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Canada’s long running teen drama ‘Degrassi’ offers a rich universe of shows incorporate pretty much every scenario a kid can go through in high school. Critically acclaimed as well as being hailed a cult hit, ‘Degrassi’ is seen by many as a smash hit for it’s real-life lessons and unflinching approach to dealing with difficult issues.
The show has produced a string of successful stars including ‘The Vampire Diaries’ actress Nina Dobrev, ‘90201’ babe Shenae Grimes – and even rap star Drake. The ensemble cast are put through their paces as they attend the Degrassi Community School and deal with a string of issues including teenage pregnancy, drug abuse, self-harm, struggles with sexuality and more. Able to rely on each other for comfort and advice, the characters often find out a problem shared is a problem halved. But if over 350 episodes of drama still leaves you wanting more TV shows like ‘Degrassi’, then you better read on.
Marking the break-out role of a teenage Claire Danes, ‘My so Called Life’ charted the romantic anguish of Angela Chase who found herself falling for rebellious charmer Jordan Catalano (played by a young Jared Leto).
The show used the pain of teenage angst as a plot driver, and also embraced difficult subject matter including, child abuse, homophobia, alcoholism, and violence in schools. And perhaps the most painful twist of all, the show ended on a cliff-hanger that was never resolved as ‘My so Called Life’ was brutally cancelled at the end of the first season.
Starring James Van Der Beek as the titular Dawson Leery, Katie Holmes as doe-eyed Joey Potter and Joshua Jackson as loveable bad-boy Pacey Witter, ‘Dawson’s Creek’ had fans gripped for all six seasons as the love triangle between the three main stars played out (with many fans distraught by the final match up).
But there was more to The Creek than “who will Joey finally choose?!” with death, sexuality, divorce, and absent parents all featuring as major plot lines. Plus the show launched the career of not just Van Der Beek, Holmes and Jackson – it was also the first time most caught a glimpse of future Oscar nominee Michelle Williams.
This Australian high school drama – set within fictional Hartley High – was seen by many as the coolest TV show of the ‘90s. With plenty of drama, violence and a stark approach to highlighting and dealing with racism, ‘Heartbreak High’ is worthy of being on this list of TV series like Degrassi.
The cast are likeable and relatable making the show a very real representation of daily struggles faced by those in school (and not just the kids – staff issues and struggles get explored too).
Main character Will Krudski (played by Rodney Scott) was introduced in the third series of ‘Dawson’s Creek’ to set up this spin-off show called ‘Young Americans’. All the action takes place in an exclusive all-boys boarding school, so not a usual High School set-up, but still with the usual elements of classroom drama.
Cancelled after just eight episodes, ‘Young Americans’ is notable for early performances by Kate Bosworth as Bella Banks (going on to perform in Oscar Winning film ‘Still Alice’) and Ian Somerhalder (Lost, The Vampire Diaries) as Hamilton Fleming as well as a rather trailblazing approach to transgender issues as Katherine Moennig’s character hid her female gender to attend the school.
Based on the film of the same name, ‘Clueless’ saw most of the original cast return for a three-season run of high school hilarity.
Canadian actress Rachel Blanchard (Peep Show, Flight of the Conchords) replaced Alicia Silverstone as main character Cher Horowitz but nailed the not-so-ditsy-as-first-expected lovability of the lead character. The show also somewhat broke the fourth wall by crossing over with other popular shows Sabrina the Teenage Witch and Moesha.
Is this list missing a classic angst filled high school based drama? Get in touch to let us know what we missed.
As a complete TV junkie, it’s always great to hear about the best TV shows from around the world.
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