so far, and is expected to return in 2023. —AF