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The 35 Best Teen TV Shows, from ‘That ’70s Show’ to ‘Never Have I Ever’

From animation to survival epics to superheroes, teen dramas are as unique and varied as real teenagers. To honor the triumphant return of "Never Have I Ever," IndieWire considers the top of the TV class.

35 Best Teen TV Shows, from 'Daria' to 'Sex Education'

The Best Teen TV Shows.

Everett Collection

25. “Bunheads” (2012–2013)

"Bunheads"

“Bunheads”

ABC Family/Dorothy Parker Drank Here Prods./Kobal/REX/Shutterstock

Like a teenager, Amy Sherman-Palladino’s short-lived follow-up to “Gilmore Girls” showed such early potential and was on the brink of blooming. Unfortunately, it was canceled after one brief season. Starring the incomparable Sutton Foster as a Vegas showgirl who gets married on a whim and winds up teaching alongside her new mother-in-law (Kelly Bishop from “Gilmore Girls”) at her ballet school, the ABC Family series also created compelling storylines for its young and very flawed ballet students. Funny, sweet, and touching, this was the rare series that never lost its footing even early on. Although there are exponentially more shows on right now, “Bunheads” may have survived today because it was ahead of its time. It’s the small show that never wanted to be bigger than itself, but deserved a larger stage for its charms.

24. “Everybody Hates Chris” (2005-2009)

"Everybody Hates Chris"

“Everybody Hates Chris”

Isabella Vosmikova/Paramount TV/Kobal/REX/Shutterstock

Inspired by the teenage years of Chris Rock, who narrated the show, “Everybody Hates Chris” highlighted what it’s like to be somewhere that you feel you don’t belong. The young Chris (Tyler James Williams) is a runt who winds up switching to a predominantly white school in order to receive a better education. But he’s bullied at that school, and even at home, things rarely go his way. (Hence the show’s title.) But even as Chris copes with growing up, his parents (Terry Crews and Tichina Arnold) also struggle with how to provide for their kids. These are Chris’ formative years, and although they’re played for laughs, there’s also poignancy to them.

23. “Gossip Girl” (2007-2012; 2021-present)

"Gossip Girl"

“Gossip Girl”

Andrew Eccles/Cw Network/Kobal/REX/Shutterstock

For as fun as the core mystery of “Gossip Girl” could be, Josh Schwartz’s Big Apple-based “O.C.” follow-up worked best when it wasn’t worried about revealing the secret identity behind the titular gossip site host (which was evident most of all when the series finally did). It had an explosive cast of characters ready to stir up some high-class trouble at the drop of a top hat; there were passionate romances and young, innocent crushes galore; money was no object, which made these wealthy Manhattanites the perfect fantasy delivery system for every teen who dreams of looking fabulous in their dress, hair, makeup, clothes, and cars — at all cost. Plus, Blair (Leighton Meester) was all-around dynamite, and her forbidden romance with Chuck (Ed Westwick) lit those early episodes on fire. XOXO forever.

22. “Love, Victor” (2020-2022)

"Love, Victor"

“Love, Victor”

Hulu/Everett Collection

Spun off from the much-enjoyed 2018 film “Love, Simon,” “Love, Victor” returns audiences — and, in a brief role, star-turned-producer Nick Robinson — to Creekwood High School: your run-of-the-mill suburban hellscape where a nervous student named Victor (Michael Cimino) is grappling with his sexuality. A thoughtful reflection on the coming out experience that honors the original film without repeating its beats, “Love, Victor” is one of the best LGBTQ-inclusive teen shows out there. Not only does it carefully consider the unique challenges queer teens face, but it offsets that struggle with joyous celebrations of queerness that’s delightful to behold at any age. —AF

21. “Riverdale” (2017-present)

"Riverdale"

“Riverdale”

CW Network/Everett Collection

Archie Comics come to life in the utterly bananas “Riverdale”: The CW’s most popular teen drama of the late 2010s. Starring KJ Apa as the iconic illustrated ginger, with Lili Reinhart as Betty, Cole Sprouse as Jughead, Madelaine Petsch as Cheryl, and Camila Mendes as Veronica, what could have been a stylishly straight-forward IP recycle quickly spirals from a “Twin Peaks”-like whodunnit into a chaotic supernatural soap opera featuring over-the-top musical numbers. Really. Pitch-perfect casting of yesteryear teen icons Molly Ringwald, Skeet Ulrich, the late Luke Perry as Riverdale parents help flesh out the most unhinged smash hit in recent memory. —AF

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