Having teenagers has many benefits, but one of my personal favorites just might be watching TV with them. Now they’re at the age when our tastes overlap more, and a little less we see needs to be explained to them (or their eyes covered up for it when it shows up on-screen).
Yes, it was fun watching stuff with them when they were tweens, but now we’ve entered the land of laughing at the same TikToks (even if they’re peppered with curse words) and staying up late to binge watch shows together. Here are some of our favorites, many of which have the full series streaming so you can all tuck right in from pilot episode to series finale this summer. Enjoy!
(TV-14) TV Series, 2020-
What’s it about? Devi is a first generation Indian American teenager whose beloved dad recently died, throwing her into a tailspin of grief and identity crisis, all while dealing with her sophomore year of high school.
Why watch it? Even when we see Devi about to make an absolutely cringe-worthy decision, we can’t help but root for her. Her family, friends, classmates and therapist are perfectly cast, entertaining as all get-out, and a delight to watch as they swirl around her hurricane of hot mess.
Who is it really for? Teenagers who want to see that other kids mess up, too. People who love to watch safe teen dramas that explore the tricky entanglements of real grief when you can’t avoid real life, and appreciate that sometimes all you can do is laugh at how messy it can get.
(TV-14) TV Series, 2018-
What’s it about? The two biggest rivals at the infamous 1984 karate championship from “The Karate Kid” movie are now middle aged men who find themselves in opposition once again.
Why watch it? Teen angst, love triangles, midlife crises, sick karate moves, and some of the funniest one-liners on tv (seriously, who knew Johnny had such comedic timing?) make this unstoppably binge-watch worthy.
Who is it really for? Fans of the original movie are an obvious target audience, but this show is made for teenagers who like a bit of soapy drama to their action. Great for families, because it has something for everyone.
(TV-14) TV Series, 2018-
What’s it about? Spencer is a high school footballer who moves from some dangerous turf to the cushy life of Beverly Hills (inspired by a real NFL player’s life).
Why watch it? This sports drama is super popular right now because it gets you into the game on the field and off, with high stakes—and high hopes—all around. An engaging cast shows the sharp edges when the two different worlds clash.
Who is it really for? If you binged all of “Friday Night Lights” and are ready for some fresh takes on the high school football universe, this is for you.
(TV-14) TV Series, 2018-
What’s it about? We follow four friends (plus a bonus one we can’t take our eyes off of) through their social and personal entanglements as they navigate life as South Central Los Angeles high schoolers.
Why watch it? It’s engrossing and entertaining, funny and honest, and at times even an adventure. Each teenager is someone you end up caring about, hoping they make it through high school as unscathed as possible.
Who is it really for? There is something for everyone here, and plenty of characters to root for. Whether you’re familiar with South Central and can relate to their obstacles, or just a teenager who understands why they make the choices they do, it’s addictive in all the best ways.
(TV-PG) TV Series, 2016-2019
What’s it about? A sitcom about a nonverbal teenager with cerebral palsy who decides he wants to go to a mainstream high school, and his high-strung, hyper-protective mother relents—as long as he has a full-time aide by his side.
Why watch it? J.J.’s family is a quirky delight that keeps us laughing in between the small, moving moments that are the show’s heart. And it’s wonderful to watch J.J. grow outside the home, forcing those who have been used to how things were in the “before” to allow themselves to grow, too.
Who is it really for? Anyone who wants to add a family-friendly sitcom to their binge list that’s not afraid to get a little uncomfortably honest at times.
(TV-PG) TV Series, 2013-
What’s it about? Adam is a budding filmmaker who captures every awkward moment of his family of five, starting in the 1980s.
Why watch it? This show is so funny at times that I have sustained actual physical injuries from laughing while watching it (watch Barry’s driving lesson episode and see what I mean). The main character is based on the show’s creator, so not only are a lot of the episodes based on his real life, but at the end we get to see the actual footage it was based on. Every character is a treat, from the three siblings, Adam’s parents, his grandpa, the neighbors, co-workers, classmates, and more. You’ll find yourself rewinding to re-watch scenes just to relish in them over and over.
Who is it really for? Kind, silly, loud, and loving, this is for fans of anything retro, laugh-out-loud funny, or teenagers who want to point out how smothering a mom who insists on “huggies and snuggies” in public can be.
(TV-14) TV Series, 2015-2020
What’s it about? An obscenely rich family of four loses everything except for a little town they bought as a joke because its name really is Schitt’s Creek, so has to up and move into an aging motel together.
Why watch it? This award-winning show is a perfect example of punching up in humor—never down. It’s a funny fish-out-of-water exploration of family, neighbors, kindness, love, and finding one’s place in their new surroundings (both geographically and the people).
Who is it really for? People who kept hearing how great it is but never gave it a chance. Those who want to add a safe binge-watch for LGBTQIA+ viewers to their list. Anyone who digs a feel-good comedy with endless one-liners perfect for putting on coffee mugs and t-shirts.
(TV-MA) TV Series, 2020-
What’s it about? An American football (as in the brown, oval-shaped ball sport) coach moves to London to coach their football (as in the black and white round ball sport) team. Hijinks ensue.
Why watch it? Lasso is a wonderfully optimistic fella who makes this series the “Schitt’s Creek” of sports comedies. While at first glance it’s presumed the story will be about a team rallying under new leadership to improve, it’s about the people, themselves, adding a bit of drama worked in between the laughs.
Who is it really for? Any teen or adult who wants a genuinely feel-good show that will charm your socks off and heal your heart.
(TV-14) TV Series, 2015-2021
What’s it about? It’s a comedy about employees working at a big-box chain store. From management to the greeters to the cashiers and stock room team, we get to know every player.
Why watch it? While there are plenty of easy laughs and wild scenarios while watching the employees interacting with each other, the diverse nature of the cast and richness of each character allows for some honest, moving commentary and food for thought on social issues not always touched upon during sitcoms.
Who is it really for? Anyone who has been curious about what really happens behind those Do Not Enter doors along the megastore’s back walls, past service industry employees who want reassurance that the madness they dealt with every day wasn’t a stretch, and people who want to see a more diverse cast than past workplace comedies have historically had.
(TV-14) TV Series, 2019-
What’s it about? First responders in Lost Angeles, from their initial 9-1-1 call to the resolution or handoff due to a longer-term need of help.
Why watch it? Every call brings a unique new challenge to the crews who respond, both professionally and personally, and many are based on real stories from our news headlines. While mostly an action-filled drama, there are plenty of lighter moments and humor woven in to keep it from getting too heavy. (I mean, which other show could get away with a shark attack on a highway?)
Who is it really for? Can’t decide whether you’re more interested in the dispatchers, police, EMTs, or firefighter experience? Here you get them all in one place. BOOM. Done.
(TV-14) TV Series, 1994-2009
(TV-14) TV Series, 2005-
What’s it about? “ER” is based in a fictional county Emergency Room in Chicago, and “Grey’s” is based in a fictional Seattle-based hospital. Both follow hospital staff (and some patients) as they grow, learn, love, and live in their place of work.
Why watch it? Medical dramas for the win! “ER” is the original, with a fast pace and story lines that are still relevant today. “Grey’s” is the soapier, sexier version, with a wider patient care focus. Both are absolutely binge-worthy.
Who is it really for? Anyone who finds medicine and surgery kind of fascinating, likes how new cases keep things interesting, and like when there’s a mix of long-term characters you get to follow with short-term ones who tend to shake things up.
(TV-PG) TV Series, 2016-
What’s it about? Author, stand-up comedian, and super curious guy W. Kamau Bell travels the U.S. to learn more about issues in the headlines on a deeper level.
Why watch it? Teen TV touches on a lot of complex topics that the viewers may want to learn more about (especially if the parents they’re watching it with can’t answer their questions). Bell does the work for them, visiting prisons, sitting with KKK members, interviewing megachurches, walking the beat with NJ police, meeting with the BLM founders, talking it through with reproductive rights activists and more. You can jump around from topic to topic in any order, depending on when you need it as a resource.
Who is it really for? People who love to learn about all kinds of subject matter, but prefer to start with lessons that last less than an hour. If your teen can’t commit to podcasts, this might be a better fit due to its visual nature.
(TV-14) Animated series, 1997-2001
What’s it about? Super smart and sarcastic teen moves to a new town, new high school with her oblivious parents and immediately-popular sister.
Why watch it? Many of us loved “Daria” when we were eye-rolling teens, so being able to enjoy it a second time around with our own teenagers is a treat. Bonus points for conversation starters sparked by situations the title character finds herself in because of her parents’ well-meaning pressures and the school’s misunderstanding of her.
Who is it really for? Anyone who finds dry observational humor and throwbacks to the 90’s.
(TV-MA) Animated TV Series, 2021-
What’s it about? On paper, it’s about a teenager whose dad is the most powerful superhero on earth (based on a comic series). Once you start watching, you realize what it’s really about.
Why watch it? My teenagers and I were giving it a try, but by the end of the first episode, we were sitting up, gasping, yelling at the television. It hooked us and was relentlessly unstoppable from then on.
Who is it really for? This is rated Mature because of animated graphic violence, but the emotional punches are pretty deep, too. It’s for fans of comic book lore, origin stories, and layered family stories.
(TV-PG) TV Series, 2020-
What’s it about? A collection of hour-long original stories.
Why watch it? Two words: Steven. Spielberg. He’s the executive producer behind this series, so each episode is its own complete story with fantastical, sci-fi, romance, and/or adventure elements that keep them exciting and unexpected.
Who is it really for? Unwilling to commit to a movie, but not interested in jumping into a longer series with backstories you need to remember? This is perfect, because you get the whole entertainment experience in less than sixty minutes.
(TV-14) TV Series, 2019-
What’s it about? Based on the comic book series of the same name, this is about a group of superheroes who reunite after the death of their adoptive dad, despite having grown apart over the years, only to discover that they might need to team up to save the world.
Why watch it? Big families always have their big dramas, especially when it comes to sibling dynamics. And it is FUN to watch unfold. Each “kid” has their own power and a personality stronger than that, so even working together again is not going to go smoothly. Any show that successfully works in Tiffany’s 1987 hit “I Think We’re Alone Now” to help us get to know the main characters by how they respond to the tune is bound to be infectiously entertaining.
Who is it really for? Comic book movie buffs, found family trope fans, anyone who likes a bold cast of characters, action, the supernatural, and a good dose of real emotion while along for the ride.
(TV-MA) TV Mini Series, 2019
What’s it about? A twist on the original graphic novel of the same name, this series takes place in an alternate reality in which a Black female detective dresses as a vigilante while investigating a large-scale conspiracy that could upend everything she’s known.
Why watch it? The first episode alone is a brutal education in the left-out-of-history-books Tulsa Race Massacre, and the introduction of superheroes, vigilantes, secrets, and history daring to repeat itself throughout the rest of the show as Angela digs into her investigation leave the viewer breathless and fascinated until the very end.
Who is it really for? You don’t have to be a die-hard Watchman fan to appreciate this series, but you do need to be able to enjoy dark superhero shows with lots of deliberate loose ends each episode and the fortitude to sit through some pretty violent and disturbing scenes (with a purpose). If that’s you, then this award-winner is a great fit.
(TV-14) TV Series, 2021-
(TV-PG) Mini Series, 2021
(TV-14) TV Mini Series, 2021
What’s it about? Each series brings us closer to different members of the Avengers team.
Why watch it? Sure, the Marvel movies gave us some backstory on each of these Avengers, but they’re each too interesting on their own to not want to peek even further. We’ve known Loki isn’t always really the bad guy. Wanda deserved more of Vision than she got before the grief hit. Fellow Cap besties Sam and Bucky were bound to be the comedy duo we needed in our life as they made their way to where they needed to be.
Who is it really for? Marvel fans: assemble!
What shows do you binge watch with your teens?