The Best Teen And Youth Shows To Watch In 2021
- Derry GirlsDerry Girls
- Never Have I EverNever Have I Ever
- Chilling Adventures of SabrinaChilling Adventures of Sabrina
- Sex EducationSex Education
- Dawson's CreekDawson's Creek
- Dear White PeopleDear White People
- The End of the F***ing WorldThe End of the F***ing World
- Moment of EighteenMoment of Eighteen
- Reply SeriesReply Series
- The Queen's GambitThe Queen's Gambit
- One Tree HillOne Tree Hill
- On My BlockOn My Block
From Never Have I Ever, Euphoria to the Reply series, whether you're young now or young at heart, you should be watching these youth and coming-of-age shows
Don't let the labels "teen" or "coming-of-age" put you off—these youth shows are perfect for anyone regardless of age. Our teenage and young adult years are one of the most memorable times of our life, it's when we first experienced heart-fluttering romance, tried to be independent and challenged ourselves as we strive for the future.
But it's also filled with bittersweet memories. While we can't travel back to the past when nostalgia hits, we can still watch teen and youth shows that are educational, fun and inspirational no matter our age.
Here, we break down some of the best teen and youth shows to watch, whether you're a teen now or still a teen at heart.
Before Bridgerton, Nicola Coughlan first graced our screen as Clare in Derry Girls together with her squad, Erin (Saoirse-Monica Jackson), Orla (Louisa Harland), Michelle (Jamie-Lee O'Donnell) and James (Dylan Llewellyn). We follow this group of friends as they navigate their teenage years, attending Catholic girls' secondary school where James is the first and only male student.
Before its release on Netflix, Derry Girls fairly remained under the radar outside of UK although it received critical acclaim, prompting Netflix to pick it up. This coming-of-age story blends dark humour with teen life in 1990s Northern Ireland. The cast also boasts incredible chemistry that adds to the fun when you watch the series.
Another coming-of-age comedy-drama to add to your list is Atypical, which follows the life of 18-year-old Sam Gardner (Keir Gilchrist), who has autism spectrum disorder. Following advice from his therapist, Sam announces that he wants to start dating, much to the delight of his father Doug, whom Sam asks for advice. But it soon turns out that Sam's crush is actually his 26-year-old therapist.
While initially criticised for the lack of autistic actors in the first season, the production featured more actors and writers with autism in the following seasons which subsequently received mostly positive reviews. Atypical is a comedy but much of it is also emotional especially as we follow Sam's story—from therapy sessions, the challenges and stigma he faces and how he tries to be independent.
Never Have I Ever
After the death of her father and recovering from not being able to use her legs for three months, 15-year-old Indian-American Devi Vishwakumar (Maitreyi Ramakrishnan) wants a fresh start. As she attempts to change her social status at school, her family and friends aren't making it easier. Never Have I Ever explores Devi's life whether it's the grief she's dealing with, her identity as an Indian-American, her relationship with her mother and of course, her boy troubles.
This coming of age comedy-drama is one of the rare instances that we get to see a South Asian female lead. Ramakrishnan's breakout performance also makes the show and her a must-watch. Tennis player, Joh McEnroe also adds more life to the series through his comedic narrating. The second season of the series is set to premiere on July 15.
Chilling Adventures of Sabrina
Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, based on the eponymous comic series, is set in Greendale and focuses on half-witch, half-human Sabrina Spellman (Kiernan Shipka) who has to deal with her identity all while battling evil forces that not only threaten her but also her family, friends and town. This dark coming-of-age series fuses horror, the supernatural (witchcraft) and romance.
Praised for the visuals, art direction and Shipka's performance, the series has three seasons before being cancelled by Netflix in July 2020. Despite this, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina will whisk you to the world of magic and growing up.
Sex Education is one of Netflix's most successful teen series, boasting over 40 million household watchers. This comedy-drama tells the story of Otis Milburn (Asa Butterfield) who attends Moordale Secondary School. Otis is smart but insecure, especially when it comes to sex. His mother, Dr Jean Milburn (Gillian Anderson) being a sex therapist isn't helping. Despite this, he tries to help a classmate who's concerned about his sex life, transforming this one-time "advice-giving" gesture into an advice business. Otis teams up with a troubled classmate, Maeve to give their classmates advice on sex.
While some may raise eyebrows on the series' bold subject, the title is exactly why it's good and helps correct misconceptions about sex and even diving deeper into all aspects of sexuality. Sex Education is also about friendship and relationships (beyond romance) that explore the misadventures and struggles of a well-put cast, coming to terms with your sexual identity, the pressures of being a successful athelete and even overcoming sexual harassment.
Dawson's Creek is the blueprint for many of the present-day coming-of-age dramas. Like most teen shows, Dawson Creek portrays the struggles and different stages of adolescence through two childhood best friends, Dawson (James Van Der Beek) and Joey Potter (Katie Holmes). Their friendship is put to the test when they both start seeing other people, prompting a will-they-won't-they relationship between the two.
Dear White People
Dear White People is set against the backdrop of a predominantly white Ivy League university where racial tensions bubble below the surface. The satirical series blends comedy with drama to weave together a story of finding one's own identity and forging a new path while navigating social injustice, cultural bias, political correctness and misguided activism in the millennial age through the eyes of a group of Winchester University students of colour.
It also uses biting irony and brutal honesty to bring to light issues plaguing society today. The first two seasons released to critical acclaim and was praised for being timely, provocative as well as examining issues such as appropriation and assimilation.
The End of the F***ing World
This dark comedy-drama based on Charles Forsman's mini-comics of the same name has been praised for its writing, subject matter, execution and the lead star's performances, making it a must-watch.
The End of the F***ing World follows James (Alex Lawther) who believes he's a psychopath. In order to prove his hypothesis, he decides to kill a person and sets his eyes on Alyssa, a rebellious classmate. Having issues of her own, Alyssa asks James to run away together. Thinking it's a great opportunity to kill her, James agrees.
As the two go on an adventure across England, they begin to open up to each other and develop a relationship as they encounter various mishaps along the way. The End of the F***ing World is witty, visually stunning and perfectly mixes dark humour with drama.
Moment of Eighteen
Korean drama, Moment of Eighteen garnered buzz before its release, particularly because it was Ong Seong-wu's debut role, member of the former K-pop boy group, Wanna One as well as Kim Hyang-gi's return to a regular TV series. This coming-of-age Korean series follows 18-year-old Choi Joon-woo (Ong) who's teenage life is filled with family and school troubles. He's been forced to transfer schools after a violation he didn't commit.
Wanting not to stand out, he decides to be a nobody at his new school. Much to his dismay, his classmate and top student, Yoo Soo-bin (Kim) starts noticing him. What follows is a tale of the highs and lows of being 18, from the sweet to the bitter moments. Despite Ong's first acting role, he received a nomination as Best New Actor at the 2020 Baeksang Arts Awards while Kim showcased how much she's grown as a former child actress. Moment of Eighteen is charming and you can expect some heart-fluttering scenes.
See also: 30 New Must-Watch Korean Dramas In 2021
Another coming-of-age series that tackles a mature subject matter is Euphoria, though its bold depiction, acting and visuals were met with positive reviews. Based loosely on the Israeli TV series of the same name, Euphoria is about Rue Bennett (Zendaya), a recovering teenage drug addict who's trying to find her place in the world and herself. She meets Jules Vaughn (Hunter Schafer), a transgender girl who's having issues of her own.
For her role as Rue, Zendaya won Outstanding Lead Actress at the Emmy Awards 2020, the youngest winner of the category. Schafer's performance as Jules also very well-received, despite this being her acting debut.
Skins is one of the most well-known teen dramas to come out of the UK and garnered a cult following ever since its release. It was both praised and criticised for exploring controversial issues such as dysfunctional families, mental illness, gender, sexuality, substance abuse and bullying.
The series ran for six years, with each "generation" replacing its primary cast members every two years and each episode focusing on a particular character and their difficulties in life. Skins also launched the careers of many of its stars including Nicholas Hoult, Joe Dempsie, Kaya Scodelario, Dev Patel and James Cook.
The Reply series is one of the most successful anthology TV series in South Korea, with all the seasons receiving critical acclaim for its performances, humour and nostalgia. Each series is set in a different time period, the first season is set in 1997, the second in 1994 and the third in 1988 and each showcases the different challenges of teen life corresponding to the year it's set.
The first season centres around high school student slash fangirl, Shi Won, who loves boy group, H.O.T. Taking place in Busan and switching between her 18-year-old self and 33-year-old self, viewers are left to guess who she ends up marrying.
Continuing the motif of "guess who's the dad", Reply 1994 follows six university students from different cities in South Korea as they live together in a boarding house. Again, the timeline switches between their past in 1994 and their present in 2013. The latest season takes place in 1988 and is about five childhood friends who are living in the same neighbourhood. They all lean into each other to survive their teen years while preparing for the future. Reply 1988 is the fourth highest-rated Korean drama in cable TV history.
Good news! All three seasons are available on Netflix.
See also: 10 Most Expensive Korean Dramas To Make
The Queen's Gambit
Classifying The Queen's Gambit as a teen or youth show might not sit well with many but this period mini-series is very much a coming-of-age story so it felt only right to include this here. Based on the eponymous novel of the same name by Walter Tevis, The Queen's Gambit is about a young orphan and chess prodigy, Elizabeth "Beth" Harmon (Anya Taylor-Joy) and her quest in becoming the world's greatest chess player. But as she grows up, she starts battling substance abuse as well as the trauma of having lost her mother and not growing up with a father.
The mini-series was met with critical acclaim, with Anya Taylor-Joy garnering widespread praise for her performance. The attention to detail, set design, chess accuracy, costumes and the way that it has inspired other women. The show was so popular that interest in chess increased since its release.
One Tree Hill
A list of youth and coming-of-age shows doesn't feel complete without including One Tree Hill. This romance drama centres around the relationship between two half-brothers Lucas Scott (Chad Michael Murray) and Nathan Scott (James Lafferty) who start off having a bitter relationship but grow closer as the show progressed. It also looked at the romance, friendship, rivalries and betrayals that happen around the brothers and their friends.
Much of the show also focuses on basketball, something that the two brothers share in common especially in the first season. But since romance is also a central theme in the show and to appeal, the focus gradually to the relationships between characters which to this day, is still very much talked about.
On My Block
When childhood friends grow up, it's a lot to take in. You either go separate ways as circumstances change or your friendship is tested. Add in growing up in an underprivileged neighbourhood to the mix. On My Block is about four childhood friends living in a rough neighbourhood in Los Angeles called Freeridge. We follow them as they navigate the triumph, pain and newness of high school.
The series was praised for its focus on underrepresented communities in the eyes of young people, growing up. The cast (played by actors of colour) and issues of friendship and family were also met with positive reviews.
See also: 12 Inspiring Movies To Watch