9 Essential Teen TV Shows You Have To Watch Before You Turn 18

Teen shows can get a bad rap, but sometimes it’s justified. So many teen shows are just too glossy, full of 28-year-olds masquerading as 15-year-olds who never seem to have a hair out of place. That’s such an unfortunate reputation to have because coming of age TV shows are some of the best TV shows around, period. The good ones are honest, raw and sometimes a little too familiar for comfort.

And too often it’s the good ones–especially the ones that don’t feature ridiculously hot people–that sometimes aren’t given the love that they deserve.

But let’s try to change that. Get a new tab open and start streaming these nine teen TV shows you have to watch before you turn 18. Of course, if you’re over 18 you should totally watch them, too! But if you aren’t, don’t leave your teen years without watching some of the most formative, relatable TV shows ever.

My So-Called Life

Once you get past the amazing '90s aesthetic, you'll start to really resonate with the different issues that come up in this show. From sexual identity to decaying friendships to general feelings of weirdness, our protagonist Angela Chase delves into all of it. Even her most pseudo-intellectual musings have a big chunk of truth to them.


Daria is absolutely iconic and for a good reason. It was full of teen angst with a huge side of hilarity. It didn't glorify high school or popularity; instead it was one of the few shows that really showed that it was okay to be a bit of a loner and an oddball. Also, it's a show that literally anyone can appreciate, whether you're a monotone snarker like Daria or a girly girl like her sister Quinn. There's seriously something for everyone.

South Of Nowhere

Let me tell you why South Of Nowhere is cool: It was the first show to star two non-hetero teen girls as they figured out what it meant to be non-hetero. Seriously, until this show came out in 2005 the only gay characters in TV were either adults or side characters. The show also delves into a ton of other issues, like dysfunctional families and teen pregnancy, but it's definitely worth watching for its fresh take on teen sexuality.

As Told By Ginger

As Told By Ginger was one of my favorite shows as a kid, but as a young adult I have an even bigger appreciation for it than ever before. Why? Because it really explored so much of the weirdness of middle school and early high school. From hairy legs to popularity contests, it's one of the few shows that really showed how hellish those early teen years can be. Seriously, try watching it now as an older teen and see just how much of it is weirdly familiar to you.

My Mad Fat Diary

This. Show. Rules. Set in 1996, My Mad Fat Diary is a show about an overweight teen girl named Rae who just got out of a mental hospital. Now, she's trying to reconnect with old friends while keeping her mental health issues on the DL. Rae is boy crazy, music obsessed and absolutely hilarious. This show definitely had its dark moments, but they're pretty essential and balance nicely with the show's humor. If you're looking for a teen show that has a fresh take on body image, mental health and sexuality--and with a killer soundtrack--definitely check out this show.

Freaks And Geeks

It's always the good shows that last one stupid season...Freaks and Geeks is no exception. It focuses on a girl named Lindsey and her friends--the freaks--and her younger brother and his friends--the geeks. This coming-of-age show, set in 1980, is so endearing that it became a cult classic despite getting the ax after only 12 episodes aired.

Some Girls

It's ridiculous that there aren't enough shows about a diverse group of teen girls who do wacky crap, but at least Some Girls exists. Seriously, when I say that this show is cute and funny it is really cute and really funny. Also, again, this show gets major points for diversity. If you're having trouble finding a TV show with characters who are as diverse as your crew, look no further.


Degrassi has a tendency to get super cheesy...but it's still a show that every teen has to watch at least, I don't know, five episodes of before their teen years are over. This is just a fact, okay? And hey, when the show isn't a total cheese fest it actually does a good job with addressing issues of male and female body image, parental abuse, slut shaming and sexuality. Also, Drake was in it before he was Drake so...


Oh, Skins. This was by far the most formative show of my teen years. Sure, it got pretty over the top with the drugs and alcohol and love triangles, but it gets such big points for having racially diverse casts, gay and lesbian characters and amazing soundtracks. Also, when it isn't ridiculously depressing it's ridiculously hilarious.

What other movies feature a super toxic friendship? Have you ever experienced one? Exactly how much did it suck? Tell us in the comments!

You can follow the author, Ashley Reese, on Twitter or Instagram. Don’t worry, she doesn’t bite!

8 Of The Worst, Most Effed Up TV Friendships Ever

Follow Gurl!
FacebookTwitterTumblr and Instagram

Posted in: Stuff We Heart
Tags: , ,
  • laineregen

    I LOVE my Mad Fat Diary…everyone should watch it!

  • ju

    Def approve of Daria, Freaks & Geeks and Skins. Shows I liked most as a teen<3

  • Brianna Bradshaw

    does any one know where it stream my mad fat diary? I can’t find it on Netflix…