Many of you have been requesting posts on the best young adult TV dramas, and since we always aim to please, I've got the top 10 right here! I asked a variety of teens and young adults on and offline to name their favorite dramas, and these were overwhelmingly popular. Some of them aren't with us any longer, but fortunately you can generally grab them off Netflix, Amazon, or Hulu. If your favorite made the list, give us a squee in the comments – and if it didn't, make sure you share the young adult TV dramas you can't get enough of!
Vampire Diaries is sort of perfection. I have a hate/hate relationship with Nina Dobrev, but I've been mad for Ian Somerhalder since his modeling days and still take great joy from his performances in Life as a House and Rules of Attraction. This show is what vampires should be, honestly; they don't sparkle, they're blood thirsty, their passions are often offset by their animal instincts, and you actually get to see the implications of their immortality. Although it's often called the TV version of Twilight, I strongly disagree. It's one of the best young adult TV dramas on right now because it has strong men, strong women, smoldering sex appeal, and interesting plot lines. Also, no sparkles. None. Except the stars in Ian's eyes. Sigh.
Pretty Little Liars is serious. I'd run away screaming if I ever came in contact with a group of girls like this. However, they're real and the show itself is widely adored. The pacing is uncharacteristically constant and in addition to all the horror and mystery, they admirably tackle real world issues with taste and sensitivity. This is like Mean Girls, if the Plastics were evil but not quite so plastic.
Gossip Girl only recently ended, and it's very much missed. While it wasn't entirely realistic, since only a small portion of teens are fabulously wealthy, stylish, and living in New York City, it was exciting and sexy and sophisticated. Besides, it proved that even over the class lines, teens and young adults face similar issues. It also had some of the most drop dead gorgeous actors on TV. Anyone else think Chace Crawford might secretly be Ian Somerhalder's little brother?
Although it hasn't been on for several years, The O.C. was practically an instantaneous hit show. It had everything needed in a teen drama: the rough tough kid living in a rich world, class wars, and Very Special Episodes realistically dealing with sex, drugs, peer pressure, violence, and bullying. It also had Seth, played by Adam Brody, who was both witty and adorkable.
Ah, Dawson's Creek. Long off the air but still a classic, it was the show you watched to prove you were edgy – providing you were able to pick up on all the references, of course. Since its ending, it's spawned lots of memes, but perhaps more importantly, it dealt with a lot of realistic issues and even introduced several believable and sympathetic gay characters at a time when they were either relegated to bit parts, sitcom punchlines, or Will & Grace.
MTV's revamp of Skins was just terrible. I mean, it was awful. The US needs to realize that the success of Queer as Folk was a lark dependent on the years it aired, the actors, the plot lines, and the fact that it was a premium cable show. We need to stop stealing gems from the UK, and nothing proves that better than Skins. The UK version is just marvelous. It's gritty, real, sometimes filled with debauchery, and always prepared to tackle teenage issues like sexuality, sex, drugs, and violence. Also, it initially starred Nicholas Hoult. Oh, that boy.
This show didn't last nearly long enough, but considering the fact that it's still hugely popular, you know it made an impact. There weren't any shows like this when it first appeared. Teens and young adults saw insecure, gawky, awkward Angela and they saw themselves. They saw what their friends were going through, they experienced their own fickle love lives, and they felt their own pain. And honestly, Jordan is still one of the sexiest angsty boys on TV. He just grew up to be an angsty, angel-voiced singer.
In addition to being a much better vehicle for Chad Michael Murray than Gilmore Girls (loved the show, but his character was such a douche), One Tree Hill helped reclaim the whole high school drama genre. It was like Beverly Hills, 90210, with better fashion and comparatively younger actors. It's not always fantastic but it has its moments, and it's stayed pretty fresh in spite of being on the air for so long. Better still, the characters get realistically older.
I didn't watch this when it was on but I do now, because Forgetting Sarah Marshall made me fall in love with Kristen Bell. When it was on, however, I still gave it respect, because it featured a strong female lead the viewing world needed. Veronica was like a real-world Buffy, yet she had the street smarts and instincts of Bogie in The Maltese Falcon. Her snark was also just dreamy.
I was going to put Degrassi here instead, but realized I would have to focus solely on the 1980s original because the current version, although it started out with promise, is now just a joke that recycles all its story lines. I still have to preface this by saying that I'm referring to the original Beverly Hills as well, because the revamp is just … I dunno. I don't like it. Even though I was only 8 years old when the original came on, it took over the world; I still have the 90210 Barbie dolls. Don't judge me, Brandon-Barbie is just gorgeous. Anyway, it too dealt with rich kids, but it paved the way for all these other teen dramas, really. Sure, Dylan was nearly 30, but without his smoldering James Dean angst, Kelly's cool sophistication, Donna's quirky innocence, and Brandon's sensitivity, none of these other shows would have existed.
The great thing about most, if not all, of these dramas is that, even when they're being slightly melodramatic for the sake of ratings, they tackle a lot of real life issues. You can relate to many of the characters, even if their lives are somehow fantastic. Did your favorite drama make the list? If not, let me know what's missing and why everyone should give it a watch!
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