A good plot can’t save a television show if all the characters are terrible, since TV is all about characters. That’s why it’s so important to have at least one compelling character who audiences of all backgrounds can identify with somehow. But getting everyone to root for one character, especially teen audiences, can be hard given their diverse backgrounds which is why ensemble shows are so popular amongst teens.
With larger casts, there’s more of a guarantee that teens’ will find a character to identify with and then tune in week after week. While ensembles used to be reserved for dramas, comedies have started to adopt the ensemble mentality which has been great for comedy fans. However, no genre benefits more from the ensemble show that the teen genre of TV.
10 High School Musical: The Musical: The Series (2019-) – 7.2
Based on the iconic Disney Channel Original Movie of the early 00s, High School Musical: The Musical: The Series introduced an entirely new generation to the Wildcast legacy. The mockumentary series began airing in 2019 becoming one of Disney+’s first original series.
The show centers on a group of high school theater kids who come from various backgrounds. Episodes juggle the activities surrounding a theater production with the characters’ personal lives. As expected, there are characters who are obsessed with all things theater and those that have accidentally stumbled into it like Ricky, making it a great show for anyone remotely interested in theater.
9 Good Trouble (2019-) – 7.4
A spin-off of one of Freeform’s best original series The Fosters, Good Trouble began airing in 2019. While the series is headlined by Callie and Mariana Adams-Foster, it also features a diverse group of twentysomethings who all live in a communal living apartment complex.
Good Trouble has such a spectacular cast of characters that the stories usually alternate between episodes and seasons but everyone eventually gets their time in the spotlight. From Callies struggles to become a lawyer to characters exploring their sexualities (Malika and Alice) and confronting their pasts (Dennis), there’s something for everyone to identify with.
8 Degrassi: The Next Generation (2001-2015) – 7.5
Degrassi: The Next Generation is one of the most iconic teen shows of all time. It’s withstood the test of time largely because of its large ensemble cast that was constantly rotating due to characters graduating from high school and moving on.
The Canadian teen series began airing in 2001 and ran for 14 seasons before getting a spin-off that aired exclusively on Netflix. Degrassi is one of the most rebooted franchises and it’s set to be adapted again for HBO Max.
7 The O.C. (2003-2007) – 7.5
Teen ensemble shows truly thrived in the early 2000s which is why Fox’s teen drama series The OC was so popular. The show followed Ryan Atwood, a down-on-his-luck gifted teenager who is adopted by a wealthy family and moves to the family’s Newport Beach home. It ran for four seasons with the first season being one of the highest-rated shows of the TV season.
While Ryan was without a doubt the star of The OC, the show also featured an ensemble cast that added drama and made for some pretty great and bad romantic couples over the years.
6 13 Reasons Why (2017-2020) – 7.5
Based on the young adult best-selling novel by Jay Asher, 13 Reasons Why went on to become one of Netflix’s most controversial teen series of all time. While the first season followed the events of Asher’s book, the subsequent four seasons were original and followed the teenagers of Liberty High School as they dealt with various tragedies affecting their community.
The ensemble cast found its footing in the second season with characters having their own unique character arcs. Though not every character ended up where fans thought they were, the arcs were well thought out and made the teen ensemble show entertaining albeit controversial.
5 All American (2018-) – 7.6
In recent years, The CW has become known for its DC Comic and supernatural type shows but it hasn’t completely lost its roots in the teen ensemble genre. The latest CW teen ensemble dominating ratings is the sports drama All American.
A mix of The OC, One Tree Hill, and Friday Night Lights the series centers on Spencer James, a star football player who is convinced to transfer to a fancy Beverly Hills high school and move in the coach in the hopes of jump-starting his professional career. The show balances a large ensemble cast of teens and parents making it a teen ensemble show that even parents can enjoy.
4 One Tree Hill (2003-2012) – 7.7
One Tree Hill is another iconic teen ensemble drama series that is one over the hearts of millennials all over the country. Set in North Carolina, the series centered on estranged half-brothers Lucas and Nathan Scott who end up competing for the same position on their high school basketball team. However, like most sports shows, One Tree Hill was more than just a basketball show.
The series was known for its dramatic, soap-opera-like episodes and epic OTH romantic love triangles. The first few seasons followed the core cast through high school while the final seasons fast-forwarded to the characters’ adult lives after they’d all return to Tree Hill.
3 Yellowjackets (2021-) – 7.9
Yellowjackets is the latest teen ensemble series that’s all the rage. Premiering in November 2021 on Showtime, this isn’t a teen series for the faint of heart and definitely should only be watched by older teenagers or with adult supervision.
The series centers on a New Jersey high school girl soccer team whose plane crashes, stranding them in the Candian wilderness for nineteen months back in 1996. Alternating between the past and the present, fans get an intimate look at the survivors and why they are the women they are.
2 Derry Girls (2018-) – 8.4
While some British shows benefit from an American adaptation, Derry Girls is amazing simply being a British teen show that American audiences watch thanks to Netflix. The teen sitcom centers on 16-year-old Erin who is growing up in 1990s Northern Ireland which is constantly under the way of armed police and the British Army. While her country is on the brink of trouble, like most teenagers Erin is too concerned with her own personal life to care that much,
In addition to Erin, the series follows several of her teenage friends who are all going through similar growing pains. The ensemble series is hilarious and heartfelt and one of the best coming-of-age stories of recent years.
1 Friday Night Lights (2006-2011) – 8.7
One of the most iconic teen ensemble shows of all time is Friday Night Lights. The sports drama was inspired by a 1990s nonfiction book and the 2004 film adaptation. Set in rural West Texas, the series centers on Coach Taylor and his high school football players as they attempt to make the state championship after an unfortunate accident injures the star Quarterback.
Friday Night Lights is truly exceptional because its stories focus on the teenage characters as well as the adults blending teen drama with adult and family drama. It ran for five seasons and was constantly saved from cancelation thanks to a loyal fanbase and high praise from critics.
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