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This Post is Rated TV-YA: 8 Shows YA Fans Must Watch

Today's guest post is from Jessica BS, a friend of the blog who spent her undergrad studying film, and about twice as many hours analyzing great modern TV. That makes her more than qualified to write this post, about what television series should be required watching for all YA writers.

A few weeks ago while performing one of my favorite pastimes of Telling Someone Why They Need to Watch Veronica Mars, the lovely and talented Cristin Terrill made a simple yet profound argument on the pro side. She said that Veronica Mars should be “required viewing” for all YA enthusiasts, but most especially YA writers. As both an avid fan of great television as well as a YA enthusiast, I deemed this brilliant.

Fast forward those few weeks to now… ish. I’m on my third straight night of marathoning Friday Night Lights with a Cheshire Cat grin spread across my face. It’s when I’m gushing about Tim Riggins the show on Twitter that I’m reminded of Cristin’s “required viewing” comment. It got me thinking- what else would I consider to be required YA viewing, not only for the YA fan but also as research or tools for the YA writer? They’d all have to be (by definition) stories revolving partially around the lives of teens and young adults, but each show would have to have that certain draw, that pull, that bit of something else that makes it worth your time.


After careful consideration and countless couch potato-y weekends, I’ve narrowed the list down to 8 shows, split into 4 categories that illustrate just why that show shines above the others.


Friday Night Lights & Skins (UK)

WHY: Balancing a large cast of characters


One of the most important aspects of both of these shows is how deftly they balance a large cast of characters in a compelling way. Ensemble casts like these relate to a wider audience, but if they aren’t executed properly, the audience doesn’t care about the characters the way they should. Even if FNL doesn’t concentrate on Matt Saracen for a week, he still stops by to awkward you into oblivion. Plus, both of these shows have a large rotating cast that breathes new life into storylines that might have fallen flat with the previous cohorts. In fact, Skins gets an entire new cast purposely and periodically to keep it fresh. Tony and Effy Stonem may be siblings, but their stories represent them as individuals. Both series serve as excellent visual tools on how to showcase and utilize an ensemble cast.

You can watch:
Friday Night Lights on: Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon
Skins on: Netflix, Hulu 

Vampire Diaries & Gilmore Girls

WHY: Pacing of dialogue and action


No show can match Gilmore Girls on dialogue, mostly because it’s hard to catch Lorelai and Rory once they’re well caffeinated. GG is all about them words, about the constant debates between Emily and Lorelai, about the pop culture references, about being smart without making the audience feel not as smart. There’s a rhythm to the dialogue, like a seasoned jazz band, that rolls off the tongue. It’s been imitated, but never duplicated. As far as action goes, frankly I don’t know how the writers of TVD manage to function. I am constantly and consistently impressed with the impeccable pacing on this show. They ask the question, they let the viewer stew on it for just the right amount of time, and then they deliver a satisfying answer. Sometimes it isn’t the entire answer, but it’s better than stringing the viewer along through filler episodes.

You can watch:
Gilmore Girls on: Netflix, The WB
Vampire Diaries on: Netflix, Hulu, The CW, Amazon

Veronica Mars & Buffy the Vampire Slayer

WHY: Characterization & Kick-Ass Heroines

If you are looking for awesomely strong, incredibly witty, kick-ass heroines fighting the good fight, look no further than these two titleholders. Veronica may fight proverbial demons while Buffy fights actual demons, but they are two shining examples of multi-faceted heroes done exactly right. And let’s not forget about the supporting cast: take Willow’s transformation to Dark Willow, or Logan Echolls as the resident psychotic jackass into a psychotic jackass with a heart. Granted, the Scooby Gang had more opportunity to show their growth over 7 seasons as opposed to the 3 seasons our friends in Neptune were given, but it’s still there in spades. If Buffy and Veronica ever met, I’m pretty sure we’d all be in for it.

You can watch:
Veronica Mars on: Netflix, Amazon,
Buffy the Vampire Slayer on: Netflix, Hulu

Freaks & Geeks & My So-Called Life

WHY: Realism & authenticity


If this list was a family tree, My So-Called Life would be the matriarch, and Freaks & Geeks would be its beloved first born. Both were critically acclaimed shows that were canceled far too soon, but they both represent teenage life in the most authentic way. Part of that is because most of the teens depicted on both shows were actually teenagers at the time. There’s nothing more authentic than that. Plus, there’s just something so relatable about the story of the outsider. An entire generation of girls grew up wanting to be Angela Chase or Lindsay Weir. They wanted to show that there was more to them than what you see on the outside. That’s the honest truth.

You can watch:
Freaks and Geeks on: Netflix
My So-Called Life on: Netflix, Hulu, Amazon  

So what’s your opinion? Did I get it right or will I pay the price?

Jessica BS would sail to Tahiti with Seth Cohen, dust any vamp but Angel with Buffy and the Scoobies, and violate the terms of her ASBO with Nathan Young at the drop of a hat, as long as her husband, mutt, and entire collection of Harry Potter books could come along. Her YA reviews find their home at Wastepaper Prose, and she channels her inner Liz Lemon in long form at Deus Ex Blogina or in short form at @JeskuhBS.
Sarah Enni

Sarah is a young adult author and host of the First Draft podcast. She is represented by Sarah Burnes at The Gernert Company.

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29 comments:

  1. I already watch/have watched most of these, but I will have to check out the others. Loved the first Season of Skins, second season was pretty okay too but I haven't gotten on to the third yet...I'm nervous ;)

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    1. Honestly, I only watched the first 2 series. But they were so perfectly done!

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  2. The only show you listed that I havent seen yet is Veronica Mars!

    But I agree with everything you said!
    Awesome choices!

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    1. Veronica Mars is my actual favorite show of all time. I can't recommend it more highly, especially the first season.

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    2. I was so bummed when they took VM off of Netflix's instant watch :( Worth hunting down though!

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  3. I love this so much. Just, so so much. I'm such a teen TV junkie and you definitely nailed the highlights of each of these shows. As ridiculous as it is, I'd probably recommend adding Degrassi to other shows to consider, and definitely South of Nowhere if you enjoy and/or write LGBT YA.

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    1. Oh Degrassi should definitely be considered! Good call :)

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  4. I love this list, but ahhhhhhhh, what about SUPERNATURAL??? There's a whole faction of YA writers who are TEAM WINCHESTER 4EVA. ;)

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    1. Ahh, Supernatural---definitely another one to consider!

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  5. I decond degrassi and south of nowhere. Degrassi has to be about the only show capable of cycling through an everchanging cast perfectly...it's like Skins light

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  6. And Popular! Its an older show by the guy who did glee

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    1. Oh, I remember Popular! I have to go back and check that out!

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    2. Oh man, that was the first WB show I remember watching. I cannot remember anything about it except that it had Christopher Gorham, who was adorbable back then and last I saw spends a lot of time looking super sexy on Covert Affairs.

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    3. So glad other people remember the show! I would love for glee to be half the show it was

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  7. The OC, Veronica Mars, My So-Called Life (I dyed my hair red a few years ago after watching the entire season), Freaks & Geeks, um...I think we were separated at TV birth, Jessica! I have yet to watch Vampire Diaries or past season-3 of Buffy. Is s4/5/6 of Buffy really worth it? Is Vampire Diaries more than a cheesy love triangle?

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  8. Gilmore Girls is likely the greatest thing in the history of forever. Just sayin'. I think I need to start watching Friday Night Lights.

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  9. Veronica Mars and Buffy --> WHY: Characterization & Kick-Ass Heroines
    So, so, so true!

    I need to catch up on/finish FNL, Vampire Diaries and Skins. I've seen parts of them but got behind on all three of them.

    This is really a great list - with great reasoning and explanations.

    Fantastic post!

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  10. Ahh! Thanks so much for all the love! This was a great post to write, and it looks like it's even better for discussion (and building up my Netflix queue!).

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  11. Loved Buffy. I tend to read more than watch TV. They sound good though

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  12. I have seen all of these shows -- Veronica Mars is the only one where I haven't seen every episode, but I have it in my Netflix queue to remedy that. I'm some kind of TV freak, I suppose.

    I must be since I stuck with The Secret Circle to the end (and its cancellation) and I had enough Buffy allegiance to watch all of Ringer, which is really saying something since practically nobody watched that show.

    I just watched all of Felicity which I missed when it was first around (I guess that's New Adult :) ) and I started two episodes of Dawson's Creek, but honestly, I'm not sure I can handle all 120 epiodes. After typing that I can confirm I will not be able to handle over 100 episodes, but I might watch a few more. I have Dance Academy on my list as a guilty pleasure; will have to consider.

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    1. Dance Academy got me through 5 hard months in Australia. It is bomb. :)

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  13. Ahhh I get so addicted to TV shows. Seriously, it's bad. So I try not to watch ANY. If I start a new show on Netflix, I will watch ALL the seasons in a month. Like I did with Gossip Girl. Haha. But I DO watch Vampire Diaries. OBSESSED. I've seen some episodes of Gilmore Girls and all of The OC at one point also. So good! Thanks for the post!

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  14. All those older ones are yes, yes, yes! But I can't get down with today's television. Gilmore Girls was awesome...guilty pleasure for a manly man like myself, fo sho! And is it bad that I know that the maker of Gilmore Girls has a new show out that's oh so much like it called Bun Heads? I should hide my face now...but I write YA, so I have an excuse... Um, time for football yet? Grrr...manly...

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  15. I absolutely adore Veronica Mars. It's been almost two years and I'm still reeling from some of the plot twists. Logan is probably one of my favorite characters in history.

    As for the others, I haven't seen them (excluding the time I watched the first season and a half of Buffy and a few random episodes of GG). I'll definitely be adding them to my Must Watch Soon list!

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  16. You know, I still haven't watched Friday Night Lights or The Gilmore Girls, though I did love Veronica Mars and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Will have to give those first two a try!

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  17. Great suggestion. I love all of these shows and love going back and re-watching them. I'm currently working my way through Dawson's Creek which I think is another great YA show.

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  18. I love Buffy and Gilmore Girls! (I also love the Buffy spin-off, Angel) My friends watch Skins, but I'm on the fence about whether or not I want to take the time to watch it. =P

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Item Reviewed: This Post is Rated TV-YA: 8 Shows YA Fans Must Watch Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Sarah Enni