Brisco's Top Picks For The Best TV Shows About High School

It's almost time for school again! While the cries of disdain of children and teens can be heard from miles away, why not gear up for the coming school year by binging a TV show all about the trials and tribulations of the most influential four years of life? 

High School TV Shows Back To School

Read our picks from the worst to the best, ranked from 15 to 1! 

15. Glee
Great for theater kids and for little known songs about to explode, great for the actors, not-so-great for everyone else. While choir kids sat at the edge of their seats waiting for Rachel and Finn to fall in love, other prime-time watchers cringed. Centered around the McKinley High Glee club, the members struggled with everything from teen pregnancy to fitting in and achieving their dreams all while being at the hands of an angry cheerleading coach.

The show kicked off merch, a live tour, and tons of iTunes hits. While extremely successful, the run was cut short after the death of lead actor Cory Montieth. But there's something about the constant singing that just really got old. Seriously, try binge-watching it, and you'll understand.

14. Pretty Little Liars
The constant joke with teen shows is that the actors are usually in their early-mid-twenties and don't actually look like teens in puberty. Unfortunately, Pretty Little Liars took this and ran with it. 
When the show started, all four of the main actors (Lucy Hale, Shay Mitchell, Troian Bellisario, and Ashley Benson) were in their early to mid-twenties at the time of the pilot episode airing in 2010. 

Not only were their ages not believable, but this fictional mystery had the girls going to school in high heels, getting kidnapped multiple times, almost dying, and just going through so much. While this show generates a cult following, it got old after the 5th season. Plus, the time jump didn't do much for it.

13. Saved By The Bell
I'm going to get a lot of slack for this one. While it was great for its time and tackled many issues (who could forget the Jessie pills episode?) it actually was problematic. Two words to describe how painful this show got sometimes? Zack. Morris. He was cute to crush on as a kid but if you look a little closer as an adult, you'll see that Zac Morris wasn't that great of a person. All reality aside, this show is enjoyable as a TGIF themed show. 

12. The O.C. 
Who can forget that theme song? CALIFORNIAAAAAAA. Seriously, it was a jam. And when we were in the middle of a recession, there was nothing better than seeing the lives of California's richest children go through the trials and tribulations of high school. The lives of Seth, Summer, Ryan, and Marissa were just too good to miss out on. It was so good! That's why it earns a spot on this list. 

11. Riverdale
Who doesn't love a teen drama? And it doesn't just stop at the teen drama. There's a mystery, murder, and more drama between the parents, too! It was this series that single-handedly revived the teen drama genre. 
From the romance "ships" like Archie and Veronica to Betty and Jughead, Cheryl and Toni, and Kevin and Moose, there's tons of emotions and hormones flying high. While it's not realistic at all and once again has high schoolers played by 20-somethings, Riverdale stands as a hit when it comes to TV teen shows that will go down in history.

10. Beverly Hills, 90210
Before there was the O.C., there was Beverly Hills, 90210. Centered around teens living their very best lives in California, this series was super successful. It ran for ten seasons and defined the generation that it played for. The show also starred the late Luke Perry, who later went on to play Archie's dad in yet another teen drama, Riverdale!

9. Friday Night Lights
Welcome to Dillon, Texas, where football is the main focus of everything in high school. Focused on a football coach, his wife, and the payers he mentors, this drama was super successful in its run and ran for five seasons, ending its run in 2011. Focusing on teen issues, this show had something for everyone. And you can stream it now on Hulu for you to re-live every moment.

8. Veronica Mars
Teen Veronica Mars goes to high school but also works under her father to solve mysteries. It seems unrealistic (as most teen dramas are) but this one gained a cult following. The show ran for three seasons before it was canceled but this show didn't see the end, but it still remains a popular cult teen drama.

After the show ended, a Kickstarter was formed to get funding for a Veronica Mars movie. Fans raised enough and one was released shortly after. In 2019, Hulu picked up the franchise for a fourth season, taking place 12 years after the movie ended.  Fans rejoiced, and now you can watch all the seasons on Hulu!

7. Boy Meets World
While it centers around middle school and high school, this classic show could not be left out! Boy Meets World focuses on the life of Cory Matthews, his brother, Eric Matthews, Cory's best friend, Shawn, Cory's family, and of course, their teacher Mr. Feeny.

This ABC show literally makes us grow up with Cory and his family. We watch Cory go through middle school, high school, and college while falling in love with his (spoiler alert) now wife, Topanga. Cory and Shawn also go through trials and tribulations in their friendship. This show taught us all about life changes and still remains timeless to this day!

6. Gossip Girl
Yes, this aired during the recession and centered around the lives of the 1% of rich teens, but it was just so great. Those who loved the book watched Blair, Serena, Dan, Chuck, and Nate go through it all. While not all of the plotlines were as relatable as some other teen shows, and -yes- they are played by 20-somethings posing as teens, this show did very well against many parents' wishes and was watched by teens everywhere.

5. One Tree Hill
This classic TV show was set around - once again - actors playing teens in their twenties. Main character Chad Michael Murray was in his mid-twenties when the show was at its height! Regardless, the show was a hit. People loved watching the drama that ensued around Nathan and Lucas Scott, half brothers whos rivalry went beyond the basketball court. In addition to the boys, the stories followed include their love interests, the adults involved, and a cast of characters along the way.

Until its run in 2012, people sat at their TV screens with wonder as to what would happen in this small town of Tree Hill next. It even withstood a time jump of epic proportions, putting the characters four years into the future (and expertly avoiding the dreaded college years.)

4. Degrassi: The Next Generation
Whatever it took, they knew they would make it through. Known for catapulting its Canadian actors into stardom (we see you, Drake and Nina Dobrev) this show's franchise actually started in the 80s, and Degrassi: TNG picked up with the children of these beloved, and now grown characters. The best part? They were played by kids of the high school age, making it more realistic than any other scripted teen show.

Covering everything that young adults go through in middle school and high school from substance abuse, mental health, drinking, and more, this show dominated the Canadian family channel for years before its move to Netflix in 2015.  Criticized for its provocative storylines that only last an episode or two (drug addictions and eating disorders were forgotten about or "recovered from" in an unrealistic amount of time or never spoken about again. However, this groundbreaking show reached its height in the early 00s by "going there" and they were true to their word by going where no other show had gone before.

3. Buffy The Vampire Slayer
Teenager Buffy is your normal average high-schooler -except that she's a chosen vampire slayer set to fight against demons, vampires, and dark forces. While she tries to live a normal high school life, she is also fighting the bad guys. 
Okay, this isn't realistic either, but it ranks itself at the top because it's one of the best TV shows of all time. Teen drama, groundbreaking relatable storylines, and vampires? This show, which ran in the 90s, gained itself a cult following that still exists today.

2. My So-Called Life
Short-lived shows often get canceled before they can actually flourish. When it comes to My So-Called Life, this was the case. Viewers instantly fell in love with the main character Angela Chase and her circle of friends, as the navigated teen issues such as drugs, alcoholism, and homophobia.
Often noted as ahead of its time, the show wasn't like its cheesy 90s predecessors (I love Full House, but it's nowhere near realistic.)  

1. Freaks and Geeks
Again, another short-lived show reaching its untimely cancellation. This comedy-drama series showed the nitty and gritty of being on the bottom of the food chain in high school. Gifted high schooler Lindsay attends high school with her brother Sam, as they mesh with their friends and figure out life in the halls. 
Showing the struggles of first love and finding your identity in high school, nothing was more ahead of its time or relatable than this show that was unique to 90s TV. You can watch it on Netlflix and relive this show that should have lasted much longer than it did. That's show business!

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