All Your Favorite Teen Shows, Ranked By Realness

Photo: Beth Dubber/Netflix.
Teens are kind of ruling television right now. No matter where you look, Netflix newbie 13 Reasons Why, CW murder mystery soap Riverdale, and the finale season of Pretty Little Liars are dominating headlines and buzz. That make sense, since teenagers and tweens are watching less television than their adult counterparts. That means entertainment aimed at young people has to be so good, it can't be ignored.
Yet, all teen shows aren't created equal. Because adults are the ones creating, writing, and producing these projects, they're all a much older person's idea of how actual teenagers behave. This TV catch-22 leaves us with some series that prove their creative teams have never met someone under the age of 30 and some series that take us right back to high school.
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That's why we've ranked all our favorite teen shows based on just how realistic they are, from the totally out of touch to the near-biographic. Scroll through the gallery to see where you favorite show ends up.
1 of 10
Photo: Cw Network/REX/Shutterstock.
Gossip Girl

The impossibility of these gorgeous "teens’" lives has haunted me for years. Everyone on this show is about 15 — and Jenny (Taylor Momsen) may be a toddler — with the lifestyle and looks of a wildly successful 26-year-old. This is all impossible and no one can convince me otherwise.
2 of 10
Photo: Courtesy of Freeform.
Pretty Little Liars

Pretty Little Liars definitely falls on Gossip Girl’s imaginary perfection side of the realness spectrum. Why have none of these teens ever had a zit? How did they get so good at dealing with murders? And don’t they have curfews?
3 of 10
Photo: Courtesy of MTV.
Teen Wolf

To be honest, a show with baby tee-wearing werewolf hunks seems more realistic than the worlds of Gossip Girl and Pretty Little Liars. Scott (Tyler Posey) can’t even manage to go through a major glow up or get on the lacrosse team without being bitten by a literal supernatural creature. That is very relatable.

Plus, there’s nothing realer than Scott and Stiles’s friendship.
4 of 10
Photo: 20th Century Fox Television/REX/Shutterstock.
Buffy

Buffy is even more realistic than its high school supernatural Scooby gang series successor, Teen Wolf. Despite all the monsters, apocalypses, and prophecies, Buffy captured the anxieties of adolescence better than any other show in history.
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5 of 10
Photo: Snap Stills/REX/Shutterstock.
Veronica Mars

The Kristen Bell-starrer is a lot like Buffy, without any brooding vampire love interests. Yet, very few high schoolers are as witty, intelligent, and determined as the wonderful Veronica Mars.
6 of 10
Riverdale

The teens of Riverdale actually seem like teens, which makes sense since lead Archie Andrews is played by real-life 19-year-old K.J. Apa. The residents of Riverdale High also have pretty relatable issues like Archie’s High School Musical-friendly conundrum of choosing between sports and music.

But there’s also proof Riverdale isn’t totally in touch with reality. Take for example the fact Betty (Lili Reinhart) and Jughead (Cole Spouse) are further ahead in the investigation of Jason Blossom’s murder than any person in law enforcement.
7 of 10
Photo: Fox-TV/REX/Shutterstock.
Glee

Ryan Murphy’s FOX musical actually showed what a real high school looks like. There are differently-abled students, and gay students, and mean girls, and more than one person of color.

Of course, there’s a dash of TV magic in Glee since no teenager on earth sings that well a capella.
8 of 10
Photo: Courtesy of MTV.
Awkward.

Awkward is so realistically awkward I can only watch it in 5-minute chunks. With my hands over my eyes.
9 of 10
Photo: Courtesy of Netflix.
13 Reasons Why

Many have recently criticized Netflix’s buzziest new show, saying it doesn’t accurately portray suicide, depression, or mental illness. While that may be true, some schools believe 13 Reasons Why is so true to life, they’re sending home letters about the series, which shows a graphic suicide.

When 13 Reasons isn’t dealing with Hannah Baker’s decision to end her life, it unflinchingly displays the lives and problems of high school students. Also, thanks to great casting, almost everyone looks like an actual high schooler.
10 of 10
Photo: Dreamworks/Apatow Prod/REX/Shutterstock.
Freaks And Geeks

Has any show ever gotten teens right more than Freaks And Geeks? The show is so realistic, that may explain why NBC only allowed it to run for one season.

Seventeen-year-old spoiler alert: The series ends with main character Lindsay (Linda Cardellini) hopping off a bus bound for a summer school program to follow the Grateful Dead with BFF Kim (Busy Philipps).

"I only found out later that when [then-president of NBC West Coast] Scott Sassa saw the cut of the finale and he saw them get in the van he realized we would never do the things that would make the show commercial," creator Judd Apatow told Vanity Fair.

But, of course Lindsay would do that. Of course.
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