10 Modern Teen Shows That Feel Like Classic TV (2024)

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10 Modern Teen Shows That Feel Like Classic TV (1)

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10 Modern Teen Shows That Feel Like Classic TV (2)

The best teen shows draw in audiences of all ages. No matter if the viewer is currently a teen or reliving those years from their past, many teen shows have certain qualities that are unique to the age range and utterly irresistible. Fast pacing, high emotional stakes, lots of interpersonal conflicts, identity struggles, and more. Nowadays, it seems like every year, there's a new teen show that releases and takes the world by storm.

Some modern shows feel like you should be watching them on cable or a recording from your DVR rather than a streaming platform. It helps if they are set in the past, but plenty of teen series in the late 2010s and 2020s are reminiscent of older cult classics. Melding aspects of older shows with the higher production value we get today can make for an amazing viewing experience. Here are 10 modern teen series that feel like classic TV.

10 Derry Girls

10 Modern Teen Shows That Feel Like Classic TV (3)
Derry Girls

TV-MA

Release Date
December 21, 2018

Creator
Lisa McGee

Cast
Saoirse-Monica Jackson , Louisa Harland , Tara Lynne O'Neill , Kathy Kiera Clarke , Tommy Tiernan
Main Genre
Comedy

Derry Girls is a British sitcom about five teenagers living in Derry, Northern Ireland. Erin is the driven one with big plans for her future and a tendency to think about herself first. Orla is Erin's peculiar cousin who marches to the beat of her own drum. Clare prefers to keep her head in the book and her friends out of trouble. Michelle is the rebellious one who often causes her friends to worry. And James is Michelle's cousin from London who is not just the only boy in the group, but the only boy in their Catholic school. Set in the 1990s, the series follows their daily lives against the political backdrop of the Troubles.

Back to the '90s

The era it's set in alone gives Derry Girls a nostalgic quality, but the creators didn't simply take away phones and call it a day. The characters in the show genuinely feel like they're in the '90s, from how they speak to their mannerisms. Additionally, using news broadcasts and other archival footage further helps set the tone. The casting also makes this show feel classic, as the actors looked like teenagers and were relatively unknown at the time. So many popular teen shows now rely on A-list celebs with huge followings to draw in viewership. While that works, it can sometimes take viewers out of it. Such is not the case with Derry Girls.

Stream on Netflix

9 All American

All American is a sports drama based on the life of a now-retired football player. It follows Spencer James, a wide receiver and standout player on his football team. He goes to school in a neighborhood that doesn't have many resources and opportunities. Spencer tries his best to be a role model, but the pressure weighs on him. A coach from a Beverly Hills high school takes notice of Spencer and offers him a scholarship to play at the school. Now, with a toe in both worlds, Spencer must decide which side he wants to fully step into.

In the Comfort Zone

The early 2000s were all about teen sports drama, such as One Tree Hill, which was also a CW production. Audiences were all desperately waiting for the inevitable, "It's not my dream, Dad, it's yours," line so common in these kinds of shows and movies. Spencer does have a fraught relationship with his father, though it's not the stereotypical Coach Dad role. The show is also similar to The O.C. with the clash between a kid from the "wrong side of the tracks" and wealthy individuals with their own hosts of problems. Fans of those shows will enjoy All American while also appreciating how it stands out, such as with discussions on race and unique family dynamics.

Stream on Netflix

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8 Cruel Summer

Cruel Summer is a mystery anthology series set in the nineties, revolving around obsession and toxic relationships. Kate Wallis and Jeanette Turner have nothing in common besides being from the same small Texan town. Kate is outgoing, popular, and confident, whereas Jeanette is self-conscious and shy. That all changes when Kate goes missing, and Jeanette appears to have taken her place. Jeanette is now popular, has attention from her crush, and all is going well... until Kate reappears and implicates Jeanette in her abduction.

Pretty Little... Kidnappers?

Again, the classic TV feel is bolstered by the period it's set in, but it doesn't rely on that alone. Older shows loved using non-linear timelines to add intrigue and complexity to the narratives, such as in Twin Peaks. There are also plenty of examples of classic mystery TV shows and films having protagonists with unreliable narratives who may or may not be going through a mental breakdown. So much is unknown about what Jeanette's hiding, her quick transformation to Kate 2.0, and her ultimate downfall. This Freeform series doesn't feel rushed and does not waste time getting into the mystery's heart.

Stream on Hulu

7 PEN15

PEN15 is a comedy that focuses on the earlier years of adolescence. It follows two "thirteen-year-olds" (the actresses were in their early thirties, but that's the gag) in middle school. Maya is the typical class clown, deriving her value from being able to make people laugh. Anna is dealing with her parents' divorce and uses singing and music as a means to escape. Dealing with crushes, family, friends, grades, and other issues that seem life-or-death at this time, PEN15 is a great crossover show.

Broad Appeal

So many teen shows these days feel like they’re made for adults. The characters act and look much older than they’re supposed to be, they either hardly go to school or it’s glossed over. In the past, kids could be kids in the show, and it was fully embraced. PEN15 welcomes all the best, worst, and most awkward moments from this time in our lives. There’s something wholesome and sincere about it, and it has a quality that isn’t found in too many recent shows. The actresses being older pokes fun at this trend of adults in teen roles. Though there are explicit jokes, it's a great watch for older teens.

Stream on Hulu

6 Ginny and Georgia

10 Modern Teen Shows That Feel Like Classic TV (5)

Drama

Comedy

Release Date
February 24, 2021
Cast
Jennifer Robertson , Scott Porter , Katie Douglas , Sabrina Grdevich
Main Genre
Comedy

Seasons
2

Ginny & Georgia is a dramedy about a family who move to Massachusetts after the death of their husband and father. While there are three members of the family, the series primarily focuses on the mother and daughter. Georgia became a mom at a young age and still holds onto her youthful spirit, much to the chagrin of her daughter. Though she appears carefree, there's a lot she's running from. Ginny is fifteen and is suffering from the effects of her mom constantly moving around. Since she hasn't felt rooted enough in one place to make connections, she's lonely and resorts to self-destructive behaviors.

Cozy Vibes & Diatribes

Georgia, arguably the anti-hero of the show, flat-out says in one episode that they’re like the Gilmore Girls. Of course, there are obvious parallels with them both being mother-daughter shows, the small-town feel, and a young mom still healing from her past. If viewers are growing tired of their tenth rewatch of Gilmore Girls, and other such dramas, Ginny & Georgia can take its place. The characters are likable, tension is always present, confrontation scenes are juicy (and made even better with Georgia's country accent), the town feels like a character, and it's a quick watch.

Stream on Netflix

5 Paradise

Paradise is a Spanish sci-fi mystery set in the eastern region of the country. In 1992, three girls disappeared after a night partying at a club. The police don't seem to be getting anywhere and this frustrates the victims' families, especially Javi, the younger brother of one of the missing girls. However, someone witnessed a strange event at the club that night. Together with a group of friends, Javi seeks to find answers that send him into a world of the undead and other terrifying creatures.

Out of This World

The aesthetic of the show is great to look at and emanates that classic TV feel many of us know and love. Sci-fi is a genre that was huge in the '70s, '80s, and '90s but doesn't seem to get as much love in today's market. But Paradise makes it palatable for the 2020s with its crisp production design and special effects combined with the adventurous plot and otherworldly elements. If you mix Stranger Things, old-school Goosebumps, and classic Stephen King stories, you'll get this underrated gem.

Stream on Max

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4 The Society

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The Society

Thriller

Mystery

Release Date
May 10, 2019

Cast
Toby Wallace
Main Genre
Thriller

Seasons
1

The Society is a fun teen mystery centered around the residents of West Ham, Connecticut. Cassandra, Will, Kelly, Harry, and Allie, are some of the teens who attend the local high school. There's been a strange smell lingering around their time that's returned and raising questions. Nevertheless, they head out on a planned school trip. But bad weather sends them right back home and when they return they realize the town is deserted, the internet and phones don't work, and all the roads are keeping them stuck.

What Makes It Great

The premise of this show is similar to a bunch of old movies and shows. Think Lord of the Flies, Lost, or The Twilight Zone. Just add in romance arcs, chewing over social hierarchies, and teenagers learning to come into their own and the responsibilities of adulthood. The show only has one season, as its second was impacted by the pandemic, so it's a fast watch. The world-building in the show isn't as expansive as comparative titles, so you'll get a taste of those classic shows without being overwhelmed.

Stream on Netflix

3 We Are Who We Are

We Are Who We Are is a coming-of-age miniseries directed by Luca Guadagnino. Fraser Wilson is fourteen and just moved from New York to Italy. He's part of a military family, and they now live on a base in Chioggia. Caitlin has lived here for a while, but she's still settling into her life and gender expression. The two connect and, through the freedom their friendship brings, can discover more about themselves.

Simplistic but Meaningful

The series does cover topics that are more readily found in shows today rather than in the past: gender identity, the nuances of sexuality, and, of course, current politics. However, Guadagnino does have a distinctive directorial style that gives many of his works an old-timey feel. While many modern shows rely on huge, flashy premises, series from the past often stuck with simplicity and dove into the characters. The same is true here. Over just eight episodes, viewers fully understand who Fraser and Caitlin are and what's preventing them from getting what they want.

Stream on Max

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2 The Wilds

10 Modern Teen Shows That Feel Like Classic TV (9)
The Wilds

Genre
Adventure, Drama, Mystery

Language
English

Number of Seasons
2

The Wilds is a drama following the aftermath of a plane crash that left a group of teens stranded on a deserted island. A group of girls is flying to Hawaii for an empowerment retreat when the plane crashes. Though they survived physically, each is distraught and in a panic about how to get back home. Each girl is already struggling through personal issues and being surrounded by girls they weren't friends with doesn't help. Unbeknownst to them, the people behind the empowerment retreat staged the crash to place the girls headfirst into a social experiment.

Tried and True

A group of people getting stranded on an island isn't a novel concept. Cast Away, Lost, and even a less popular kid's show, Flight 29 Down. It's a common premise for a reason, and viewers will be reminded of old favorites while watching the show. However, it doesn't regurgitate everything without providing a fun experience. The social experiment aspect adds a new twist, and there are frequent flashbacks to the girls' lives before the crash. It's a nice example of a series mixing the old and the new in an entertaining way.

Stream on Prime Video

1 Theodosia

Theodosia is an amusing fantasy adventure based on novels set in the early 1900s. Theodosia, or Theo, lives at the London Museum of Legends and Antiquities with her two Egyptologist parents and little brother. One day, she and her brother come across a secret tomb. In it, they discover an artifact called the Eye of Horus. This discovery lands them as the number one target for the evil man who wants the artifact and the powers it possesses.

What Makes It Great

Sherlock Holmes. The Mummy. The Prince of Egypt. If you liked any of those films, you're bound to enjoy Theodosia. There's something about Ancient Egypt that feels... well, ancient. This series is exactly the kind of sweeping, action-packed adventure that would've done well in the early 2000s. Young protagonists saving the day from evil adults? Check. Unwieldy magic and secret passageways? Check, check. Even with twenty-six episodes, viewers will breeze through this lighthearted show in no time.

Stream on BYUtv

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