26 Teen Shows From the '90s & '00s, Ranked

Kelly Bryant | Sep 4, 2017 TV
Image: IMDb

Saved by the Bell cast photo
IMDb

You can go ahead and turn your nose up at teen-centric TV shows if you want, but in-the-know viewers are fiercely loyal to the series that shaped their youth -- or became guilty pleasures in adulthood. While not every one of these series is Emmy-worthy (cough, So Little Time, cough), they provided a fabulous escape from the daily trials and tribulations of real-life adolescence. 

How could anyone possibly forget that time Jessie had a dalliance with caffeine pills on Saved by the Bell? Or Ryan's iconic introduction to Newport Beach on a certain Fox drama ("Welcome to the OC, bitch!")? These gems are what pop culture is all about, and it's why we're saluting TV's finest teen offerings from the '90s and '00s with this list of faves, ranked.

Whether you were all about NBC's Saturday morning teen lineup or obsessed with old-school WB dramas, join us on a walk down memory lane.

  • 26. One World

    1

    Remember NBC's Saturday morning sitcom One World? Don't feel bad, neither did we until we did a deep dive into IMDb where our memory was jogged. The show featured six kids from different backgrounds all living in the same foster family. It actually lasted three seasons, which is surprising, because it's pretty darn forgettable. Hence why it's in the #26 slot. But doesn't the actress on the far right look like a young Ali Fedotowsky? It's freaking us out. 

  • 25. Swans Crossing

    2

    If you missed out on the epicness that was 1992's Swans Crossing, a feeble attempt at a daytime-ish soap opera for teens, we are so sorry. Following the story of wealthy kids dealing with way more drama than even a grown adult should, it starred the one and only Sarah Michelle Gellar as the town's bad girl Sydney Rutledge. Swans only lasted a season (or roughly 63 episodes), but it did make summer TV enjoyable for the few teen viewers who found it. And that's why it lands at #25.

  • 24. Baldwin Hills

    3

    The reality series Baldwin Hills was to BET as Laguna Beach was to MTV. It followed the daily lives of a group of wealthy African-American teens from the Los Angeles neighborhood after which the show was named. Ending after three seasons, Baldwin Hills was just as juicy as its MTV counterpart, even if it didn't launch careers of its stars in the same way LB did for Lauren Conrad and Kristin Cavallari.

    More from CafeMom: Kristin Cavallari Reveals Sad Truth Behind Laguna Beach

  • 23. Fifteen

    4

    Canadian import Fifteen aired on Nickelodeon in the US in the early '90s and gave us our first glimpse at the one and only Ryan Reynolds. It was a classic tale about the haves and have-nots at fictional Hillside High, fraught with your teen romances and stereotypes. Again, it gave us Ryan Reynolds and was pretty addictive back in the day, so it lands at #23.

  • 22. So Little Time

    5

    Post–Full House, Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen found better success among their straight-to-DVD movies than they did on television. Still, So Little Time, which aired on the old Fox Family Channel, was a fun little romp featuring the twins' attempts at navigating life as teenagers. It only lasted a single season, which is why we're posting it here at #22.

  • 21. Breaker High

    6

    Breaker High was the epitome of teen escapism. We all wanted to attend high school on a cruise ship after watching the Canadian TV series. While specific episodes aren't super memorable, it did deliver a weekly dose of young Ryan Gosling (sigh!), which is enough to earn the show a spot on our list.

    More from CafeMom: Hey Girl, Ryan Gosling Was Adorable Even in MC Hammer Pants

  • 20. Party of Five

    7

    Party of Five had us at hello when it premiered in 1994. The story of five siblings struggling to raise each other after their parents were killed in a car accident was both touching and drama-filled. And the show's theme song? It was the jam! Whenever we hear BoDeans' "Closer to Free" we can't help but think of the trials and tribulations of the Salinger family. So '90s ... but, of course, not nearly as memorable as some of our other faves, so it lands at #20.

  • 19. California Dreams

    8

    Packaged with Saved by the Bell during NBC's Saturday morning teen-fest, California Dreams had it all -- music, comedy, and high school debacles. With a theme song that included the lyrics "Surf dudes with attitudes," how could you go wrong? The series ran for five seasons, with some cast changes in between. It was a fun, lighthearted look at what life would be like if you lived steps from the beach while performing in a garage band. 

  • 18. Roswell

    9

    Young alien/human hybrids mixing with normal human teens? Game on! Roswell only served up three seasons before it was canceled by The WB, but it earned a loyal following during that time. Katherine Heigl has been working steadily prior to her role on Roswell, but the show did give her a broader TV fan base. 

    More from CafeMom: Katherine Heigl Finally Explains Why No One Wants to Work With Her

  • 17. Clueless

    10

    It isn't easy taking a beloved feature film and turning it into a weekly TV series, but somehow Clueless managed to pull it off. In part it's thanks to creator Amy Heckerling's involvement in the television show, and the fact that several of the movie's cast members signed on to continue their characters. Plus, mad props to Rachel Blanchard for tackling the role of Cher, who everyone so deeply associated with Alicia Silverstone. The series enjoyed three seasons before it was canceled.

  • 16. Saved by the Bell: The New Class

    11

    Once the original Saved by the Bell brigade flew the Bayside coop for college (and their own prime-time spin-off), a new gang was waiting in the wings to take their place. To be honest, Saved by the Bell: The New Class never rang quite as true to us as the original, but it was an admirable effort and did its part to fill the Saturday morning void. Since the reboot is typically never as good as the act that set the precedent, we have to put The New Class at #16.

  • 15. Popular

    12

    The havoc that ensues when two girls on opposite sides of the high school cafeteria have to live under one roof because their parents decided to marry made for amazing TV. The WB gave Popular two seasons and while they couldn't muster a larger viewership for more, the show was funny, smart, and critically acclaimed, so it comes in at #15.

    More from CafeMom: 16 Stars Who Were Kicked Off or Left Hit TV Shows

  • 14. Freaks & Geeks

    13

    Freaks & Geeks sadly only got one season, but boy, was it a memorable one. Following the story of high schooler Lindsay Weir (who tries to ditch her mathlete persona by hanging with a group of burnouts) and her dorky little brother, the show was funny and refreshingly honest. It also starred a young James Franco as a "freak" and the object of Lindsay's affections. Despite only producing 18 episodes, Freaks & Geeks still has a cult following, which earns it a space at #14.

  • 13. Sister Sister

    14

    Twin sisters separated at birth who find each other again as teenagers ... what could possibly go wrong? The comedy solidified the careers of Tia Mowry-Hardrict and Tamera Mowry-Housley, offering a fun look at how two opposites approached the challenges of being a teen. With Marques Houston playing lovable, if not awkward, pal Roger, Sister, Sister was a winning combination for teen TV, deserving of the #13 slot.

  • 12. That '70s Show

    15

    Could teens in 1998 relate to a group of friends coming of age in the 1970s? With the premiere of That '70s Show, the answer was a resounding yes. The comedy ran for an impressive eight seasons, making stars out of each member of its cast, most notably Ashton Kutcher and future wife Mila Kunis. Far out!

    More from CafeMom: Mila Kunis Calls Out Hollywood for Sexism That Reduces Her to Just a Wife & Mom 

  • 11. Laguna Beach

    16

    Laguna Beach had everything a reality TV fan loves about the genre -- it had "good" guys, "villains," and all sorts of soapy high school drama that was allegedly real. Some viewers were Team LC while others were Team Kristin, but both stars turned out just fine, holding our attention to this day, thanks to The Hills and their very own business empires!

  • 10. Sabrina, the Teenage Witch

    17

    High school would have been so much better if only we had the same magical powers as that of one Sabrina, the Teenage Witch. Despite the upper hand she had as a witch, Sabrina was totally relatable and the series was an integral part of ABC's TGIF lineup. The show made staying home on a Friday night a lot more fun, so it definitely deserves to fall in the top 10.

  • 9. One Tree Hill

    18

    When Dawson's Creek ended in 2003, worshippers of WB dramas wondered what could possibly fill the void it left behind. Enter One Tree Hill, which had all the trappings of Dawson's and then some. It was set in a similarly small town, and Lucas, Nathan, Peyton, Brooke, and Haley captivated us from the get-go. Although the show's focus shifted over its nine seasons due to cast member departures, the early years were so, so bingeable

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  • 8. Degrassi: The Next Generation

    19

    In our humble opinion, there should always be some incarnation of the Degrassi franchise on TV. Real, raw, and (much like its old tagline implied) unafraid to "go there," the show had writers that tackled serious issues with abandon. Nothing is off limits here -- pregnancy, abortion, sexuality, trans issues; they've all been fleshed out in far grittier ways than Degrassi's glossy teen counterparts. In the early '00s our favorite story lines revolved around the coming-of-age threads focusing on Emma, Manny, Paige, and, of course, one Jimmy Brooks (played by the artist now known as Drake). 

  • 7. Boy Meets World

    20

    Boy Meets World could have been written off as any old teen sitcom, but it was so much more. For starters, the sweet way in which Cory and Topanga's relationship evolved over the years was played out organically and beautifully. Throw in the totally legit way the show dealt with Shawn's estranged family and the marital issues that would arise between Amy and Alan Matthews and you have a series that actually hits close to home. It's not surprising that Disney Channel chose to revive the ABC hit's characters with its own Girl Meets World series. The show's focus was a winner then and a winner now, so we feel pretty good about placing it at #7.

  • 6. Gossip Girl

    21

    Gossip Girl may have been considered a teen series, but considering these high schoolers were drinking martinis in hotel bars at the time, they took the genre to a whole new level. Blair and Serena had wardrobes that may have even made Carrie Bradshaw green with envy. Between the clothes, the drama, and Chuck Bass, Gossip Girl lands at #6.

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  • 5. Dawson's Creek

    22

    Most girls could relate to Joey Potter's dilemma -- falling in love with her childhood best friend who couldn't reciprocate the feelings (at least not until it was too late). Dawson's Creek was angsty, romantic, and, in the end, broke our heart with Jen's untimely death. But we still love you anyway, which is why DC earns the #5 spot.

  • 4. Buffy the Vampire Slayer

    23

    An ass-kicking cheerleader who isn't afraid of anything that goes bump in the night? We need more of this on present-day television. Buffy the Vampire Slayer is proof that a TV series can actually surpass the movie it is based on. Sarah Michelle Gellar played the vampire-killing teen flawlessly, all while the character tried to jump through the hurdles high school has to offer. It was a fantasy-fueled action/drama that proved there's more to teen shows than your standard relationship fare.

  • 3. The OC

    24

    Who knew Orange County was such a hotbed of drama? Apparently O.C. creator Josh Schwartz, who grew up in the SoCal area. With its witty dialogue and edgy story lines involving gorgeous teens living in Newport Beach, California, the Fox drama quickly won over fans and was able to stake a claim in pop culture history. We'd love to know where Ryan, Summer, and Seth are today, although a reunion seems very unlikely given how the show's stars' careers have taken off in different directions.

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  • 2. Saved by the Bell

    25

    Raise your hand if you ever wished you, too, attended Bayside High. Saved by the Bell depicted the most perfectly incredible high school experience rolled into a half-hour comedy. It was the ideal escape from what being a teen was really like in the '90s (and what it's like now). In our imaginations, Zack and Kelly are still living happily ever after. SBTB was just so beloved, it's definitely deserving of the #2 slot.

  • 1. Beverly Hills, 90210

    26

    The West Beverly gang delivered high-end drama to teens globally on a weekly basis, proving that money can't buy happiness (nor can a predominantly Minnesota upbringing, apparently). Whether you were Team Brenda or Team Kelly, the OG Beverly Hills, 90210 is simply the be-all, end-all of high school shows. It had glamour, controversy, romance, comedy, and even some real-life issues that were tackled in a made-for-TV kinda way. We'll never forget you, Walsh twins. Never.

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