20 Best Coming-of-Age Shows to Watch Right Now

20 Best Coming-of-Age Shows to Watch Right Now

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As nice as it is to remember adolescence in all its fresh and pink-hued glory, we all know the so-called wonder years of our youth weren’t really all that wonderful. Puberty was awkward, fitting in painful, and rude awakenings unavoidable—a punch in the face wherever you looked. 

The best coming-of-age stories capture that bizarre mix of awestruck and angst. And we can look to films for that—they are in themselves fascinating portraits of youth—but there’s something special about a TV series dedicating its entire, episodic run to exploring this specific time in our lives. The characters start to feel like friends; their aches relatable and their growth a cause for joy. So below, we round up the very best shows to do just that. Some are funny, some are grim, but all offer that unique company only a fellow kid going through it can give. 

10. Undeclared

best

8.0

Country

United States, United States of America

Actors

Carla Gallo, Charlie Hunnam, Jay Baruchel, Monica Keena

Moods

A-list actors, Easy, Emotional

If you mention “coming-of-age show” and “Judd Apatow” in one breath, chances are people will think you’re talking about Freaks and Geeks, the highly revered series about a group of friends trying and failing to fit into high school. Despite being a commercial bust, it cemented Apatow as a tragicomic giant and launched the careers of Seth Rogen and James Franco (among many others) as the figures to watch out for a slapstick good time. But there is another series that falls into this category: the little-known but brilliant Undeclared, which also follows a group of young people (Rogen included!) trying their best to figure things out. 

Undeclared is set in college, however, and its main protagonist is Steven Karp (Jay Baruchel), a freshman who has a year to decide what he’s majoring in; until then, his status is undeclared. He’s joined by his roommates and the girls next door, and together they experiment—with class, ideologies, fraternities, and each other. The sky’s the limit for these newly independent adults, and as such, Apatow doesn’t hold back in his humor and subject matter. Undeclared captures that weird mix of apathy and ambition and awkwardness that college makes you feel, making it perfectly relatable for many of us. 

It’s also worth mentioning that a great deal of comedians, both established and up-and-coming at the time, make cameos here, including Will Ferrell, Adam Sandler, and pre-dental-surgery Amy Poehler.

9. Better Things

best

8.0

Country

United States, United States of America

Actors

Celia Imrie, Hannah Alligood, Hannah Riley, Mikey Madison

Moods

Character-driven, Emotional, Funny

This bittersweet comedy centers on Sam Fox (Pamela Adlon), a single mother and working actress doing her best to get by in LA. In between juggling the pressures of both parenthood and Hollywood, Sam lets loose in brave and funny ways. Things often get the better of her and her three young daughters, but her bold, funny, and always loving approach to life is what makes Sam—and indeed the show—a true knockout.

Better Things is a semi-autobiographical story, with Adlon also having daughters of her own, so it’s no surprise that many things ring true in this big-hearted show about single motherhood.

8. Yellowjackets

best

8.0

Country

Canada, United States, United States of America

Actors

Christina Ricci, Ella Purnell, Jasmin Savoy Brown, Juliette Lewis

Moods

Binge-Worthy, Dark, Gripping

When a girls soccer team is left stranded in the wilderness, things quickly descend from worrisome to outright, delightful, and sometimes unbearably weird. It’s a classic tale of survival injected with fresh mystery and drama, and as you watch these girls navigate humanity in all its extremes—from the primal urge to live to the existential need to bond—you’re left feeling both wildly entertained and deeply disturbed all at once. 

Though Yellowjackets has drawn comparisons to beloved stories like Lost and Lord of the Flies, its unique pulse on the female experience is arguably its own thing: a sure and instant classic in the making. 

7. PEN15

8.1

Country

United States of America

Actors

Anna Konkle, Dallas Liu, Maya Erskine, Melora Walters

Moods

Funny

Co-created and co-produced by an amazing duo, Maya Erskine and Anna Konkle, who play fictional versions of their 13-year-old selves among a bunch of actual adolescents, Hulu’s PEN15 is a painfully funny teen sitcom about two friends going through middle-school together. With meticulous detail, it is set in the 2000s, including the discmen, the khakis, and the AOL dial-up sounds, but you certainly don’t have to be 30+ to enjoy the masturbation, boys, overall awkwardness, and other superbly spun teen comedy tropes. Erskine and Konkle’s middle-school experience was obviously all about being the lesser cool kids and they embody this to the fullest. It’s hilarious and cringey, sometimes gross, but also insightful. A lot of fun!

6. We Are Lady Parts

best

8.3

Country

United Kingdom

Actors

Aiysha Hart, Anjana Vasan

This British comedy is about Lady Parts, an all-female, all-Muslim Punk band. Their latest member is Amina, a Ph.D student who is a great guitar player but has a form of stage fright that gives her bursts of diarrhea and vomiting. 

To add to this serious obstacle, Amina is also not very “punk”. The reason she joins Lady Parts is to score a blind date with the brother of one of the band members – in hopes of marrying him. 

It’s a fun, unapologetic show that, like the Hulu hit Ramy, digs up the humour in the complexities of being young and Muslim in today’s world.

5. The End of the F***ing World

8.3

Country

UK, United Kingdom

Actors

Alex Lawther, Christine Bottomley, Eileen Davies, Gemma Whelan

Moods

Binge-Worthy, Dramatic, Emotional

An amazing binge-worthy show that is a mix between a coming-of-age story, a romance, and a crime thriller. It tells the story of James, a 17-year-old who believes he is a psychopath (for some very convincing reasons). James decides he wants the victim of his first murder to be a new schoolmate, Alyssa.  He befriends her and keeps waiting for the perfect moment to kill Alyssa until he finds himself on a journey with her to escape her home. Somewhere near the middle of the show, and without you fully realizing it, it transforms from an original coming-of-age story or odd-boy-meets-odd-girl story to an intriguing view on adolescent insecurities and the role of parents into shaping them. It transforms from a mysterious, almost charming story to an interesting character study.  This is when the show will blow your mind.  It’s a fresh, smart, funny yet disturbing emotional thrill ride.

 

4. Acapulco

best

8.5

Country

United States of America

Actors

Camila Perez, Damián Alcázar, Enrique Arrizon, Eugenio Derbez

Moods

Easy, Feel-Good, Funny

There is an art to making a comedy that can be enjoyed by all ages—a balance must be kept between mature and genial humor, serious and unserious matters—and it’s an art that Acapulco manages to execute with finesse. There’s something for everyone here, whether you’re a kid looking for a good story or an adult wishing to drive by memory lane. 

The colors are vibrant, the characters are alive, and the plot, while familiar, is charming nonetheless. But perhaps the best thing about Acapulco is its call for viewers to be kind. It’s never explicit or preachy about it; it just comes naturally, by way of practice.

3. Sex Education

best

8.9

Country

UK, United Kingdom

Actors

Aimee Lou Wood, Alistair Petrie, Anne-Marie Duff, Asa Butterfield

Moods

Funny, Slice-of-Life

Pressured by the feeling that everyone is having sex except him, Otis (Asa Butterfield), like most teenagers, is very uncomfortable with sex, masturbation, and intimacy in general. In addition to the standard-issue teenage awkwardness, to make things worse, he grows up in a sex-positive household under the watchful eyes of his mother Jean, played by Gillian Anderson, who is a sex therapist. Obviously, the subject is omnipresent as are erotic art, oversized dildos, and coitus-craving couples all over the house. The twist comes when he transforms his tribulations into a business model by teaming up with bad girl Maeve Wiley (Emma Mackey) to counsel his teenage peers on sexual issues of all kinds. As you can imagine, uninitiated teenagers have a lot to offer in that department. Apart from its raunchy premise and explicit images, this is a hilarious, diverse, and warm teen comedy thanks, in particular, to the writing of playwright Laurie Nunn. Lauded by critics for its honesty, this future comedy classic will surely teach you a thing or two about sexuality yourself.

2. Normal People

best

9.1

Country

Ireland

Actors

Daisy Edgar-Jones, Paul Mescal

Moods

Character-driven, Dark, Depressing

The author of the much-loved New York Times bestseller, Sally Rooney, is among the writers of this TV dramatisation, directed by Irish compatriot and indie director Lenny Abrahamson. Abrahamson, who also gave us Frank and the film adaptation of Emma Donoghue’s Room, builds on Rooney’s fantastic source material and an evocative soundtrack to create an intense, atmospheric drama about the vitality and violence of young love.

Initially set in rural Ireland, Normal People follows Marianne Sheridan (Daisy Edgar-Jones) and Connell Waldron (Paul Mescal) as they are figuring out themselves, their connection, and impending adulthood. And that is all I am going to say at this point, because I feel that it is best to know as little as possible going in.

Every detail of every scene feels studied, laying bare the raw emotion of the two main characters. The dialogue is sharp and funny. The acting is flawless. One thing is certain, if you like modern drama that is as much about how and what is said as about what is actually happening, you will have to watch Normal People!

1. Derry Girls

best

9.1

Country

Ireland, UK, United Kingdom

Actors

Dylan Llewellyn, Ian McElhinney, Jamie-Lee O'Donnell, Kathy Kiera Clarke

Moods

Easy, Funny

If you’re looking for a funny yet original sitcom, look no further than Derry Girls. 

It takes place in 1990s Northern Ireland where civil unrest reigns. News of bombings is regular. This is a cause for concern for a lot of people, but for one group of teenage girls life continues as usual. Making fun of the first boy at their all girls school and being embarrassed by crushes are unshakable priorities. 

Derry Girls might have been a good show with just the 90s nostalgia and the political undertone, but the sharp and hilarious writing elevate it to greatness. It is truly one of the best sitcoms ever made. If you liked The End of the F***ing World, you will enjoy Derry Girls. They differ in plot but they both carry similar elements of dark and dry humour. 

Watch out for Sister Michael, she is hilarious. 

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