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82 Teen Drama TV and Streaming Series by Tomatometer

Updated April 20, 2020

Teen dramas, like the very audience they’re reaching, have always had an uphill climb to be taken seriously. They are beloved, but do critics actually think they’re any good? While Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Veronica Mars are often cited as series that impacted critics’ formative years and have high Tomatometer ratings, others are dismissed as nothing but guilty pleasures.

Then along come titles like Freeform’s Cruel Summer, which is Fresh at 90% on the Tomatometer; Shadow and Bone, which is Fresh at 87% and comes from streamer Netflix; and The CW’s hit Riverdale.

Rotten Tomatoes has gathered the scores of these and many others in the genre to determine which show wins the title of best-reviewed teen drama. Where the Tomatometer scores are tied, we’ve listed those with the higher number of reviews higher on the list to reflect that more critics weighed in, and then alphabetically for those that have the same score and the same number of reviews. There are several series listed with a 100% Tomatometer score, for example, but Recovery Road has only six reviews for its first, and only, season and is therefore ranked at the bottom of that section.

A number of teen dramas like Beverly Hills 90210, Dawson’s CreekThe Wonder Years, and The Vampire Diaries/Originals spin-off Legacies currently do not have enough Tomatometer-eligible reviews across their seasons to receive a series-level score. We will update this list if and when such titles receive a score.

Disagree with the results? Tell us in the comments which series you think should have been ranked higher (or lower).

Between (2015)
22%

#82
Synopsis: Wiley Day (played by Disney darling Jennette McCurdy, star of "iCarly" and "Sam & Cat") has plans. The pregnant teen,... [More]

October Faction (2020)
29%

#81
Synopsis: Monster hunters Fred and Deloris Allen tangle with evil -- and family drama with their teenage twins; based on the... [More]
Directed By: Damian Kindler

13 Reasons Why (2017)
35%

#80
Synopsis: Newcomer Katherine Langford plays the role of Hannah, a young woman who takes her own life. Two weeks after her... [More]

Beyond (2017)
42%

#79
Synopsis: When Holden wakes up from a coma that lasted 12 years, the young man discovers that he has new abilities,... [More]

Jane by Design (2012)
43%

#78
Synopsis: Jane Quimby is a high-school fashionista who works as an assistant to high-powered fashion executive Gray Chandler Murray. Jane's problem... [More]

()
%

#77

The Secret Circle (2011)
47%

#76
Synopsis: After her mother dies in a fire, Cassie Blake (Britt Robertson) goes to live with her grandmother in Chance Harbor,... [More]

Trinkets (2019)
60%

#75
Synopsis: A grieving teenager finds an unexpected connection with two classmates at her new high school when they all land in... [More]

Light as a Feather (2018)
50%

#74
Synopsis: Four best friends invite the shy new girl out on Halloween, but they quickly regret their decision when she suggests... [More]
Directed By: R. Lee Fleming Jr.

Roswell, New Mexico (2019)
77%

#73
Synopsis: After a decade away from home, Liz Ortecho returns to her native Roswell to care for her ailing father. When... [More]

Kyle XY (2006)
56%

#72
Synopsis: A teenage boy is found wandering, naked and dazed, in traffic. At a nearby youth detention center, authorities discover that... [More]

Star-Crossed (2014)
57%

#71
Synopsis: When an alien spacecraft lands in 6-year-old Emery's town resulting in an immediate battle, she befriends one of the young... [More]

The Politician (2019)
48%

#70
Synopsis: Wealthy high school student Payton Hobart has known since he was 7 years old that he is going to be... [More]

Red Band Society (2014)
59%

#69
Synopsis: A group of teens in the pediatric ward of Los Angeles' Ocean Park Hospital find comfort in one another. Mexican-born... [More]

Popular (1999)
60%

#68
Synopsis: It's a culture clash of epic proportions when cheerleader Brooke and unpopular journalist Sam, girls on the opposite ends of... [More]

Scream (2015)
61%

#67
Synopsis: MTV teams with super-producers Bob and Harvey Weinstein on a TV series adaptation of the hit horror film franchise. Instigated... [More]

Spinning Out (2020)
59%

#66
Synopsis: A figure skating Olympic hopeful struggles to balance family, love and fragile mental health as her dream of winning takes... [More]

Dead of Summer (2016)
63%

#65
Synopsis: Summertime in the Midwest means another season at summer camp for teens, which usually promises the campers and counselors such... [More]

Locke & Key (2020)
74%

#64
Synopsis: Following their father's murder, three siblings move into a house filled with reality-bending keys; from the comics by Joe Hill... [More]

Guilt (2016)
67%

#63
Synopsis: When American student Molly is murdered while studying in London, her roommate, Grace, becomes the prime suspect in the crime.... [More]

Outer Banks (2020)
78%

#62
Synopsis: A teenager enlists his three best friends to hunt for a legendary treasure linked to his father's disappearance.... [More]

The O.C. (2003)
67%

#61
Synopsis: This modern soap opera mines the intertwined lives of the Cohen, Cooper and Nichol families for drama, with a contemporary... [More]

Life Unexpected (2010)
71%

#60
Synopsis: After 15 years of being with different families in Oregon's foster-care system, Lux decides to try her luck as an... [More]
Directed By: Liz Tigelaar, Gary Fleder

Everything Sucks! (2018)
72%

#59
Synopsis: It's the 1990s in Boring, Ore., and groups of outcasts in Boring High School's AV and drama clubs are trying... [More]

Glee (2009)
70%

#58
Synopsis: Optimistic teacher Will Schuester heads up McKinley High School's glee club -- New Directions -- a place where ambitious and... [More]

Twisted (2013)
73%

#57
Synopsis: When charismatic Danny Desai returns to his hometown after spending five years in juvenile detention, he sees that things are... [More]

Synopsis: Set at East High School, "High School Musical: The Musical: The Series" introduces members of the drama club and their... [More]

Ravenswood (2013)
75%

#55
Synopsis: When Caleb Rivers heads to Ravenswood, a town near his hometown, to help some friends who went there to crash... [More]

Shadowhunters (2016)
76%

#54
Synopsis: On her birthday, Clary Fray discovers a surprise concerning her life. The teenager is not who she thinks she is... [More]

#53
Synopsis: Based on the best-selling fantasy book series by Terry Brooks, "The Shannara Chronicles" follows heroes in the Four Lands as... [More]

Smallville (2001)
78%

#52
Synopsis: An interpretation of the Superman story features young Clark Kent coming to grips with his emerging superpowers. In the 10th... [More]

The Gifted (2017)
79%

#51
Synopsis: Produced in association with Marvel Television, and set in the "X-Men" universe, family adventure series "The Gifted" is about an... [More]

Baby (2018)

#50
Synopsis: By day, Chiara is a promising student at one of Rome's most elite private high schools; by night, she leads... [More]

Make It or Break It (2009)
80%

#49
Synopsis: Emily Kmetko's dreams of becoming an Olympic gymnast inch closer to reality when she receives a scholarship to The Rock... [More]

Pretty Little Liars (2010)
81%

#48
Synopsis: As time has passed since Alison, then the queen bee of the bunch, went missing. Spencer, Aria, Hanna and Emily... [More]

Teen Wolf (2011)
81%

#47
Synopsis: The high-school anonymity Scott McCall was trying to break free from couldn't have happened in a more mysterious, complicated way.... [More]

The Get Down (2016)
81%

#46
Synopsis: The multi-talented Baz Luhrmann and a team of collaborators -- Oscar-winner Catherine Martin, legendary MC Nas, Grandmaster Flash, Pulitzer-winning playwright... [More]

Euphoria (2019)
86%

#45
Synopsis: An American adaptation of the Israeli show of the same name, "Euphoria" follows the troubled life of 17-year-old Rue, a... [More]

#44
Synopsis: Sarah Michelle Gellar takes on the role of Buffy Summers in this TV version of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," based... [More]

The Lying Game (2011)
83%

#43
Synopsis: Emma Becker and Sutton Mercer are, unbeknownst to them, identical twins. Separated at birth and unaware of each other's existence,... [More]

The Carrie Diaries (2013)
83%

#42
Synopsis: It's 1984 and a pre-Manolos-and-Mr.-Big Carrie Bradshaw ("Sex and the City") is just a Connecticut teenager with a rebellious kid... [More]

Gossip Girl (2007)
84%

#41
Synopsis: High school is over for the privileged former students at an exclusive prep school on Manhattan's Upper East Side, but... [More]

Synopsis: Counselors and campers check in for what's billed as "the summer of your life" at Maine's Camp Firewood in 1981.... [More]

Noam Galai/WireImage

(Photo by Noam Galai/WireImage)

Shiri Appleby has been on TV since before she was a teenager. Early on, she guest-starred in shows like 7th Heaven and Baywatch, and more recently, she headlined Lifetime’s acclaimed Bachelor-skewering drama UnREAL. But the actress’ game-changing role was the lead in 1999’s Roswell — a sci-fi drama series that began with her character, New Mexico high-schooler Liz, being shot and brought back to life by an alien.

Now, Appleby is stepping behind the camera — and returning to one of her most iconic roles to do so. She’s directing the Tuesday, March 19 episode of Roswell, New Mexico, a reboot of her late ’90s series. Both iterations of Roswell feature aliens, romance, and feelings of otherness, but in the new series, the characters are 10 years older and their conflicts are much more contemporary.

“You know, [in] our show, these kids were in high school and the alien theme was about how everyone felt in high school — you felt out of place and you didn’t feel like you belonged,” Appleby told Rotten Tomatoes of the original Roswell. “In today’s story, these kids are in their late 20s and the alien is about illegal immigration. It feels very timely and very relevant.”

Her upcoming Roswell, New Mexico episode, “Songs About Texas,” will be a first for Appleby. In the past, she’s directed TV episodes in which she also starred. This time, she’s staying behind the camera, but that doesn’t mean she’ll stop acting — she says she’s just “taking a minute” to find the right long-term role.

Ahead of the episode, Appleby told us about what she’s been bingeing lately and what’s coming soon for her career — both in front of and behind the camera.


What’s appointment viewing for you?

Byron Cohen / Touchstone Television / Courtesy Everett Collection

(Photo by Byron Cohen / Touchstone Television / Courtesy Everett Collection)

The last time I did that I was watching Felicity… That should tell you how many years it’s been. I used to love that show. It was my absolute favorite. There was nothing better than Keri Russell. Right?


What’s in your streaming queue?

Hulu

(Photo by Hulu)

Right now I’m watching Russian Doll. I love Russian Doll … I have been watching Light as a Feather on Hulu. I’m going to direct two episodes of it, so I’ve been really bingeing on that show. I think it’s so charming and wonderful. I was also watching a lot of Pretty Little Liars because I just directed an episode of The Perfectionists. And, I am going to go — which is so funny — to my Netflix account right now so I can tell you what else I’ve been watching.

I love to watch a lot of documentaries. I was watching, let’s see, I watched the Fyre documentaries on both Hulu and Netflix. I still watch Stranger Things… I like watching My Next Guest [Needs No Introduction] with David Letterman. I love that.


What shows are on your DVR?

Courtesy of Netflix

(Photo by Courtesy of Netflix)

I don’t watch real TV anymore! I watched Tidying Up with Marie Kondo, and I’ve been cleaning out my closet obsessively since then.


What’s coming soon that you’re excited for?

ABC/Eric McCandless

(Photo by ABC/Eric McCandless)

The Fix. My best friend, Robin Tunney, has a new show premiering on Monday night on ABC, so I cannot wait to watch every single episode of that.


Sophie-Marie Prime for Rotten Tomatoes: Did you go back and watch any of the original Roswell while preparing to direct your episode?

Well, I had made every single episode, so I felt very confident that I didn’t need to watch it again and see myself as a 20-year-old. I was just going to let myself go and be immersed in the world that they’ve created.

Have you been in contact with any of the original cast at all? I know Jason Behr sent you flowers on your first day.

Yeah, Jason and I are still in touch. I’ve been actually texting with Katherine Heigl a lot. Colin Hanks I see, and he’s texted. Majandra [Delfino] lives maybe three blocks away from me so I run into her. It’s such a small, little, tiny community. When you think about that experience, it’s like friends from high school. You know, you kind of pick up right where you left off.

We all came from such different backgrounds and we’re going through this really out-of-body experience together. It’s kind of fun to get back to each other and see each other. Everyone has kids now, and [it’s fun] to see what’s happened with their lives and their careers.


20th Century Fox Film Corp. / Courtesy Everett Collection

(Photo by 20th Century Fox Film Corp. / Courtesy Everett Collection)

What do you and the rest of the original cast think of the reboot?

It’s like building a legacy. It’s a complete compliment. I just feel incredibly flattered.

What was your first impression when you saw the pilot for the new series?

I thought they did an incredible job of having some very iconic moments that we share: like Liz getting shot in the Crashdown Café and Max coming over and saving her life — those really big moments that were very much a big thread of the original series. Then very quickly it becomes its own show, which I thought was so smart, and it tackles these bigger topics.

You know, our show, these kids were in high school and the alien theme was about how everyone felt in high school. You felt out of place and you didn’t feel like you belonged. In today’s story, these kids are in their late 20s and the alien is about illegal immigration. It feels very timely and very relevant.


Lewis Jacobs/The CW

(Photo by Lewis Jacobs/The CW)

How is it working with Jeanine Mason as the new Liz?

I just couldn’t pick someone better to take over the role. She is so impressive as both an actress and a human being. We really had a great time finding ways to get creative with the performance and doing different things. She was just really up for it all. I had a really wonderful time. It felt very much like passing the baton forward. I love what she’s created with this new Liz.

What role did the original Roswell play in your career as an actress?

Well, it’s so funny, it’s playing a similar role as a director. It really changed my life. I went from a girl that was in high school and I had worked since I was a young kid, but it gave me a career. It really was like everything was “before Roswell” and “after Roswell.”

Now I’ve been making this transition into directing, and Roswell is the first show that’s given me a job directing where I’m not acting. Because they gave it to me, Marlene King felt more comfortable giving me an episode directing Pretty Little Liars, and now Hulu is giving me two more episodes of Light as a Feather. It’s just continuing to build. Again, Roswell has come in and just been an incredible, huge part of my journey as a director.


Lifetime

(Photo by Lifetime)

You’ve had such a diverse career on TV. Do you have any favorite roles that you’ve played?

I have this wall in our house where I have my costumes in frames. I have the Roswell gunshot [costume] framed and my mic from Life Unexpected, and then I have Rachel Goldberg’s T-shirt that says “This is What a Feminist Looks Like” with a green coat and her little fanny pack [from UnREAL]. Those were definitely my iconic roles.

And Girls was an incredible part for me. It really pushed the envelope. To be on a show that was so culturally relevant was really game changing. I think working on Mike Nichols’ movie Charlie Wilson’s War with Julia Roberts and Tom Hanks and Philip Seymour Hoffman and Amy Adams and Emily Blunt — to be surrounded by all of these incredible talents and feel like I had a real seat at the table — that really changed things for me as well.


20th Century Fox Film Corp. / Courtesy: Everett Collection.

(Photo by 20th Century Fox Film Corp. / Courtesy: Everett Collection.)

How and when did you decide to jump from acting to directing? Did you always know that was something you wanted to do?

When I did Roswell, there weren’t female directors. We had 61 episodes and we had one female director on the last episode. I didn’t grow up seeing an image of a female director, so I never thought it was something that I could have. I definitely spent my time in editing during Roswell and asked a lot of questions and paid attention, but during my 20s, you just didn’t see it.

Then when I was on Life Unexpected they brought on a female director, Liz Allen, and it really kind of rocked my world. Through my relationship with her, she was like, “You can do this.” I started shadowing a lot after I got off Life Unexpected. That’s where I was like, “OK, this is something that I can do.”

By the time I did UnREAL, I came to them right away, and I was like, “I have done my homework. I am prepared. I would really love an opportunity.” I’m really grateful to them that in the second season they gave me an episode to direct. I ended up doing four during the course of the series.

What has your experience been like directing a show that you’re also acting in, versus something like Roswell, New Mexico and Pretty Little Liars where you’re not appearing on screen?

The difference is that you’re not really splitting your focus, but at the same time when you’re directing and acting, it’s pretty powerful. You know, you’re really in it and you can really command the energy of a scene because your acting is putting that out. So, you can really craft how you want it to be.

When you’re not acting in it, when you’re sitting back, you can take a breather and really see the scope of the piece. I think it’s incredibly rewarding to work in this space. All this information that I’ve learned and all of these tricks of the trade, of crafting an episode of performance and an episode of TV — to be able to push that information forward and share with these young actors and watch their performance blossom, it is so gratifying. It’s a way of giving back in some ways, and I am just really relishing it.


Lewis Jacobs/The CW

(Photo by Lewis Jacobs/The CW)

It’s mentorship from a totally different angle.

Absolutely. You know, there are directors that come through your career that really give you these little nuggets that change the way you work. I try to give it as much as I can, because I want to have an impact in the few days that I’m with them.

Do you think that there will be an opportunity for you to appear on screen in Roswell, New Mexico?

Carina MacKenzie — she’s so talented — if she wants to figure out a way, I’ll do it.

 

Can you share anything else about your upcoming projects? Do you have any on-screen appearances planned?

I did an episode of Law & Order: SVU and Lucy Liu was directing it. That was really fun. I just did an episode of Drunk History that aired. But, quite honestly, following up Rachel Goldberg on UnREAL, there are big shoes to fill. I’m just kind of taking a minute to find the right thing… because I really want to give it my all and find the next right character and the next right story.

Roswell, New Mexico episode “Songs About Texas” airs Tuesday at 9 p.m. on The CW


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