Even though we no longer have to clear our schedules to sit on the couch to catch the likes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Smallville from the days of essential appointment viewing, teen TV is still ruling the airwaves and streaming landscape in 2022. The ever-illusive teen audience had numerous series to latch onto this year, especially as many new streaming services threw their own hats into the ring to try to catch the young adult eye.
Of course, 2022 has brought a renaissance of teen television that has made it difficult to pinpoint the best of the best. Some honorable mentions worth shouting out include Netflix stand-outs The Midnight Club, Stranger Things Season 4, and First Kill, Disney+’s Ms Marvel and High School Musical: The Musical: The Series, as well as The CW’s wide array of essential teen offerings (All American and Stargirl, to name a few).
Below, we have gathered up our favorite teen and young adult dramas of 2022, filled with shark-jumping delights, grounded melodramas, and supernatural shenanigans. Sifting through the epic highs and lows of high school football, the swath of reboots and sequels, and the classic coming-of-age stories that captivated us, here are the best teen shows to grace our screens this year.
10. Warrior Nun
Netflix’s Warrior Nun, from Van Helsing creator Simon Barry, is half young-adult TV, half kickass nuns with guns; what more could you ask for? The series follows 19-year old former-quadriplegic Ava Silva (Alba Baptista) as she takes on the role of the Warrior Nun (the leader of a secret sect of demon-fighting nuns called the Order of the Cruciform Sword), following the sect’s sacred halo being shoved into her back, bringing her back from the dead. The first season follows a coming-of-age arc for Ava, as she struggles to accept her newfound duty after getting both her life and her limbs back. In the just-released second season, the series builds on Ava’s newfound heroism, while immersing her further into the lore of the world. Teaming up with her best friend Beatrice (Kristina Tonteri-Young), and rejoining forces with Sisters Camila (Olivia Delcán), Lilith (Lorena Andrea), and Mother Superion (Sylvia De Fanti), Ava and the OCS must save the world from becoming a brainwashed hellscape under the “angel” Adriel’s (William Miller) reign. Delivering beautiful fight sequences, classic coming-of-age storylines, and a tasteful amount of sacrilege, Warrior Nun is a must watch, and Netflix made a huge mistake by canceling it. —Anna Govert
9. Gossip Girl
Gossip Girl (2007) is—and will always be—the pinnacle of messy teen television, which sets the bar crazy high when it comes to reboots or adaptations. So when a Gen Z version of the original series premiered on HBO Max last year, it didn’t quite hit the mark as it tried to maintain an uneasy balance between political and social consciousness and soapy drama. Despite its lackluster first season, the second season of HBO Max’s Gossip Girl reboot throws out its attempts at woke commentary and fully embraces the petty chaos and wealthy antics of the Upper East Side’s messiest teenagers that viewers love to escape into. The show’s biggest improvement is the rise of Monet de Haan (Savannah Smith) as Constance’s new queen of mean, whose bitchy and ruthless behavior is enough to make the beloved Blair Waldorf (Leighton Meester) proud. Packed with witty dialogue and hilarious pop culture references, Gossip Girl has finally become a reboot worthy of its name. —Dianna Shen
Riverdale, The CW’s dark and edgy take on Archie Comics from Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, might be the peak of teen TV. It has everything: murderous mystery a la Pretty Little Liars, an edge of supernatural horror a la Teen Wolf, and a penchant for breaking into song a la Glee. Despite its series-long shenanigans, the sixth season of Riverdale, which aired a majority of its episodes in 2022 following its five-episode Rivervale event last fall, was its most bonkers and brilliant season yet. By finally embracing the supernatural through the inclusion of magic and superpowers, Riverdale jumped the shark and landed on the moon, crafting a season of television that captured the spirit of teen dramas of olde while still remaining distinctly unique. Riverdale is headed into its final season next year, and teen TV just won’t be the same without it—its magic, madness, and mayhem will be missed dearly. —Anna Govert
7. High School
Based on the memoir of the same name, High School channels My So-Called Life to tell the origin story of one of Canada’s biggest alternative acts: Tegan and Sara. Taking place during the band’s tumultuous high school years, the show follows the twin sisters as they navigate life, sexuality, and music—all while trying to simply get along. Coming from showrunner Clea Duvall, the series stars TikTokers and actual twin sisters Railey and Seazynn Gilliland as the musicians. On a backdrop of ‘90’s angst and grunge, the series’ half-hour episodes feel intimate, reveling in the quiet loneliness that accompanies a queer youth. Though the series’ slice-of-life nature feels like an outlier among the other teen offerings of 2022, its unique pacing and story structure, as well as its shameless artistry, allow it to feel grounded, real, and special in comparison. —Anna Govert
6. Reservation Dogs
Co-created by Sterlin Harjo and Taika Waititi, Reservation Dogs remains heartbreaking and hilarious in its second season, which continues to chronicle the day-to-day experiences of a group of teens living on an Oklahoma reservation. Tackling grief and loss, while never failing to celebrate Native American life, Reservation Dogs elevates unique voices, ones too rarely heard in popular culture. Led by an impressive group of young Indigenous actors, the series is full of humor, sincerity, and emotionally crushing moments. —Kristen Reid
One of Netflix’s biggest queer break-out hits of the year, Heartstopper is a queer rom-com that follows the love story of outcast Charlie Spring (Joe Locke) and rugby-star Nick Nelson (Kit Connor). The tagline for the series says it all: “Boy meets boy. Boys become friends. Boys fall in love.” And fall in love they do, in eight half-hour long episodes across a vast array of classic high school scenarios. Heartstopper has gotten across-the-board praise for its depiction of queer joy and queer heartbreak, inserting those elements into classic teen drama scenarios, allowing them to be elevated beyond the stereotypical. The series, which is based on the Alice Oseman graphic novels of the same name, was renewed earlier this year for two more seasons, cementing a commitment to this show and its queer audience. —Anna Govert
Netflix’s Wednesday is a supernatural horror-comedy series dedicated to our favorite sinister child of woe, Miss Wednesday Addams herself. After getting expelled from public school, a 16-year-old Wednesday (Jenna Ortega) is shipped off to Nevermore Academy, a preppy boarding school for Outcasts. There, she takes interest in a monstrous killing spree terrorizing the local town and decides to utilize her emerging psychic abilities to uncover the shocking mysteries at hands. The series successfully captures the growing pains of our teenage years without taking itself too seriously, and it serves as a great entry into the “gothic boarding school” subgenre of teen television. Not only that, Wednesday has dethroned Season 4 of Stranger Things, having broken Netflix’s streaming record for most hours viewed in a single week, making it an absolute must-watch. Combining delicate coming-of-age story with murder mystery, Wednesday is gloriously spooky, kooky, and just straight-up ooky. —Dianna Shen
3. Vampire Academy
The queens of the vampire teen drama have blessed us once again with fang-tastic teen TV with Peacock’s Vampire Academy. Coming from The Vampire Diaries and The Originals vets Julie Plec and Marguerite MacIntyre, Vampire Academy delivers a worthy adaptation of the Richelle Mead novels, while remaining a surprising and unique watch for both new fans and old. Due to Plec and MacIntyre’s experience within network television, Vampire Academy’s blend of vampire politics and teen drama stands out as episodic and addictive, combining the prestige of streaming with the popcorn-TV aspect of their network portfolio. The series follows half-vampire Guardian Rose Hathaway (Sisi Stringer) and vampire royalty Lissa Dragomir (Daniela Nieves) as they fight to keep their world protected against Strigoi (a type of feral, unhinged vampire driven only by bloodlust). Reveling in royal intrigue, high school drama, and classic vampire shenanigans, Vampire Academy is the perfect show to sink your teeth into from 2022’s impressive teen drama lineup. —Anna Govert
2. The Sex Lives of College Girls
HBO Max’s The Sex Lives of College Girls is a rarity in the never-ending landscape of teen television as it refreshingly takes its characters out of high school and into the exciting terrain of university. Created by Mindy Kaling and Justin Noble, the series follows four roommates—all of which have completely different personalities—and their silly little escapades at the esteemed Essex College. Season 2 premiered in November, and picks up after Thanksgiving break, jumping straight back into the chaos left behind for our favorite girls Kimberly (Pauline Chalamet), Leighton (Reneé Rapp), Whitney (Alyah Chanelle Scott), and Bela (Amrit Kaur). The show’s essence truly lies in its four leads, whose dynamic on-screen chemistry shines as they delve into journeys of self discovery. The Sex Lives of College Girls is the perfect balance of horny humor and heartfelt storylines, reminding us that college girls are messy, raunchy, and—perhaps the most important of all—a whole lot of fun. —Dianna Shen
1. Pretty Little Liars: Original Sin
HBO Max’s Pretty Little Liars: Original Sin has made history as the first Pretty Little Liars spin-off to actually be picked up for a second season, and for good reason. The first season of the show, which comes from co-showrunners Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and Lindsay Calhoon Bring, follows a new batch of Little Liars as they work to uncover two looming mysteries: who is this new “A” (an anonymous, all-knowing tormentor), and what happened with the Liars’ parents in 1999 to warrant his wrath? Pulled together by slasher-style violence and classic teen drama intrigue, pregnant teen Imogen (Bailee Madison), cinefile Tabby (Chandler Kinney), ballerina Faran (Zaria), delinquent Noa (Maia Reficco), and tech-nerd Mouse (Malia Pyles) join forces to uncover their parents’ secrets while attempting to keep their own close to the chest. By dipping into the slasher genre and paying homage to the history of the franchise that came before it (while offering a poignant and moving overarching story to boot), Original Sin remains a stand-out as the best teen TV of 2022. —Anna Govert
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