25 of the best TV shows about high school

Meghan Cook
·14 min read
tv shows about high school euphoria gilmore girls riverdale
Famous TV shows have different takes on the high-school experience. HBO; The WB; The CW
  • There are a lot of new and old series about high school that critics love.

  • High school is a focus on "Freaks and Geeks," "Sex Education," and "Euphoria."

  • Shows like "Gossip Girl" and "Gilmore Girls" take characters beyond the confines of the classroom.

  • Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.

Shows that revolve around high schoolers often echo the intensity and heartbreak of growing up. Fortunately, strong emotions and coming-of-age make for great television.

Read on for the 25 of the best TV shows set in high school.

Note: Critic and audience scores were current at the time of publication and are subject to change.

"Freaks and Geeks" only lasted for one season, but it made a huge impression on critics.

Freaks and Geeks
Jason Segel and Linda Cardellini on "Freaks and Geeks." NBC via Netflix

Critic score: 100%

Audience score: 90%

Summary: NBC's "Freaks and Geeks" follows siblings Lindsay (Linda Cardellini) and Sam Weir (John Francis Daley) along two very different paths at a high school in 1980s Michigan.

Despite only lasting one season, "Freaks and Geeks" charmed critics with its talented young cast and sincere writing.

"'Freaks and Geeks' is that wonderful rarity among television series, a show that simultaneously lampoons reality and embraces it," John Levesque wrote for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

"My So-Called Life" was a short-lived, but highly-praised, teenage drama.

jared leto my so called life
Claire Danes and Jared Leto on "My So-Called Life." ABC

Critic score: 100%

Audience score: 95%

Summary: Growing up in a suburb outside of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Angela Chase (Claire Danes) realizes that becoming an adult is a hard pill to swallow.

Smart and shaded with sincerity, ABC's "My So-Called Life" was a one-season show cut off during its prime.

Jamie Broadnax called the series "a refreshing take on life as a teen in high school."

"Switched at Birth" rose above its formulaic premise.

couple talking switched at birth
Critics praised "Switched at Birth" for not being cliché. ABC Family

Critic score: 100%

Audience score: 84%

Summary: Years after a hospital mistakenly switched them at birth, Daphne Vasquez (Katie Leclerc) and Bay Kennish (Vanessa Marano) meet as teenagers and compare their different lives.

Despite what some considered to be an overly familiar premise, Freeform's "Switched at Birth" proved itself to be a compelling drama among reviewers.

Los Angeles Times critic Mary McNamara wrote that "the performances keep the story grounded as yet another alternative American family blooms under the California sun."

Most critics didn't question the care put into "The Fosters."

The Fosters Stef and Lena
Sherri Saum and Teri Polo on "The Fosters." Freeform

Critic score: 97%

Audience score: 84%

Summary: On Freeform's "The Fosters," Stef (Teri Polo) and Lena (Sherri Saum) raise their combined and growing families in San Diego, California.

Thoughtfully written and artfully portrayed, "The Fosters" exceeded the expectations of most critics.

"It's clear that the show's creators have put a lot of thought into their characters, plots and messages," Brad Newsome reviewed for the Sydney Morning Herald.

"Friday Night Lights" soared with strong characters.

friday night lights nbc
"Friday Night Lights" is an ensemble sports drama. NBCUniversal

Critic score: 97%

Audience score: 93%

Summary: On this sports drama adapted from H.G. Bissinger's book and the 2004 movie, high-school football coach Eric Taylor (Kyle Chandler) tries to set up his players for success in the small town of Dillon, Texas.

Critics said NBC's "Friday Night Lights" defied genre expectations as a simple high-school drama with its strong ensemble cast, gripping filmmaking choices, and earnest storytelling.

"Even if you aren't a football fan, it isn't hard to get caught up in some of the show's dramatic storylines, which include teen romance, strong friendship, personal rivalry, and family unity," Melissa Camacho wrote for Common Sense Media.

Critics praised "Never Have I Ever" as a poignant comedic drama.

Maitreyi Ramakrishnan as Devi in Never Have I Ever Netflix TV show
Maitreyi Ramakrishnan on "Never Have I Ever." Lara Solanki/Netflix

Critic score: 96%

Audience score: 89%

Summary: While grieving the loss of her father, high-school sophomore Devi Vishwakumar (Maitreyi Ramakrishnan) faces the pressure to get perfect grades, attract popular boys, and keep her mom happy.

Critics praised Netflix's "Never Have I Ever" for its stellar cast and surprising emotional depth.

"'Never Have I Ever' anchors its hormonal hijinks in authentic, poignant female friendships," wrote Entertainment Weekly critic Kristen Baldwin.

"On My Block" championed the importance of friendship.

on my block
"On My Block" follows four high schoolers. Netflix

Critic score: 95%

Audience score: 91%

Summary: A comedic drama, Netflix's "On My Block" is about four teenagers (Sierra Capri, Jason Genao, Brett Gray, and Diego Tinoco) who find their long-term friendship tested as they start high school in Los Angeles, California.

"On My Block" earned rave reviews from critics for accurately capturing the highs and lows of growing up.

"Much of 'On My Block' functions like adolescence: it's awkward, uncomfortable, off-balance, with plenty of ups and downs," Pilot Viruet wrote for the Verge. "But it's also immensely charming … "

Critics praised "Sex Education" for tackling taboo subjects with aplomb.

sex education
"Sex Education" is an acclaimed British comedy series. Netflix

Critic score: 94%

Audience score: 94%

Summary: Netflix's British comedy "Sex Education" centers on precocious high schooler Otis Milburn (Asa Butterfield) as he dispenses sex-ed advice to his clueless classmates and navigates his own hormone-fueled love life.

Critics praised "Sex Education" as a deceptively smart and emotionally intelligent show that treated its characters and subject matter with care.

"You may go into 'Sex Education' expecting a hilariously irreverent teen sex comedy but you will surely walk away with something far more insightful — and painfully beautiful," Prahlad Srihari wrote for Firstpost.

"Stranger Things" is a sci-fi horror series for kids, teens, and adults.

Natalia Dyer and Charlie Heaton
Natalia Dyer and Charlie Heaton on "Stranger Things." Netflix

Critic score: 93%

Audience score: 91%

Summary: After Will Byers (Noah Schnapp) disappears in 1980s Indiana, Mike Wheeler (Finn Wolfhard) and his friends launch an investigation into what happened and pull Mike's older sister (Natalia Dyer) into their hunt for answers.

Chock-full of references to 1980s pop culture, Netflix's "Stranger Things" was received as a riveting series for young fans and nostalgic adults alike.

"'Stranger Things' is a blast, thanks to its strong storytelling and high production values," Kelechi Ehenulo wrote for Confessions From a Geek Mind.

Critics fell head over heels for "Love, Victor."

love, victor
Michael Cimino on "Love, Victor." Hulu

Critic score: 93%

Audience score: 94%

Summary: On Hulu's TV spin-off of "Love, Simon," Creekwood high schooler Victor Salazar (Michael Cimino) reaches out to Simon (Nick Robinson) for help as he comes to terms with his sexuality.

Thanks to Cimino's capable lead performance, "Love, Victor" shined as a critical darling.

"'Love, Victor' winds a well-acted trip through bittersweet teenage drama and romance," André Hereford wrote for Metro Weekly.

"Everwood" took a more grounded approach to exploring youth and family.

Everwood ferris wheel date
"Everwood" is an acclaimed family drama. Warner Bros.

Critic score: 93%

Audience score: 95%

Summary: On The WB drama, a neurosurgeon (Treat Williams) relocates to Everwood, Colorado with his daughter Delia (Vivien Cardone) and teenage son Ephram (Gregory Smith) to feel closer to his late wife.

Most critics called "Everwood" an underrated and well-made family-centric drama.

"It steers clear of overly drippy melodrama, while at the same time it's able to explore the emotions of its characters in honest and realistic ways," Filip Vukcevic reviewed for IGN.

"Veronica Mars" kept critics on the edge of their seats.

veronica mars
Kristen Bell on "Veronica Mars." The CW

Critic score: 92%

Audience score: 79%

Summary: After picking up tricks from her county-sheriff father, high schooler Veronica Mars (Kristen Bell) moonlights as a private investigator in between classes as she tries to solve her best friend's murder.

Bursting with Bell's infectious wit, "Veronica Mars" (UPN-The CW-Hulu) presented critics with an endless stream of mysteries worth solving.

"Superb, creatively snarky characters make 'Veronica Mars' more than a teenage drama," wrote Melanie McFarland for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

"Euphoria" is a hit drama about the complications of growing up.

euphoria hbo
Hunter Schafer and Zendaya on "Euphoria." HBO

Critic score: 89%

Audience score: 85%

Summary: On HBO's "Euphoria," Rue Bennett (Zendaya) juggles her drug addiction, daily class load, and burgeoning feelings for her new friend Jules (Hunter Schafer).

By pairing extravagant cinematography with unflinching reality, "Euphoria" wowed critics and set a high bar for future seasons.

"It's whip smart, often funny, sometimes sad and, hands down, the best new show of 2019," Katie Cunningham wrote for Junkee.

"I Am Not Okay With This" added new layers to a well-known genre.

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Sophia Lillis on "I Am Not Okay With This." Netflix

Critic score: 87%

Audience score: 85%

Summary: Based on Charles Forsman's comic book, the Netflix series follows Sydney (Sophia Lillis) as she unexpectedly grapples with telekinetic powers while also juggling family complications, puberty, and her budding sexuality.

With supernatural elements layered throughout, "I Am Not Okay With This" won over critics with its relatable characters and groundbreaking performances.

"Honestly, it's truly the perfect coming-of-age story," Rachel Leishman wrote for the Mary Sue.

"Atypical" gained increased acclaim as it became more inclusive.

atypical
Keir Gilchrist on "Atypical." Netflix

Critic score: 87%

Audience score: 95%

Summary: Netflix's "Atypical" centers on 18-year-old Sam Gardner (Keir Gilchrist) as he navigates high school and adolescence as a young man with autism.

Critics praised "Atypical" for tackling a subject not often seen on TV and including autistic cast and crew members as the show continued to further its message of inclusion.

"'Atypical' is the best original Netflix has ever produced, and it's one of the best shows of the year," Merrill Barr wrote for Forbes.

"The Vampire Diaries" exceeded genre expectations.

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Nina Dobrev and Paul Wesley on "The Vampire Diaries." The CW

Critic score: 86%

Audience score: 84%

Summary: After a tragic loss, Elena Gilbert (Nina Dobrev) finds herself drawn to mysterious brothers Stefan (Paul Wesley) and Damon Salvatore (Ian Somerhalder) in Mystic Falls, Virginia.

Critics enjoyed the dark, brooding nature of The CW drama, which is based on L. J. Smith's books, and they said that it only got more thrilling as the series continued.

"It would be easy for the show to get bogged down in cheesy clichés, but as it builds its characters and its mythological world, clichés are about the last thing that you find," Linda Maleh wrote for Forbes.

Critics ended up enjoying "Riverdale," even as it became less grounded.

riverdale cw
Cole Sprouse and KJ Apa on "Riverdale." Diyah Pera/The CW

Critic score: 86%

Audience score: 57%

Summary: Based on the "Archie" comics, The CW drama follows Archie Andrews (KJ Apa) and his friends as they unravel murder mysteries, uncover secret cults, and audition for the school musical in the fictional town of Riverdale.

Some critics felt like the show was going off the rails during later seasons, but most welcomed the series' embrace of no-holds-barred storytelling.

"Confidently finding its groove in storylines more outlandish than anything you will find in the comics, 'Riverdale' is still going strong," Courtney Small wrote for That Shelf.

Critics said "Gilmore Girls" is a show you can rewatch over and over again.

Gilmore Girls
Alexis Bledel and Lauren Graham on "Gilmore Girls." The CW

Critic score: 85%

Audience score: 85%

Summary: After having Rory (Alexis Bledel) as a teenager, young mom Lorelai Gilmore (Lauren Graham) grows up alongside her daughter in the charming town of Stars Hollow, Connecticut.

Critics called "Gilmore Girls" (The WB-The CW) a fast-talking, character-driven drama that is highly rewatchable.

"One of those shows that I have watched multiple times and will always stop and watch if I'm flipping channels on cable," Paul McGuire Grimes wrote for Twin Cities Live. "It's comfort feel-good television."

"Gossip Girl" took aim at the elite of New York City's Upper East Side.

Gossip Girl
Leighton Meester and Blake Lively on "Gossip Girl." The CW

Critic score: 84%

Audience score: 77%

Summary: Based on Cecily von Ziegesar's novels, The CW's "Gossip Girl" revolves around a group of highly privileged teenagers (Blake Lively, Leighton Meester, Penn Badgley, and Chace Crawford) as they face love, heartbreak, and catty rumors at their respective academies.

Unapologetically over-the-top, "Gossip Girl" hit all the right chords with critics when it came to perfecting the soapy teen drama.

Alison Herman wrote that "Gossip Girl" portrayed and set up The CW's "ethos in a way no superficial rebranding could."

"The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina" sent chills down critics' spines.

chilling adventures of sabrina
Gavin Leatherwood and Kiernan Shipka on "The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina." Netflix

Critic score: 84%

Audience score: 72%

Summary: Based on the "Sabrina the Teenage Witch" comics, this Netflix original follows Sabrina Spellman (Kiernan Shipka) as she tries to balance her social life at Baxter High and taps into the darker elements of her witchy powers.

Some reboots and revivals seem needless, but most critics agreed that "The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina" provided an original take on the 1990s sitcom "Sabrina the Teenage Witch."

"'Chilling Adventures of Sabrina' does enough to prove that reboots — in the right hands — can pay service to the original while paving their own way," wrote entertainment critic Fiona Flynn.

"Buffy the Vampire Slayer" set a new standard for supernatural teen dramas.

buffy graduation
Alyson Hannigan and Sarah Michelle Gellar on "Buffy the Vampire Slayer." Screengrab via Buffy the Vampire Slayer/20th Television

Critic score: 82%

Audience score: 92%

Summary: This supernatural drama is an adaptation of the 1992 film and centers on young Buffy Summers (Sarah Michelle Gellar) as she accepts her destiny as a vampire slayer and defends her friends and classmates from demonic entities.

Packed with memorable characters and funny dialogue, "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" (The WB-UPN) has endured as a remarkable entry in teen-centric television.

Christopher Baggett called the series "a tightly written, emotional roller coaster" and "one of the best superhero shows the '90s had to offer."

Critics were charmed by the charismatic leads on "Teen Wolf."

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The cast of "Teen Wolf." MTV

Critic score: 81%

Audience score: 83%

Summary: Loosely adapted from the 1985 movie "Teen Wolf," the MTV series follows newly turned werewolf Scott McCall (Tyler Posey) as he tries to balance high school and protects his friends from harm.

With biting humor and a game young cast, "Teen Wolf" was an instant winner among critics.

Linda Stasi wrote for the New York Post that "Teen Wolf" made an impression as "the best new teen/adult crossover series since 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer.'"

"Pretty Little Liars" provided viewers with plenty of winding twists.

pretty little liars
The cast of "Pretty Little Liars." ABC/Freeform

Critic score: 81%

Audience score: 82%

Summary: After the death of their best friend, four girls (Troian Bellisario, Ashley Benson, Lucy Hale, and Shay Mitchell) reunite under strange circumstances as a stalker emerges in their town of Rosewood, Pennsylvania.

Based on the book series by Sara Shepard, Freeform's "Pretty Little Liars" earned praise from critics as it unveiled a wickedly fun and whip-smart mystery thriller just beneath the surface.

"Anyone who dismisses this drama as a silly teen diversion will miss out on another seamless rush of thrills from one of TV's most intriguing young casts," John Griffiths wrote in his review.

"Awkward" took a lot of critics by surprise.

awkward
Ashley Rickards on "Awkward." MTV

Critic score: 78%

Audience score: 78%

Summary: After a freak accident suddenly puts Jenna Hamilton (Ashley Rickards) in the spotlight of her high school's rumor mill, she takes the opportunity to get to know her classmates, for better or worse.

Skewering high-school life with a fresh voice, MTV's "Awkward" was praised by critics as insightful and entertaining.

Rob Owen wrote that with its clever dialogue, "Awkward" rose "above its been-there, watched-that premise."

"Everything Sucks" wore its heart on its sleeve.

everything sucks
"Everything Sucks" only has one season. Netflix

Critic score: 71%

Audience score: 92%

Summary: Set in Boring, Oregon, Netflix's "Everything Sucks" follows a group of teenagers as they attend high school in the mid-1990s and grapple with sexuality, mental health, and love.

Critics praised the throwback series as a heartwarming and unique coming-of-age comedy.

Television critic John Hanlon wrote that the humorous series is "hilariously silly but it's always heartfelt."

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