revisiting mccabe & mrs. miller (robert altman, 1971)
music friday: rent

best teen shows

Each week, IndieWire "asks a select handful of TV critics two questions and publishes the results on Tuesday". (The second question is always "What is the best show currently on TV?") This week, the question was "What is your favorite teen show of all time? Why?"

Among the shows mentioned that I have spent some time with are Friday Night Lights, The Wire, Freaks and Geeks, My So-Called Life and Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Daniel Fienberg had The Wire on his list, and he's taken a bit of flack for that on Twitter, but he makes the case that The Wire was multi-genre, that kids were always part of the story, and that Season Four most definitely featured teens.

The last three would be on my own list of finalists. Freaks and Geeks and My So-Called Life were early candidates for the Karen Sisco Award (which I hadn't invented yet), shows cancelled after one season despite being great. Buffy, of course, made up for it, getting seven seasons, although everyone graduated from high school at the end of Season Three. Buffy would be my obvious choice, since I taught a course on it at Cal that I think was the best course I ever created. A sample essay topic:

In the introduction to Fighting the Forces, Wilcox and Lavery claim that "quality TV aspires towards 'realism.'" arguing that Buffy the Vampire Slayer deals in "emotional realism." Discuss the presence or absence of "realism" in Buffy, using the episodes we have watched in class ("Angel," "I Robot, You Jane," and "Prophecy Girl") and/or any other episodes you may have viewed from Season One. For this essay, you might want to consider these questions: what does "realism" mean? How do the fantasy elements of Buffy influence the show's realism or lack of same? What is "emotional realism"?

There were a couple of other shows I might have included (I'm sure I'm forgetting something). Two episodes is too soon to tell, but Euphoria is at least getting talked about. Sweet/Vicious was another "Karen Sisco" show that I loved. I liked 13 Reasons Why, but I thought one season was enough and so I haven't kept up. The 100 is my current fave, but it suffers a bit from Buffy syndrome, in that it has lasted long enough (currently in Season Six, with a seventh already announced) that the teens are grownups now. Unlike Buffy, they don't graduate from high school. But there is a jump of six years at the end of Season Four, and there is another jump at the end of Season Five (125 years this time, although the characters were in "cryosleep" during that time and so didn't age physically).

My list is affected by my age ... I was already in my mid-40s when Buffy began. None of these, therefore, are teen shows I experienced when I was a teen. (Don't know what my favorite teen show of the 60s was ... Shindig?)

What the heck, I'll rank my choices. A couple of comments. Claire Danes as Angela Chase in My So-Called Life was REAL ... she was also basically the same age as her character, which isn't always the case with teen shows. Freaks and Geeks may be the all-time Before They Were Famous show. And there are people to this day who refuse to watch The 100 after Season 3 Episode 7. At least, that's what they said at the time.

5. Sweet/Vicious

4. My So-Called Life

3. The 100

2. Freaks and Geeks

1. Buffy the Vampire Slayer

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