The 15 Most Awesome Netflix Teen and YA Shows: Not Your Grandma’s TV

While the youth of America come of age and prepare to take over the world, Netflix teen and young adult shows give them an arsenal of entertainment., Photo of teens taking a group selfie.

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The bad news is that some teens today are getting attention for eating Tide Pods. The good news is that most of them aren’t. In fact, many of them are changing the world, despite being young. Netflix teen programming line has reflected that.

Perhaps fortunately for humanity, this generation of young people are coming of age in a time of youth-led movements. They are no strangers to the power of social media, and all too familiar with the dark side of humanity, far younger than their parents.

Teens today know the “sister survivors” of disgraced former United States of America Gymnastics team doctor. Young adults understand the #NeverAgain campaign, spearheaded by the survivors of the recent mass murder at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. The youth are responding to the world around them, and often in very adult ways. And, they are going to change it. We know, because, in so many ways, they already have.

Or, as Jahi Di’allo Winston, “Luke” in Netflix’s new teen dramedy Everything Sucks, put it:

“The truth of the matter is, a country where the youth are silent — that country is on its way down. Not even on its way down, it’s dead. So, if you don’t have young people telling their opinions and how they feel, showing their true emotions, you’re not gonna go very far and evolve very much as a society. That’s just what it is,” Winston said recently to IndieWire.

But, over everything else, they are kids, teens, and young adults (YA) with purchasing power and a desire to be entertained. However, perhaps more than ever, they do not want to be talked down to. Netflix seems to have hit on the pitch-perfect formula for entertaining the youngest Millennials and social media born GenZ.

Whats Netflix Got to Do With It?

Netflix has been a recent game changer in entertainment. And, the way they are handling shows aimed at younger audiences is no different. They seemed to know that these young people would change the world, and They were ready to take it to the next level with sophisticated (and sometimes intentionally silly) programming for a younger audience. And, when they set out to do that, the result was a smart generation getting intelligent, funny, and entertaining subject matter. Streamed, on demand, for a price, any parent is more than happy to pay for hours of great entertainment for their kids.

Entertainment that doesn’t talk down, dumb down, or shy away from the real world that these young people deal with every day. In every country, for so many different reasons. They have managed to mix the best of the past with the flavor the youth of today crave.

Netflix has a built itself a unique platform, and created a unique answer to the YA market. Subject matter that mirrors real life — featuring young people in mature situations — is successful in ways that network television, and even cable couldn’t even try to imagine. They relied on shows like the more milquetoast hits of the 2000s — such as The Secret Life of the American Teenager or the Gilmore Girls – which are both available for streaming on Netflix as we speak, also. Shows which were governed by the FCC’s content guidelines for television.

Netflix Youth Programming is Top Notch and Often Edgy

Along with offering classics, and more recent hit youth programming, Netflix is putting out an impressive array of top-notch programming. Some originals, and some reboots of older shows. Now, even the “wholesome” Archie Comics characters and plot lines have been reimagined to become edgier. Such as in Netflix’s Archie reboot, Riverdale and the upcoming spinoff and reboot, Sabrina the Teenage Witch.

Yet not all of the youth-oriented shows are as dark as The End of the F***ing World or as sweary as Stranger Things. Netflix’s 2017 reboot of One Day at a Time handles topics such as mental illness, immigration, and homophobia in the frame of a Cuban-American family while staying within the realm of what would easily be called a family show.

Netflix Teen, Young Adult, and Youth Programming

Here is a list of some of the best programming for teens and youth on Netflix right now, in no particular order. We’ve included trailors and a brief write up on each one.

1. Everything Sucks (2018- )

This show, Everything Sucks, unlike the 90s that most GenXers and Millennials grew up in, doesn’t blink when it confronts LGBTQ issues in teenagers. Kate Messner stars in this coming of age and self-acceptance piece. This show may have as much for the adults who lived through those years as it does for today’s youth. Or as Netflix put it, “You can’t fast forward high school. Head back to 1996 with Everything Sucks!, now streaming on Netflix.”

2. The Flash (2014-present)

Licensed last year by Netflix, The Flash is a classic comic book hero tale updated for today. Now going into season 4, this one is not to be missed. The Flash originally aired on the CW, based on the comic book character Barry Allen, AKA the Flash. Grant Gustin plays Barry Allen, a crime scene investigator turned super-human speeder and costumed superhero.

3. Freaks and Geeks (1999-2000)

According to the plot summary written b Corey Semple (Hairsprayer07), an IMDB contributor: “It’s the 1980s and at McKinley High, there [are] two different groups of teenagers, the Freaks with cool and charismatic Daniel Desario and tomboy Lindsay Weir and the Geeks with Lindsay’s shy younger brother Sam, gentle Bill Haverchuck, and self-proclaimed ladies’ man Neal Schweiber.” The show deals with themes like acceptance, bullying, drugs, and drinking.

4. The End of the F***ing World (2017- )

Based on the graphic novel by Charles Forsman, this isn’t your run of the mill boy meets girl tale. Netflix invites you to “Come join teenage outsiders James and Alyssa on a road trip like no other.” James, a 17-year-old, is pretty sure he’s a psychopath, which is just the beginning.

5. Riverdale

The Archie franchise has come a long way in this edgy reboot. Now that Veronica, Archie, Jughead and the rest are facing more adult, gritty situations, the show scratches that drama mama itch for all of us. You will love this show. Starring, among others,  K.J. ApaLili Reinhart, and Camila Mendes.

6. The Secret Life of the American Teenager (2008-2013)

If you were a teen in the 2000s, you remember this show. Today’s youth love it too, for all the same reasons.  Shailene WoodleyKen Baumann, Molly Ringwald, and India Eisley are just a few of the names that made this series great. Dealing with the ramifications of teenage unplanned pregnancy, it is still relevant today.

7. Pretty Little Liars (2010-2017)

Troian BellisarioAshley BensonLucy Hale all star in this instant classic. Four friends find themselves banding together to stop a mysterious foe trying to spill their deepest secrets, while they are investigating the disappearance of one of their friends. 

8. One Day at a Time (2017-)

This modern reboot is not only just as good, or better than the original, it is a kick-ass, clean family fun powerhouse. Dealing compassionately, if somewhat conservatively, with social issues and sexuality, teenage activism, and not quite fitting in.

9. Glee (2009-2015)

You’d have to have been living under a rock to not know this one. A group of talented students walks through life’s scandals, pains, and awesome surprises set to a soundtrack beloved by all.

10. The 100 (2014-Present)

Another from the CW camp, this was a hit when it came out, and continues today. The story is set ninety-seven years after a nuclear war destroyed civilization. The premise is that the spaceship housing humanity’s lone survivors send one hundred juvenile delinquents back to Earth. Their hope is to repopulate the planet.

11. Stranger Things (2016- )

Everyone, but everyone loves this little 80’s show. Sure, it is set to appeal to the youth, but it is a sweary, unapologetic, scary hit that made a star of a bald girl named 11.  Millie Bobby BrownFinn Wolfhard, and Winona Ryder are just a few of the stars that make this show great. You are gonna love it.

12. 13 Reasons Why (2017)

The reality is, a lot of young adults either deal with, or know someone who is dealing with, suicide or suicidal thoughts. This is a subject that many have been reluctant to deal with directly, but this show didn’t flinch.  Dylan MinnetteKatherine Langford, and Christian Navarro are some of the stars of this series that follow the revealing tapes of a young woman who committed suicide.

13. American Vandal (2017- )

You may not think of penises when you think of young adult fiction, but this story starts out with so many of them. Red ones, all spray painted on cars in the school parking lot. Dealing with the town’s treatment of the suspected vandal, who claims no fault, this show is edgy and screams 2017.

14. Atypical (2017- )

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is complex, is colors every aspect of people’s lives. Whether they have autism, or they love someone who does, many people in the US are touched by it. This show does an exemplary job of portraying one such case in high functioning autism spectrum disorder (HFA) and a family trying to figure it out day by day. Teens and young adults now are more aware of these things, and many know someone affected, so this show is for the whole family – not just the youth.

15. Haters Back Off (2016-2017)

Miranda Sings is an incredibly confident but totally untalented star  living in an odd-ball family. But, she’s on the rise, and continues to “fail upward by the power of her belief that she was born famous.” But, it’s just no one knows that about her yet. In Season 2, her life may be in complete upheaval, but Miranda’s finally gone viral! Will Miranda ever make it to Broadway?

In Conclusion

In modern America, young folks are treated like they are not grown up enough to participate in the dialogue of current events, and mollycoddled by the same people that criticize them for being mollycoddled. This begins with entertainment and spreads outward into society: young people are treated like they should be shielded from sophisticated subject matter and are conversely expected to make good choices about sex, drugs, guns, personal relationships, and the like.

Okay, so Netflix might not be totes responsible for birthing the next generation of freedom fighters, but it could be a slippery slope from Everything Sucks to the tragic and socially relevant 2016 documentary Audrie and Daisy or the documentary series, Flint Town. The kids will have plenty of both fun and compelling things to stream while they write their speeches and make their protest signs.

Featured image: CC BY-SA 2.0 verkeorg via Flickr.

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