Young love! Teenage romance TV shows that made our hearts skip a beat
Navigating romantic relationships as a teen was never easy – we were not only finding our feet in life, but those dreaded hormones! Luckily, we also had a whole host of YA dramedies to show us relationships aren’t easy and the road to love is often flawed – but in the end totally worth it. So get ready for those belly butterflies to start flapping, as we’re ranking the teen romance shows that made our hearts skip a beat.
Dawson’s Creek (1998-2003)
It’s been twenty years since Kevin Williamson’s Dawson’s Creek made its way to TV screens across the world, bringing with it a whole bunch of scandalous plots, teen angst, and James Van Der Beek’s (Varsity Blues) never-ending cranium.
The real reason we laud this show is its changeup in 1999, when the writing team decided to turn the focus away from Dawson and his possessive love for Joey (Katie Holmes) to spotlight Joey and her turmoil between Dawson and his best friend Pacey (Joshua Jackson). Breaking free from the tired tropes of the genre, viewers were introduced to a type of relationship that was gripping, fresh, and exciting to watch, adopted by many of the YA teen romances that followed.
Sister, Sister (1994-1999)
It’s undeniable – Sister, Sister was a 90s classic and if you weren’t tuning into Nickelodeon for a regular update on the trials and tribulations of Tia (Tia Mowry-Hardrict) and Tamera (Tamera Mowry-Housley), you weren’t living. While those two were absolute #TwinGoals, their relationship was put to the test when their cute but mischievous neighbor Roger (Marques Houston) went from “Go Home Roger!” to being the hottest guy on the block. Ah, those were simpler times.
The O.C. (2003-2007)
The golden beaches of O.C. proved a perfect setting to stage a whole host of teen drama twists and turns and for a gripping few years, The O.C. ruled the TV airwaves. We couldn’t get enough of the show’s hottest couplings – from Seth & Summer to Marissa & Ryan – but our fave Orange County baes were wild child Marissa (Mischa Barton) and bisexual punk Alex (Olivia Wilde), finally showing to the pearl-clutching parents of America that yes – women do hook up and it’s totally normal to be bisexual. Who’da thunk it!
Gossip Girl (2007-2012)
The proverbial princes and princesses of NYC’s Upper East Side get caught up in a sea of confused emotions, as love interests driven by hormones and narcissism were made even more complex when a ruthless blogger starts leaking the secrets of New York’s private school elite.
While there are arguably more cutesy couples than Chuck and Blair a.k.a. Chair, their divisive and aggressively turbulent relationship made our hearts palpitate throughout. So inconsistently written, so vacuous, and so outrageously hot, these two were dysfunctional perfection.
On My Block (2018)
Season one of Netflix’s teen drama On My Block has just been renewed for a second. About a quartet of bright, street-savvy friends who are navigating their way through high school, the show is earnest, funny, and appealing. Providing a delightful look at inner city life, it has been described as the first coming-of-age Netflix teen drama to focus on people with color.
It’s an intriguing and joyful watch and one that delivers on the teen romance angle – we were particularly enthralled by the cute but buried relationship between Monse and Cesar, which descends into a love quad when Ruby’s family takes in Olivia. Drama!
Sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll – it was all part and parcel of the teen experience over in Blighty during the late 00s. Our fave on-screen couple had to be S1’s Cassie & Sid (Mike Bailey & Hannah Murray). Flawed, troubled, and with enough anxieties between them to fuel an eternity of panic attacks, it just made the moments when these two were sweet on each other all the more meaningful.
Freaks and Geeks (1999-2000)
A show that was cut in its prime, Judd Apatow’s cult comedy Freaks and Geeks aired for just one season before it was cancelled. One of the reasons for its cult success was because it portrayed a realistic teen experience, refusing to rely on contrived romances and happy endings. This is perfectly exemplified when Nick lets Lindsay know she’s his “lady”. While it’s painful to watch, the scene also totally resonates – don’t try to deny you made it through high school without confessing your love to your crush in the most cringeworthy of manners.
With more triangles than a grade 11 math class and a murdering psychopath named the Black Hood to worry about, the relationships in the recent season of the Riverdale have been somewhat complicated. However, there’s no denying the steamy yet innocent romance between Jughead (Cole Sprouse) & Betty (Lili Reinhart) a.k.a. Bughead – the moment they share their first smooch is swoonworthy material.
The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air (1990-1996)
Now this is a story all about how we’re still not over a young Will Smith (I Am Legend), who played himself in this iconic, career-defining 90s comedy. The ultimate fresh player, Will had more than his fair share of love interests throughout its six-season run, but we always considered ourselves to be his #1 bae.
My So-Called Life (1994-1995)
The absolute bastion of teen angst, My So-Called Life still serves as a touchpoint for teen drama despite only airing for one season back in the 90s. While it was so much more than the teen romances it depicted within the narrative – focusing on a 15-year-old girl (Claire Danes) and her trials and tribulations of being a teenager – we’re not ashamed to admit we’re still not over Jared Leto (Dallas Buyers Club) as Jordan Catalano – a figure of lust who still holds a special place in our hearts.