15. South of Nowhere (The N)
Stars: Gabrielle Christian, Mandy Musgrave, Matt Cohen, Danso Gordon, Valerie Ortiz, Chris Hunter, Rob Moran, Maeve Quinlan, Austen Parros, Eileen April Boylan, Aasha Davis
This might be your first time hearing about South of Nowhere. By no means did it break any ratings records during its three-season run nor catapult any of its leads into Teen Bop stardom. However, it's cemented history as something greater than all of that: it's the first television show ever to star non-heterosexual teenagers.
SoN follows the life of the Ohio-bred Carlin family as they adjust to life in Los Angeles. At its forefront, however, is youngest daughter Spencer, who's forced to confront the truth about her sexuality when she begins to fall for her bisexual new BFF Ashley Davies. Not only must she deal with her conservative parents in the process, but also the unrelenting pressure from her peers.
The show has become a go-to for LGBTQ youth and paved the way for shows like MTV's Faking It and ABC Family's The Fosters, which also give LGBTQ characters top billing. —Tara Aquino
11. Veronica Mars (The CW)
Stars: Kristen Bell, Percy Daggs III, Teddy Dunn, Jason Dohring, Sydney Tamiia Poitier, Francis Capra, Ryan Hansen, Kyle Gallner, Tessa Thompson, Julie Gonzalo, Chris Lowell, Tina Majorino, Michael Muhney, Enrico Colantoni
A 16-year old pixie of a teenage girl spends her days and earns her money on an Encyclopedia Brown/Nancy Drew wave, while investigating her best friend's murder on the low? That sound ridiculous to you? It is, but that's not really an issue when the universe, with it's realistic high school cliques and characters, and a powder keg of a class divide, is presented with such stark, neo-noir realism.
At times the show owns up to the silliness of a 16-year-old girl investigating mysteries for her classmates with decidedly light fare—like the case of the missing mascot—but these are ultimately just moments of levity amidst an exceedingly gloomy setting that included suicide, the mass murder of teenagers, pedophilia, rape, to name a few.
Beyond grim tales and season-long mystery arcs more expertly plotted than your favorite adult-driven drama though, Neptune High is a fully realized universe with a deep pool of supporting characters to flesh it out and draw you in. Why else would we willingly accept a movie premise that sees Veronica's reluctant return conveniently coincide with her ten year-reunion? —Frazier Tharpe
6. Degrassi (The N)
Stars: Various, depending on the season
Degrassi is unforgettable for a lot of reasons. Mostly, we have a lot of hilarious GIFs of teenage Drake now, from when he starred on the Canadian program. Jokes about Aubrey Graham aside, Degrassi has always tackled the hardest issues for teens. The soap-opera-like drama of the show is actually...super real.
Like, dude, remember how much drama was in high school? It covered break-ups, homosexuality, friendships growing apart, school shootings, ending of basketball careers, becoming wheelchair bound, worrying if you're going to be a virgin the rest of your life—sorry, we got distracted by Drake's story line. —Hope Schreiber
3. Buffy the Vampire Slayer (The WB)
Stars: Sarah Michelle Gellar, Nicholas Brendon, Alyson Hannigan, Charisma Carpenter, Anthony Stewart Head, David Boreanaz, Seth Green, James Marsters, Marc Blucas, Emma Caulfield, Michelle Trachtenberg, Amber Benson
What does it say about you that you still have songs on your iPod from Buffy's musical episode "Once More, with Feeling?" It says that you're awesome. But it also speaks volumes about how much Buffy the Vampire Slayer shapes the way the people view supernatural shows today. True Blood and Vampire Diaries would certainly be a lot more interesting if there was a 16-year-old slayer chasing them. No time for romance and the erotic bond of a vampire drinking a victim/lover's blood, Buffy would straight-up stake them in the heart.
The magic of Buffy is that it never takes itself too seriously, it's always tongue-in-cheek, and it owns its campiness. Despite the show ending 11 years ago, its fanbase is still a huge, tight-knit community that turned the show into a cult hit. —Hope Schreiber
1. Friday Night Lights (NBC)
Stars: Kyle Chandler, Connie Britton, Aimee Teegarden, Brad Leland, Taylor Kitsch, Jesse Plemons, Zach Gilford
Rarely has a television show been as honest as Friday Night Lights. From the authentic Texas homes to the docu-style camerawork and the unreal performances, this show sought out realism in all facets of production. It seems almost unfair that this show and Two Broke Girls are both considered to be part of the same artform.
At the center the series, tying together the desperate realities of the teenage characters are Coach and Tami Taylor (Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton). So often adults in teen dramas are played as absentee symbols are comic relief. Here, they are front and center, confronting, challenging, and supporting the cast. Just as Coach and Mrs. Coach make the children of Dillon's lives better, you suspect that performances on screen were made that much better thanks to the presence of these two dynamic, powerful character actors.
The experience of watching so much teen television drama depends on your ability to accept soapy melodrama burderened by broad amateurish acting. The only thing that will hinder your experience watching FNL is your inabilty to stop quoting Coach Taylor's speeches and enjoy the show. —Brenden Gallagher
what's your fav teen drama, ontd?