The 25 Best Teen TV Shows on Netflix

Though the loss of such classic teen titles as Beverly Hills, 90210, Dawson’s Creek, Freaks and Greeks, and Friday Night Lights has left Netflix’s catalogue diminished, there’s still more than enough on the streaming service to fill your syllabus—not to mention your entire extracurricular schedule. The TV series listed here range widely, from animation and family dramedy to science fiction and fantasy, but what they share, whatever their genre, tone, or time period, is the conviction that teens have stories worth telling. We wholeheartedly agree.

Here are the best teen TV shows on Netflix:

25. Pretty Little Liars


Creator: I. Marlene King
Stars: Troian Bellisario, Ashley Benson, Lucy Hale, Shay Mitchell, Sasha Pieterse
Network: ABC Family/Freeform

Pretty Little Liars, which premiered in 2010 on what was then called ABC Family, a Christian-slanted, conservative basic cable channel that has since embraced an older, more progressive audience under the name Freeform. The show was created by I. Marlene King, who’d go on to be showrunner for all seven seasons, but was known at that time mostly for writing the coming-of-age Now and Then, the Lindsay Lohan vehicle Just My Luck and National Lampoon’s Senior Trip. Based on the series of YA novels by Sara Shepard—from which the show’s plot would eventually drastically depart, in a Song of Ice and Fire vs. Game of Thrones kind of situation—PLL follows four teens living in the affluent Philadelphia suburb of Rosewood as they navigate both the rigors of pubescence and an all-seeing, malevolent force known as “A,” who has something to do with their murdered best friend and erstwhile leader, Alison DiLaurentis (Sasha Pieterse).

Despite lasting long past the point at which it could’ve cleanly bowed out, Pretty Little Liars stayed compelling (and very lucrative) throughout the better part of a decade, able to balance its teen soap opera tendencies with smart character development and a genuine affection for the world it’d created. That tight-rope walk extended to the many genres it tipped between, helmed by such serialized television veterans like Norman Buckley, folks who’ve stuck around seemingly forever because they’ve got an inherent agility to the way they put together an episode. It helped that Pretty Little Liars was so adaptable to an array of fans, each watching for very different reasons. This was partly due to the series’ overarching mystery, which eventually became an eternally forking mess of mysteries: Who is “A”—but also why is “A,” and what really happened to Alison, and what kind of juicy corruption lies beneath the shiny veneer of the Liars’ suburban hometown? —Dom Sinacola

24. The Innocents


Creators: Hania Elkington, Simon Duric
Stars: Sorcha Groundsell, Percelle Ascott, Guy Pearce 
Network: Netflix 

June (Sorcha Groundsell) and Harry (Percelle Ascott) are teens caught between identities. They’re both students helping maintain households alongside a single parent, with at least one individual living there requiring special care. Responsibility overwhelms any attempt at self-care, which becomes a lower and lower priority until the teens’ sudden act of rebellion: escape. That’s the bare (yet well done) emotional surface of The Innocents. When June discovers she’s a shapeshifter, Netflix’s romantic young adult series blossoms, dipping deeper into its body-based sci-fi premise and setting itself apart from the glossy, tech-stratified Society Allegories of Divergent and The Hunger Games’ war zones. If you’re burned out on bad YA, Netflix’s freshman entry is a remedy: The Innocents is personal. —Jacob Oller

23. 13 Reasons Why


Creators: Steve Golin, Tom McCarthy, Selena Gomez
Stars: Dylan Minnette, Katherine Langford, Christian Navarro, Miles Heizer, Derek Luke, Kate Walsh
Network: Netflix 

Here’s something ironic: One of the shows that could be the easiest to take for granted could very well be the one about a teenage girl who kills herself because she was taken for granted. Based on author Jay Asher’s young adult bestseller, the highly controversial 13 Reasons Why is about what happens when the bullying, sexting, betrayed friendships, doublespeak conversations, and sheer loneliness of high-school hell get too much for teenager Hannah Baker (Katherine Langford). But Hannah doesn’t go down without naming some names, and her suicide note comes in the form of audio recording, in which she recounts exactly what (and who) led her to fall into this pit of hopelessness. The message is that everyone had a chance to save Hannah from herself, even the adults. (For better and sometimes for worse, the second season dives deeper into tragedy’s causes and effects). —Whitney Friedlander

22. The 100

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Creator: Jason Rothenberg
Stars: Eliza Taylor, Eli Goree, Thomas McDonell
Original Network: The CW

This post-apocalyptic sci-fi drama is set 97 years after a nuclear war wiped out almost all life on Earth. Survivors are living in a space station orbiting the Earth, hoping to one day return to their home. As resources on the ship become scarce and oxygen levels enter critical condition, the leadership decides to send 100 juvenile prisoners to Earth to see if the land is inhabitable. The “Lord of the Flies”-esque drama series follows these teens as they uncover surprises of what is left of mother earth. If you’re a thrill-lover, The 100 will keep you pressing “next episode.” —Jane Snyder

21. The Rain

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Creators: Jannik Tai Mosholt, Esben Toft Jacobsen, Christian Potalivo
Stars: Alba August, Lucas Lynggaard Tønnesen, Mikkel Boe Følsgaard, Lukas Løkken, Jessica Dinnage, Sonny Lindberg, Angela Bundalovic, Lars Simonsen
Network: Netflix 

If you’ve seen the one show about the telegenic young blonde who barely survives a near-apocalyptic event and now has to overcome her naïvety to fight off both the harsh post-catastrophe elements and humanity’s other remaining survivors in order to protect the last of her family AT ALL COSTS!!!, then you’ve seen The Rain, Netflix’s first Danish original series. This isn’t to say The Rain isn’t worth watching, necessarily; any viewer with the fortitude to overcome subtitles will enjoy, if nothing else, some really sharp cinematography and acting and just general atmospherics. Plus, watching this story play out in a non-North American, non-English speaking country is engaging for its novelty. The emotional arc of the story, too, for all it is a mashup of the seven thousand YA-adjacent dystopian/post-apocalyptic/survival thriller shows and films that have come before it, isn’t bad. After what is essentially an anxiety-fueled bottle episode weirdly positioned as the pilot, the two main characters encounter the rest of the season’s principals in a dire, gripping way, and the circumstances that force the lot of them both into cahoots and into taking the particular trip that they do make enough sense to keep you interested—especially as each subsequent episode turns its lens to a new secondary character to follow back in time to when the apocalyptic implications of the viral rain were still making themselves known, and that character was just becoming the hardened person they are in the present. All of this, remarkably watchable. —Alexis Gunderson

20. The Vampire Diaries


Creators: Kevin Williamson, Julie Plec
Stars: Nina Dobrev, Paul Wesley, Ian Somerhalder, Steven R. McQueen, Sara Canning, Kat Graham, Candice King, Zach Roerig, Kayla Ewell, Michael Trevino, Matt Davis, Joseph Morgan, Michael Malarkey
Network: The CW

If ever a TV show moved the needle on bourbon sales, I’m guessing it was The Vampire Diaries. Vampire brothers Stefan and Damon Salvatore (Paul Wesley, Ian Somerhalder) have a seemingly endless supply of brown liquor and an impressive collection of glassware. And I’ll admit, never before has a show more inspired me to drink along with the leads. But I digress…. What began as an angst-filled teenage supernatural drama has actually developed into a compelling and frequently gruesome foray into the world of vampires (and werewolves and witches and hybrids and siphons and….) and the men and women who love them. While CW shows are often painted as skewing towards melodramatic teen/YA fare, that’s an increasingly unfair assertion and one that The Vampire Diaries did a great job of dispelling, particularly once it grew out of its early “Dawson’s Creek with vampires,” phase. Season One, while intermittently strong, was more or less one of those shows people refer to as a guilty pleasure. It was fun, but not really good. Once creators Julie Plec and Kevin Williamson (creator of Dawson’s Creek, not a coincidence) really got a feel for where they wanted to take the show, however, it took off and proved itself to be a reliably well-acted, creepy, and ethically complicated hour of drama. —Mark Rabinowitz

19. Chilling Adventures of Sabrina


Creator: Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa
Stars: Kiernan Shipka, Lucy Davis, Miranda Otto, Chance Perdomo, Ross Lynch, Bronson Pinchot, Gavin Leatherwood
Network: Netflix 

Imagine all the camp and circumstance of creator Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa’s other series, The CW’s Riverdale, but with more blood and without the stringent Standards and Practices limitations that network TV requires. Mad Men’s Kiernan Shipka stars as the titular half-witch in this horror series based on Aguirre-Sacasa’s own comics. Someone much more in line with Harry Potter’s Hermione Granger than the bubbly and bright version of the character that Melissa Joan Hart played on the sitcom, Sabrina, the Teenage Witch, this Sabrina is a juvenile conjurer for the woke generation. She stumps for inclusivity, takes on bullies and is defiant of elders who tell her to slow down and learn the basics of magic before jumping ahead to the advanced stuff. (In this version, sadly, her cat doesn’t talk. Sorry to bum you out, Salem GIF lovers). Why should she sign her name in the Book of the Beast and let Satan—some guy she’s never even met—have jurisdiction over her body?

While Sabrina grapples with whether to embrace her destiny and align herself with the Dark Lord’s sinister plot, she has to jockey for screen time with some other scene-stealing characters. Homeland’s Miranda Otto and Shaun of the Dead’s Lucy Davis deliciously portray the bickering aunts entrusted to look over Sabrina and her cousin, Ambrose (Chance Perdomo) with sound bite-worthy precision. Gavin Leatherwood’s warlock Nicholas Scratch puts a modern-day spin on the trope of the bad boy with supernatural powers. But the real breakout stars are a trio of sorceresses known as the Weird Sisters, played by The 100’s Tati Gabrielle, Stranger Things’ Abigail F. Cowen, and newcomer Adeline Rudolph. —Whitney Friedlander

18. 3%

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Creators: Pedro Aguilera
Stars: Bianca Comparato, João Miguel, Michel Gomes, Rodolfo Valente
Network: Netflix 

U.S. shows have long been a part of Netflix’s offering in foreign countries, and the streaming service has brought a handful of foreign TV shows to America. But 3% is Netflix’s first original Brazilian production. Set in a dystopian future where only 3% of the population is chosen to live in a Utopian society, while the rest of humanity struggles in destitution, the show follows a group of 20-year-old candidates competing to be among the chosen, some of whom may be part of a revolutionary group called The Cause. Part psychological thriller, part sci-fi morality play, the eight-episode series is full of characters on both sides of the test, struggling to win a chance at a better life without abandoning their principles. —Josh Jackson

17. Switched at Birth


Creator: Lizzy Weiss
Stars: Sean Berdy, Lucas Grabeel, Katie Leclerc, Vanessa Marano, Constance Marie, D. W. Moffett, Lea Thompson, Gilles Marini
Network: Freeform

Switched at Birth was from the bygone TV era of Everwood and Gilmore Girls—an entertaining, sincere, relatable series that a teen could watch with her parents and grandparents. The kids had sex, but the show wasn’t hypersexualized (looking at you, Riverdale). They weren’t trying to solve a mystery (13 Reasons Why) or living among the undead (Vampire Diaries). They were also more mature than their counterparts on the tween shows that permeate the Disney Channel, who are prone to histrionics and exaggerated hijinks (Liv and Maddie, K. C. Undercover). Switched-at-birth leads Bay Kennish (Vanessa Marano) and Daphne Vasquez (Katie Leclerc) were, for the most part, typical teenagers. Sure, Switched at Birth may have veered into the sappy on occasion, but the protagonists’ problems, although heightened, were always relevant. —Amy Amatangelo

16.The End of the F—ing World


Creators: Charlie Covell, Jonathan Entwistle, Lucy Tcherniak
Stars: Alex Lawther, Jessica Barden, Gemma Whelan, Wunmi Mosaku, Steve Oram, Christine Bottomley, Navin Chowdhry, Barry Ward
Network: Channel 4/Netflix

James (Alex Lawther) is 17 and kills enough small animals that he truly believes he’s a psychopath. Alyssa (Jessica Barden) is 17 and kills nothing, not that her words lack for trying. Both are unbelievably good at being at the wrong intensity levels for normal human interaction: Barden goes loud and acerbic, while Lawther shuts down so completely it’s hard to tell if he was born or simply emerged from the Britain’s collective post-punk sigh, like a Promethean clay figure stirring from Athena’s breath. But The End of the F—ing World doesn’t want your morbid fascination. Or, unlike almost every other show with similar subject matter, it doesn’t want it to stay morbid. A show about a boy bent on killing his road trip partner as the two high schoolers run away from home sounds more like the grisly true-crime TV we’ve been groomed to enjoy since news channels realized fear, violence and tragedy attracted eyeballs. Yet the The End of the F—ing World gives the middle finger to this Nightcrawler-esque worldview, finding hope in a world of psychopaths, within the context of a TV landscape that loves them. —Jacob Oller

15. Atypical

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Creator: Robia Rashid
Stars: Jennifer Jason Leigh, Keir Gilchrist, Brigette Lundy-Paine, Amy Okuda, Michael Rapaport
Network: Netflix 

Netflix’s quiet, thoughtful comedy returned for its second season without the hype that surrounds many of the streaming giant’s shows. And that’s OK. The story of Sam (Keir Gilchrist), an 18-year-old with autism, and his family speaks for itself. This season, the comedy hilariously follows Sam as he searches for a new therapist (he swears one was actually a rabbit because she eats so many carrots) while also dealing with his family falling apart. The premiere picks up right after the end of last season’s finale with Sam’s dad, Doug (Michael Rapaport), discovering that Sam’s mom, Elsa (Jennifer Jason Leigh), is having an affair. Everyone tries to hide this fact from Sam, but, of course, things like this don’t stay secret for long. As Sam’s sister Casey, Brigette Lundy-Paine turns in one of TV’s most underrated performances. Yes, this family is unique, but all families are—and the series deftly captures both the comedic moments and the heartbreaking ones. Atypical remains a show more people show be watching. —Amy Amatangelo

14. The OA


Creators:
 
Brit Marling
 and Zal Batmanglij
Stars: Brit Marling, Emory Cohen, Scott Wilson, Phyllis Smith, Alice Krige, Jason Isaacs
Network: Netflix 

Brit Marling
 and Zal Batmanglij’s flawed, transfixing science (or is it spiritual?) fiction asks its audience, as the title character (Marling) does hers, for trust—to the point that the suspension of disbelief emerges as the subject of The OA, and not merely its mechanism. As the OA, or Original Angel, also known as Prairie Johnson, unfurls a tale of unimaginable trauma for four high school students and their math teacher (the surprising Phyllis Smith), the decision to focus on images of their rapt faces might appear premature, given the first season’s meandering course. And yet, mirroring the OA’s inscrutable message, Marling and Batmanglij’s snarled stories ultimately straighten, as if diagramming an indecipherable sentence or lining a complex hymn: When its nesting narratives come taut, when its forked paths converge, The OA rewards the faith it requires, coming to a climax of such sublime conviction it continues to reduce me to sobs even now, after countless viewings. —Matt Brennan

13. Skins

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Creators: Bryan Elsley, Jamie Brittain
Stars: Nicholas Hoult, Hannah Murray, April Pearson, Mike Bailey, Joe Dempsie, Larissa Wilson, Mitch Hewer, Dev Patel
Network: E4

Until recent years, almost all depictions of how teenagers really live their lives has been used as a scare tactic for grown-ups to keep their young charges in line, and away from sex and drugs. But the world at large has finally warmed up to giving kids (you know, the people actually watching these shows) an unblinking reflection of their day-to-day existence. That’s where a show like Skins succeeded mightily. For seven seasons, creators Bryan Elsley and Jamie Brittain gave their characters the goods: casual sex, casual (and not-so-casual) drug and alcohol use, depression, pregnancies, eating disorders, sexual identity crises and bullying. As the show was produced in the UK, it allowed for a number of characters and storylines that you’d rarely see with such clarity here in the States, like the struggles of Congolese immigrant Tommy (Merveille Lukeba), the life of an unapologetic metalhead (Alexander Arnold) and a character with high-functioning autism (Ollie Barbieri). Like most high school shows, the music and costumes in Skins will likely not age well in the years to come, nor will some of the more trumped up dramatic elements wended through many seasons. But the show will likely find an audience in the future by its often fearless approach to depicting modern teens as they are, and how they will surely continue to be: reckless, fearless, and sure that they’re going to live forever. —Robert Ham

12. Riverdale


Creator: Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa
Stars:: K.J. Apa, Cole Sprouse, Lili Reinhart, Camila Mendes, Madelaine Petsch, Marisol Nichols, Ashleigh Murray, Mädchen Amick, Luke Perry
Network:: The CW

This is the way I’ve been selling Riverdale to friends who have not yet wised up and started watching it: it’s Gossip Girl meets Twin Peaks, but with the characters from Archie Comics. That alone should be enough to suck them in, but if they need more convincing, I add that Luke Perry plays Archie’s dad, Molly Ringwald plays Archie’s mom, Skeet Ulrich plays Jughead’s creepy hot dad (who is also the head of the local gang, the Southside Serpents), and for the first third of the season, Archie is boning his music teacher, Ms. Grundy—who, unlike in the comics—where she’s an elderly white-haired lady—goes around wearing heart-eyed sunglasses and picking up teen boys. It’s ridiculous and campy in all the right ways (hey, this is a CW teen drama, after all), but there’s also a compelling murder mystery driving the plot (“Who killed Jason Blossom?” is Riverdale’s “Who killed Laura Palmer?”), with new twists and turns peppered in along the way. —Bonnie Stiernberg

11. Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp

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Creators: Michael Showalter, David Wain
Stars: Elizabeth Banks, Lake Bell, H. Jon Benjamin, Michael Ian Black, Michael Cera, Josh Charles, Bradley Cooper, Judah Friedlander, Janeane Garofalo, Jon Hamm, Nina Hellman
Network: Netflix 

When a follow-up comes along for any project with a huge cult audience, it seems doomed to disappoint. Arrested Development’s fourth season’s breaking apart of the cast was bound to frustrate, and Anchorman 2 could never reach the surprising joy of the original. Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp obviously came with a certain amount of trepidation. But instead of trying to recreate the glory of the last day of camp, as seen in the 2001 film, First Day of Camp added a considerable amount of depth to the original film and explained aspects of Camp Firewood that never needed to be understood, but make the entire history of these characters feel more whole. The Netflix series managed to redefine these characters that we fell in love with over a decade ago, all while giving us laughs and immense heart as well. —Ross Bonaime

10. Gossip Girl

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Creators: Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage
Stars: Blake Lively, Leighton Meester, Penn Badgley, Chace Crawford, Ed Westwick
Network: The CW

Slick, uber-wealthy and almost unbearably white, Gossip Girl was adroitly dubbed the “hockey fights video of teen romance drama” by the New York Daily News. While I tend to like my TV a little weightier and with a less blinding palette (seriously, you could set your white balance on most of this cast) I was, despite myself, quickly won over by this absurdist look at insanely wealthy New York teenagers. When the reactionary Parents Television Council referred to the show as “mind-blowingly inappropriate,” I was sold. Anything that pisses off a group of backwards tight-asses that much has got to be supported. And you know what? It was inappropriate. But so what? It was like Bugsy Malone with martinis and sex toys. Its tongue was planted firmly in cheek, and the show had wit to spare. And lest you think it was all modern fluff and wastoid teens, the show did have over-arching literary pretensions that often paid off. How else do you explain episode titles like “Pret-a-Poor-J,” “You’ve Got Yale!,” “The Witches of Bushwick” and “The Treasure of Serena Madre”? Sure the “Who was Gossip Girl” reveal makes much of the five years one giant plot hole, but who cares? You know you love her… XOXO, Gossip Girl! —Mark Rabinowitz

9. The Fosters

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Creator: Bradley Bredeweg, Peter Paige
Stars: Teri Polo, Sherri Saum, Jake T. Austin, Hayden Byerly, David Lambert, Maia Mitchell, Danny Nucci, Cierra Ramirez, Noah Centineo
Network: Freeform

Premiering in 2013, The Fosters, about Stef (Teri Polo), her wife, Lena (Sherri Saum), Stef’s biological son, Brandon, and the couple’s four adopted children—twins Mariana (Cierra Ramirez) and Jesus (Noah Centineo), Jude (Hayden Byerly) and his half-sister, Callie (Maia Mitchell)—checked all the social progressive boxes. Over the years, this show about a gay couple raising ethnically diverse teens took on took on immigration, the foster care system, adoption, abortion, eating disorders, gun control, and LGBTQ rights. (And that’s just what I can remember off the top of my head.) Jude realized he was gay and embarked on several romances that were treated the same as the show’s other teen romances. The series regularly featured transgender characters, one of whom (Aaron, played by Elliot Fletcher) became Callie’s boyfriend. The show did all this while always being an entertaining, well-executed family drama that educated viewers without being pedantic. —Amy Amatangelo

8. Glee

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Creator:
 
Ryan Murphy
 

Stars: Chris Colfer, Jane Lynch, Lea Michele, Matthew Morrison, Kevin McHale, Amber Riley, Cory Monteith
Network: Fox

Ryan Murphy
 isn’t exactly known for creating reality based shows. So no you didn’t go to a high school where the glee club could put together multiple Broadway level productions complete with costumes, special effects and elaborate sets each week. But Murphy understood teens. Glee spoke to the football jock and popular girl who always felt like they were pretending. It spoke to the gay teen who wished he could sing “Single Ladies” on the football field and the overachiever who would settle for nothing less than a Tony winning career. You didn’t have a teacher like Sue Sylvester (Jane Lynch) because she would have been fired. But you definitely had a teacher who terrorized students the way she did. And if you were lucky you had a teacher who believed in you the way Mr. Schuester(Matthew Morrison) believed in his students. The series could be maddening (you could create a whole show with the characters Glee forgot about) and the plot twists were often ridiculous, but when Glee soared you never wanted to stop believin’. —Amy Amatangelo

7. Party of Five

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Creators: Christopher Keyser, Amy Lippman
Stars: Scott Wolf, Matthew Fox, Neve Campbell, Lacey Chabert
Network: Fox

Although it aired at the same time as 90210 and Melrose Place,Party of Five eschewed the camp of its contemporaries in favor of a heartfelt, at times emotionally manipulative, family drama. Five siblings must learn to take care of and raise themselves when their parents are in a fatal car accident (like I said, emotionally manipulative—get your tissues out!). Led by Matthew Fox as the oldest brother, Charlie, and featuring Scott Wolf as teenage brother/resident heartthrob Bailey and Neve Campbell as responsible sister Julia, Party of Five was the This is Us of its day. The series dealt with alcoholism, cancer and domestic violence with grace and reached its primarily teenage/young adult audience by never dumbing down its topics. —Amy Amatangelo

6. On My Block


Creators: Lauren Iungerich, Eddie Gonzalez and Jeremy Haft
Stars Diego Tinoco, Jason Genao, Jessica Marie Garcia, Sierra Capri and Brett Gray
Network: Netflix 

Netflix’s new dramedy On My Block is one big, irreverently cocksure nod to all the (whitest) parts of the modern cultural canon one would least expect to find in a coming-of-age story about brown 14- and 15-year olds just trying to survive daily life on their gang-ruled streets. And for the first couple of episodes, all this slangy allusiveness makes for a story that feels shaggy at best, structurally unsound at worst; the central characters are cohesive and convincingly earnest as a dysfunctional friend-family unit—not least because the actors are actual teens, not adults—but taken individually they seem to be leading entirely different shows. When the final credits hit, though, it’s clear that not one second of the season’s 10 short episodes was wasted: Every line was measured out, every background track meticulously calibrated, every initially jarring tonal shift set up precisely for a singular cumulative effect that lands in the season’s final moments like a punch to the chest you realize too late you should have seen coming from a mile away. —Alexis Gunderson

5. A Series of Unfortunate Events


Creators: Mark Hudis, Barry Sonnenfeld
Stars: Neil Patrick Harris, Patrick Warburton, Malina Weissman, Louis Hynes, K. Todd Freeman, Presley Smith
Network: Netflix 

You probably don’t have to be a bookworm, or a kid, to appreciate this adaptation of a series of ironic, lachrymose, self-parodying children’s stories, because the series is just so damn funny, not to mention seamlessly styled, well-cast and well-acted. It does also happen to be an adaptation that should delight fans of the books because it generally knows exactly how much or how little to deviate from its source material to adapt to the constraints (and liberations) of episodic television. It retains the slightly steampunk, highly absurdist, semi-Gothic and delightfully wordsmithy sensibility of its source material and adheres remarkably well to character and plot. My suggestion? Don’t binge-watch this show! Let it breathe. Like a fine wine. Because it’s kind of a masterpiece. —Amy Glynn

4. American Vandal


Creators: Tony Yacenda and Dan Perrault
Stars: Tyler Alvarez, Griffin Gluck, Jimmy Tatro
Network: Netflix 

American Vandal is the tongue-in-cheek antidote to the “true crime” craze: a “prestige docuseries” on the subject of dick-drawing, set on dismantling the form from within. After all, its understanding of the form is impeccable: With dramatic cold opens, floated theories and test cases; interviews, illustrations and re-creations; careful cliffhangers and a Jinx-style hot mic, it applies the genre’s commonplaces to absurd situations with aplomb. It’s a pungently goofy reminder that the history of “true crime” is dominated by “lowbrow” media—pulpy magazines, grocery-store paperbacks, salacious installments of Dateline or 20/20—and that its newfound sense of “prestige” is primarily a function of style. Still, American Vandal’s most surprising strength is not its satire but its steady construction of a narrative backdrop even more compelling than its creators realize. Call it Fast Times at Hanover High: The series’ amusing slice of schoolyard life. —Matt Brennan

3. Big Mouth


Creators:
 
Nick Kroll, Andrew Goldberg, Jennifer Flackett and Mark Levin
Stars:Nick Kroll, John Mulaney, Jessi Klein, Jason Mantzoukas, Maya Rudolph
Network: Netflix 

Netflix’s new animated series, from creators Nick Kroll, Andrew Goldberg, Jennifer Flackett and Mark Levin, follows four friends through the earliest stages of puberty: Andrew (John Mulaney) sports inconvenient erections; Nick (Kroll) awaits his first pubic hairs; Jessi (Jessi Klein) begins menstruating at the Statue of Liberty; Jay (Jason Mantzoukas) conceives rococo ways to get off with his pillow. It’s wickedly bawdy—one episode’s end credits roll over an extended description of Andrew’s dad’s testicles—and devilishly funny—another uses a note-perfect Seinfeld send-up to explain the blowjob “head push” and the term “mons pubis”—but as implied by its theme song, Charles Bradley’s “Changes,” the series is sweeter than it appears at first blush. Its goal is to cut through the humiliations of sex, to break through the shame shellacked atop our “gross little dirtbag” selves to reveal the perfectly normal yearning underneath: for pleasure, for touch, for emotional connection; for approval, confidence, intimacy, love. By admitting, as Andrew does in the series premiere, that “everything is so embarrassing”—and not only for teens—Big Mouth squares a space in which there’s no question that can’t be asked, and no answer that applies the same way to everyone. It’s the streaming version of your sex-ed teacher’s anonymous slips of paper, except the laughs aren’t sniggers—they’re hard-won, empathic guffaws. —Matt Brennan

2. Gilmore Girls


Creator: Amy Sherman-Palladino
Stars: Lauren Graham, Alexis Bledel, Melissa McCarthy, Keiko Agena, Yanic Truesdale, Scott Patterson, Kelly Bishop, Edward Herrmann, Liza Weil, Jared Padalecki, Milo Ventimiglia, Sean Gunn, David Sutcliffe, Chris Eigeman, Matt Czuchry
Networks: The WB, The CW, Netflix 

Our fearless TV editor Matt Brennan recently embarked on a journey. Having never seen Gilmore Girls before, he watched all 154 episodes of the original plus the four new installments of A Year in the Life. (You can read his hilarious stream-of-consciousness here). And I have to admit I was jealous. For me, the original show is now a distant and beloved memory. Oh, the joy of discovering it for the first time! I envy all of you who will watch as Lorelai (Lauren Graham), her daughter Rory (Alexis Bledel) and family matriarch Emily (the incomparable Kelly Bishop) honestly portray three generations of strong women. It’s the only show you can watch with your teenage daughter and your mother and be assured you will all be equally entertained. In addition to the deft storytelling, there’s the never before or since matched rat-a-tat banter and pop-culture references that infuse all the dialogue. And the love stories! Lorelai and Luke (Scott Patterson) are one of TV’s greatest love stories. And will you be #TeamJess, #TeamDean or #TeamLogan? Even if I didn’t love the (very) flawed A Year in the Life and kind of despised the final four words, I still was so happy to see my friends in Stars Hollow again. The show became a part of my life. And it will become a part of yours too. —Amy Amatangelo

1. Stranger Things


Creators: The Duffer Brothers
Stars: Winona Ryder, David Harbour, Finn Wolfhard, Millie Bobby Brown, Gaten Matarazzo, Caleb McLaughlin, Natalia Dyer, Charlie Heaton, Cara Buono, Matthew Modine
Network: Netflix 

Stranger Things Season Two is full of the same kinds of joyful moments of television that made its breakout first season so fun. If 1980s nostalgia, plucky kids, pre-teen awkwardness, scary-but-not-terrifying monsters, goofy minor characters and emotional reunions aren’t your thing, I get it, go ahead and skip this one. But if you loved the first season, loved Goonies and E.T. and the John Hughes canon, you may find yourself binging all nine episodes in a weekend. The world gets a little bigger than Hawkins, Indiana, and the stakes get a little higher, but at its heart, six kids must face up to their monsters, metaphorical and real, to a perfect ‘80s soundtrack. Josh Jackson

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