Best and worst high school representation in television


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Teenagers can not make TV shows: that much is obvious. The people behind the popular shows that grace our screen are adults, probably relatively old ones. Topics of blockbuster programs vary, but a high school setting is common. So how can these adults depict what it is really like in high school when they have not been there in any amount of years? Answer: they can not. Here is a list of the most and least accurate high school television shows, written by a high school student (AKA, someone who should know what they are talking about). 

Spoilers ahead. 


  • Freaks and Geeks

The single best high school depiction in a television show is Freaks and Geeks. Although it was made about 20 years ago and set in the 1980s, the attitudes and dynamics of the characters hold true even now. For starters, the geeks in the show were played by real teens— including some who had not even gone through puberty yet. For a network show, this is a rarity. Maybe that is why Freaks and Geeks was cancelled after one season, or maybe it was because its characters rarely saw triumphs in their own lives. Every development was laced with embarrassment, as is high school. Still, they found a way to enjoy what they had. 

  • Never Have I Ever

Never Have I Ever is a deep cut, but it is still worthy of this list. No character is particularly likeable, and more often than not, their respective wardrobe choices make a (loud) statement. Characters are mostly portrayed by actors within a respectable age range (except a 29-year-old playing a teen, which remains an outlier). Decisions by the characters were questionable and often led to discomfort and embarrassment for them. Still, they were able to maintain a camaraderie and hopefulness throughout the season, which is why it made the second spot on this list. 


  • Riverdale

Oh, where to begin with Riverdale. What started out as twenty-year-olds endearingly portraying high school sophomores trying to solve a murder mystery turned into a mess of all too mature relationships and unrealistic plotlines. Not unrealistic like, teachers-would-never-have-affairs-with-students unrealistic (hello, Pretty Little Liars). Riverdale creates a new genre of unrealistic. One character’s dad was a serial killer, so she begins training with her FBI-employed brother, who was in a romantic relationship with the impostor who pretended to be her brother in a former season. Another character’s dad is a mob boss who just will not go away. Not to mention the drug-happy cult that introduced itself to town during the school musical (the leader eventually died attempting to launch himself and a self-made rocket into orbit).  This would be unrealistic for any TV show ever, much less a high school show. The rest is self-explanatory. 

  • Glee

Glee is often lovingly referred to as the best and worst show of all time. Absurdity aside, its characters routinely participate in inaccurate methods, while also singing at the level of Broadway stars. First and foremost, the teenagers are played by adults, which always is a negative when trying to portray realistic high school life. One plot line saw a teacher coerce two former students into a fake elevator to try to get them to rekindle their high school romance. That alone is enough to justify this ranking. That said, Glee is iconic and if one is on the fence about watching it, do it. Just do not expect it to be based in reality. 

Although accurate representations of teen life in television can be hard, some creators who put in the time and effort succeed, while others lend their shows a bit too much into the absurd.