Whether you're a teen, tween or old AF, no one ever outgrows great teen TV. And with so many coming-of-age stories hitting Netflix these days on top of access to classic shows and foreign series, there's never been a better time (or place) to indulge in some melodramatic teen TV fare.
If you're looking for a heartwarming family saga, a campy murder mystery, a realistic look at the unfairness of high school or anything in between, TV Guide has rounded up all the best teen series that are actually about being teens -- not just shows about hot teens from space or hot teens surviving the apocalypse -- available to stream on Netflix right now. So, clear your schedule and watch the hormones run wild.
Degrassi: Next Class
Time commitment: 20 hours of informative and entertaining explorations of sex, addiction, bullying and so much more
Why you should watch: Because it goes there! Much like the beloved Degrassi: The Next Generation, Next Class continues the Degrassi franchise's mission of taking the real challenges teens face and confronting them head-on with a perfect mix of educational teachings, melodrama and self-aware humor. Next Class also continues to push boundaries on TV, featuring one of the few genderqueer main characters on television. But if you're worried that watching Next Class will be like watching two days' worth of health class PSAs, there are a lot of great characters that help turn the show's informative messages into an addictive binge, including Miles (Eric Osbourne), a bisexual rich kid struggling with addiction; Lola (Amanda Arcuri), a boy-crazy cheerleader who is repeatedly underestimated; and Goldi (Soma Bhatia), a feminist, Muslim activist who begins secretly dating a non-Muslim boy.
Time commitment: 35 hours of murder, mayhem and maple syrup
Why you should watch: This show is so dumb, but in the best way possible. It will have you cackling with glee one minute, screaming at a character's idiocy the next and then scratching your head wondering why a high schooler is doing a strip tease while singing "Mad World" karaoke at a biker bar. But the thing is, when characters are as stupid as the ones in Riverdale, it becomes believable that they'll do anything. Meaning: nothing is off limits and anything is possible. Even a high schooler being a mole for the FBI. Or a high schooler running a local biker gang. Or a high schooler solving multiple murders that the cops can't. Riverdale knows it's camp and embraces this wholeheartedly. And the show is just self-aware enough to let you know the writers and actors are in on the joke without compromising the earnestness with which the actors take on these absurd situations, allowing viewers to get seriously emotionally invested in these comically surreal storylines. Plus, there are hot dads.
Time commitment: 33 hours of first kisses, frenemies and first position
Why you should watch: If you like Step Up but feel as though it didn't properly exploit the exaggerated angst of teens bumbling their way through puberty, Dance Academy is for you. Following the life of the insufferably na´ve ballerina Tara Webster (Alicia Banit), the show chronicles her time at the National Academy of Dance in Sydney. That's right. This sh** is Australian. And while Tara is truly the worst, she's surrounded by a lovable ensemble cast, including the sexy hip-hop dancer Christian (Jordan Rodrigues), the mean girl with a heart of gold Abigail (Dena Kaplan) and the hapless Sammy (Tom Green), who struggles with his sexuality throughout the early seasons. It's basically Center Stage lite, and who doesn't love Center Stage?
Freaks and Geeks
Time commitment: 18 hours of future A-listers smoking pot, skipping school and playing Dungeons & Dragons
Why you should watch: This is a seminal series and honestly, if you haven't watched it by now, what are you doing? When it comes to teen TV today -- and just TV in general -- Freaks and Geeks' influence is expansive. Not only did it help launch the careers of James Franco, Seth Rogen, Jason Segel, Martin Starr and Busy Philipps, but it proved that prime-time television doesn't necessarily need to be aspirational or sugar-coated. The short-lived Fox series took an honest look at the hilarious, frustrating and sad aspects of teen life in the '80s through the cliques of the school "freaks" and "geeks." And when the show's protagonist Lindsay Weir (Linda Cardellini) attempts to crossover from a geek to a freak and starts hanging with the slacker crowd, she finds her relationships with her parents and former friends tested. It's a crime Freaks & Geeks was canceled after only airing 12 episodes, but there's a reason its legacy has only grown over the years.
Pretty Little Liars
Time commitment: 160 hours of ominous text messages, convoluted revenge plots and black hoodies
Why you should watch: Although some may say that Pretty Little Liars jumped the shark midway through its seven-season run, there's no denying that the early seasons are some of the best winky, teen mystery to ever grace our TV screens. From the fashion and the one-liners to the over-the-top plot twists (e.g., accidentally blinding a classmate, being gifted a necklace made out of human teeth, having microchips implanted in their necks), Pretty Little Liars is the definition of "extra," and with a spin-off on the way, there's never been a more perfect time to see the delightful/terrifying nonsense that captivated viewers for more than half a decade.
The Carrie Diaries
Time commitment: 26 hours of baby Carrie Bradshaw embracing 1980s fashion
Why you should watch: When one reflects on the great teen shows, The Carrie Diaries probably isn't one that immediately comes to mind, but this short-lived CW series was highly underrated when it aired and continues to be so today. Now that it's available to stream, we're hoping viewers will finally open themselves up to the charming Sex and the City prequel that follows a high school Carrie Bradshaw (AnnaSophia Robb) as she balances school in Connecticut with a fashion internship in New York City. Although the show tried to capitalize more on the SATC connection in Season 2 by introducing a young Samantha Jones (Lindsey Gort), the strength of The Carrie Diaries is that anyone -- whether they watched the HBO show or not -- can understand and fall in love with this sweet series about am ambitious writer grieving the recent death of her mother and falling in love for the first time.
Time commitment: 61 hours of sex, drugs and self-discovery
Why you should watch: Unlike the glossy American teen shows of the early aughts, Skins is radically unfiltered. The British show follows a group of classmates as they deal with sensitive topics like eating disorders, sexuality, drug use and virginity in an exaggerated but believable fashion. Skins often sparked controversy about the characters' alleged hedonism while it was airing, but the show never shied away from exploring the consequences of the characters' actions. Skins is a fun, witty, outrageous and wonderfully fresh series, even all these years later. Plus, it gets bonus points for featuring more than a few fun, familiar faces, such as Nicholas Hoult, Joe Dempsie and Dev Patel.
Time commitment: 5 hours of teens exploring grief, sexuality and identity set against a backdrop of your favorite '90s jams
Why you should watch: Everything Sucks! isn't the greatest series, but it has more heart in its ten 30-minute episodes than many shows display in a syndicated run. Set in a small Oregon town in 1996, Everything Sucks! showcases the unlikely friendships (and romances) blossoming between members of the A/V Club and Drama Club. While the courageous-but-oblivious Luke (Jahi Di'Allo Winston) develops a crush on the quiet Kate (Peyton Kennedy), Kate begins to question her sexuality, developing a crush on the theatrical drama star Emaline (Sydney Sweeney), who in turn is in a co-dependent relationship with the arrogant senior Oliver (Elijah Stevenson). Between the touching queer romance and perfect '90s soundtrack, Everything Sucks! is an uplifting look at the heartbreak and joy of self-discovery in a far less accepting and open era.
Time commitment: 104 hours of heartwarming family drama and bad decisions.
Why you should watch: The Fosters always wore its heart on its sleeve, which is rare on TV these days. The Freeform drama focuses on a multi-ethnic, blended family led by mothers Stef (Teri Polo) and Lena (Sherri Saum) and including one biological child, adopted twins and two foster children (whom they later adopt). In addition to exploring the realities of the foster system and blended families, the series also tackles several other important issues, such as sexual identity, immigration, sex trafficking, breast cancer and sexual assault, all with The Fosters' perfect blend of humor, pathos and hope. The Fosters also featured multiple trans male actors playing trans male roles, including one who became a central love interest to the cisgender Callie (Maia Mitchell). Now, with the approaching spin-off about Callie and Mariana (Cierra Ramirez) on the horizon, why not catch up on The Fosters so that you'll be ready to dive right into Good Trouble?
On My Block
Time commitment: 5 hours of coming-of-age shenanigans set against a backdrop of gangs and violence
Why you should watch: This unique take on a coming-of-age stories focuses on a group of nerdy teens starting their first year of high school in South Central Los Angeles. On My Block effortlessly blends heart, humor and low-stakes teen angst with an incisive look at what it means to grow up in an environment in which gang violence is just part of the norm. The range of experiences the teens go through is one of the show's greatest strengths, because where else do you get to explore the journey of an intelligent teen forced into a gang through family obligation and also a Goonies-esque search for the mythical spoils of an infamous robbery? The show constantly keeps viewers on edge by subverting expectations to find humor in the least predictable places, but it's On My Block's ability to unexpectedly insert shocking emotional drama that has left viewers on the hook until Netflix debuts its second season sometime next year.
Time commitment: 9 hours of crass British bromance and unrequited (and often quite pathetic) romance
Why you should watch: This beloved British sitcom follows the shenanigans of a group of four suburban teenage boys as they learn to survive high school together. The painfully real comedic depiction of na´ve male teens -- and the toxic culture they aspired to be a part of -- often results in a severe case of second-hand embarrassment for viewers who were subjected to regular crass, vulgar and borderline offensive situations. However, this was exactly the point; The Inbetweeners isn't a glorification of a "boys will be boys" culture of sexual conquests and partying, but a look at how absolutely pathetic this notion is and the blustering ignorance and insecurities that feed into it. Although the two movies that followed didn't quite capture the magic of the original three-season run, we can just pretend they don't exist. And since Netflix doesn't even have them available to stream, that's easy enough.
Switched at Birth
Time commitment: 103 hours of ASL skills and utterly complicated family dynamics.
Why you should watch: This Peabody Award-winning series tells the story of a wealthy suburban girl (Vanessa Marano) and a deaf girl from a low-income, single mother household (Katie Leclerc) who discover that they were switched at birth. After the truth comes to light, the two families begin living together, forcing everyone to take a closer look at themselves and their definition of family. The Freeform drama became the first mainstream series to feature multiple deaf and hard-of-hearing series regulars, even shooting an episode almost entirely in American Sign Language.
Time commitment: 7 hours of awkward honesty, teen drama and penguins.
Why you should watch: Atypical has all the staples of a great teen show -- awkward moments, coming-of-age storylines and the struggle to find love in the hellscape that is modern high school -- with the added bonus of being told through a lens we rarely get to see on television. Sam (Keir Gilchrist) is autistic and thus struggles a little more to fit in at his high school and make sense of the mixed social cues he's bombarded with on a daily basis. Experiencing the world through Sam's eyes is not only enlightening, but also at the end of the day helps us to realize that we all have our baggage and all it takes is the willingness to listen to help anyone lighten the load.
Other Links From TVGuide.com RiverdaleFreaks and GeeksDegrassi: Next ClassDance AcademyPretty Little LiarsThe Carrie DiariesEverything Sucks!The FostersSwitched at BirthSkinsThe InbetweenersOn My BlockAtypical