I’ve taken up ‘90s teen dramas on my Netflix. I’m not proud. In my defense, they’re the perfect backgroundey fluff to have on while I’m working on illustration projects. Here are a few I’d recommend for such purposes (with the exception of Buffy and Freaks and Geeks — that’s some high-quality TV).
Dawson’s Creek (1998-2003)
Dawson’s Creek is the worst! I don’t know why I keep watching it! The grandiose dialogue is written exactly the same for every character, teen or adult (not that there’s much difference aesthetically either; the actress who plays “lost soul” teen Eve looks about 34, and Pacey wears the tropical shirts of a Florida retiree). It also has more forced adverbs than a middle school essay. Drinking game: take a gulp each time a character says “utterly”. No, don’t — you’ll die of alcohol poisoning.
My So-Called Life (1994-1995)
Come for Angela Chase’s cry faces, stay for Jordan Catalano’s sexy hair. Then become less interested in Jordan Catalano when you find out he can’t read very well and writes love songs about his car.
Named one of the 100 Best TV Shows of All-TIME by Time Magazine in 2007, Felicity holds the perfect formula for any ’90s teen drama — a dreamy, privileged, arty protagonist and a random descent into sci-fi in the final season. Afraid you’ve upset your fanbase by letting the lead end up with the bad boy instead of the nice guy? Just throw in some time travel at the last minute so she chooses correctly this time. That makes sense, right? (No.)
Freaks and Geeks (1999-2000)
This show is excellent, so naturally it only lasted a season, but it did win two Primetime Emmy Awards in 2001. Lindsey’s dabblings with burnout culture and her little brother Sam’s attempted climb out of nerdom are more heartfelt than cliché. It’s also refreshing that their sibling dynamic realistically ebbs and flows between love and hate, the love usually winning out.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997-2003)
The first and last seasons feel a little shaky, but overall this is a pretty great show. The characters grow and change, and there’s lots of juicy moral ambiguity when bad guys turn into good guys and vice-versa — especially when Buffy falls for the vamps she’s meant to slay. I could go on and on (about Spike) but I’ll stop here. Twilight is rubbish.