All Your Favorite Teen Shows, Ranked By Realness

Teens are kind of ruling television right now. No matter where you look, Netflix newbie 13 Reasons Why, CW murder mystery soap Riverdale, and Freeform's brand new grown-ish 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.

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.

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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.
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?
Marvel's Runaways

To quote my colleague Rebecca Farley, “Yeah, Runaways is really relatable… if you’re a 1-percenter teen.” Otherwise, you’re not exactly going to find a lifestyle you recognize in the Hulu comic adaptation filled with super-powered high schoolers. And, the alien sex and basement-dwelling dinosaurs aren't even to blame.

Although, what else should we expect from famed creators Stephanie Savage and Josh Schwartz, the same people who gave us the beloved ridiculousness of Gossip Girl? I guess we should all just be thankful this time around there's a lot more diversity to be seen.
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 McCall (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.
Riverdale

The teens of Riverdale actually seem like teens, which makes sense since lead K.J. Apa started playing Archie Andrews at just 19 years old. 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) get to the bottom of the Jason Blossom murder mystery before any person in law enforcement. Or that time Betty had bury Archie alive under the behest of a serial killer. Or that time Veronica Lodge (Camila Mendes) dove into a steamy shower hookup while still wearing her pearls.

The list goes on...
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.
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.
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.
Skins (The British One, Of Course)

Skins gave viewers an unfiltered, unafraid look at precisely what it means to be a young person. But, the British important did still tend to be so extreme and so dramatic at all times, it rarely looked like the life of average, every-day teen.
American Vandal

What makes the sleeper Netflix favorite so great is how seriously it takes its wild conceit — Who drew the dicks?! — so, it makes sense American Vandal feels so realistic. The teens actually seems like teens, since most of the cast is 25-and-under, which helps the entire high school true crime mystery feel genuine.

And, high schools the world over all have their own Dylan Maxwell (Jimmy Tatro). Although, we doubt many bastions of education have to deal with the massive defacement of propertu via phallic graffiti, ball hairs and all.
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.
Everything Sucks!

This new Netflix high school comedy definitely cribs some of its style from the icon of teen shows that is Freaks And Geek (more on this one soon). The stars of Everything actually look like they should be allowed in a high school, which makes sense since most of the cast is still to young to legally drive.

On top of the visual accuracy of Everything's Boring High School, the storyline will look familiar to anyone who has ever stumbled through adolescence. All the hopeful first crushes, painful first loves, and general embarrassment is here, and then some.
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.
Grown-ish

Black-ish spinoff grown-ish is not afraid to go there. Despite the Freeform comedy’s family sitcom roots, the college show immediately delves into the realities of what it’s like to be a young person just starting college. Within the one-hour premiere alone, Zoey Johnson (Yara Shahidi) faces prescription pill abuse, true-to-life partying (it’s doesn't always look like a music video), and the general feeling of existential insecurity that comes with a big new, supposedly life-defining journey.

It’s no wonder Zoey is one of television’s most relatable teens.
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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