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

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

May 27, 2024

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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. 

11. Dickinson

best

8.3

Country

United States of America

Actors

Adrian Enscoe, Amanda Warren, Anna Baryshnikov, Chinaza Uche

Moods

Binge-Worthy, Character-driven, Easy

Dickinson takes more than a few creative liberties in telling the story of one of America’s greatest poets, Emily Dickinson (played here by the effervescent Hailee Steinfeld). As soon as the first pop song blasts in the background, followed by more than a few expletives blurted by the characters, it becomes clear that the series is more interested in making Emily’s life story not just understandable to a new generation, but timeless and universal too; it’s a tale about freeing oneself from the constraints of gender and society, and how regardless of whether you succeed or not, it’s the attempts that keep us human. 

The series is funny and tender and vivacious, kept afloat by its modern sensibility and desire to showcase a whole new side of Emily. Here, she’s a fighter, a (queer) lover, and an intellectual. But she’s also spoiled, narrowminded, and selfish—she is after all, still a growing girl. Dickinson succeeds on two counts: as an enlightening biopic, artistic license notwithstanding, and as an energizing coming-of-age series, complete with awkward epiphanies and inspiring character developments. 

12. Skip and Loafer

best

8.3

Country

Japan

Actors

Akinori Egoshi, Ayumu Murase, Hikaru Tanaka, Maaya Uchida

Moods

Easy, Feel-Good, Funny

Simple yet captivating, Skip and Loafer is a slice-of-life anime with a refreshing approach to the high school experience. While the anime genre is mostly known for its bright, high-saturated colors and action-filled, fantastical plots, this show celebrates the ordinary, with its pastel toned design, sweet humor, and clean animation. The series is centered around the main duo Mitsumi and Sosuke, but it never skimps on their friendships with their group. In fact, despite the classmates’ different backgrounds, the show’s thoughtful introductions make it easy to see why they would all care for each other, even as we get to know their insecurities. Skip and Loafer feels like a hug from the childhood best friend you had (or the one that you wished you had) – the one who you hung out with after school, the one who inspired you, and the one that changed your life for the better. Every episode is just full of pure, simple joy.

13. Scott Pilgrim Takes Off

best

8.2

Country

Japan, United Kingdom, United States of America

Actors

Brie Larson, Ellen Wong, Kieran Culkin, Mary Elizabeth Winstead

Moods

A-list actors, Action-packed, Character-driven

Watching the trailers, and even the first ten minutes, Scott Pilgrim Takes Off just seems like a rehash of the prominent Edgar Wright film, especially since his cast reprise their roles in this new anime. However, when that episode ends, even the most ardent fans of both the film and the original comic book series would have no idea where this would go. It’s a fearless, daring approach, from the original creator Bryan Lee O’Malley, and it’s met with the wackiest, spectacular animation from Japanese animation studio Science SARU, remixing O’Malley’s designs with 8-bit, fighting video game action.

14. 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!

15. 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. 

16. Better Things

best

8.0

Country

United States, United States of America

Actors

Celia Imrie, Hannah Alligood, Hannah Riley, Kevin Pollak

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.

17. 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.

18. On My Block

best

8.0

Country

United States of America

Actors

Brett Gray, Danny Ramirez, Diego Tinoco, Jason Genao

Moods

Character-driven, Emotional, Funny

TV has never been as diverse as it’s been today, but despite the multitude of perspectives, nailing an authentic and enjoyable story that’s outside the realm of the classic white experience continues to be tricky. How do you relay very real dangers like gang violence and poverty without undermining universal teenage concerns like heartbreak and rejection? 

Enter On My Block, a series that manages to stuff many things on its small plate without compromise. It’s funny and charming, but also smart and serious when it needs to be. Unlike a number of teen sitcoms before it, On My Block is in touch with the real world, and it’s unafraid to shove its characters into difficult situations at every and any moment—not just during special episodes. This authentic setup coupled with its very likable and well-drawn leads is sure to draw in viewers of all leanings.

19. I’m a Virgo

best

8.0

Country

United States of America

Actors

Allius Barnes, Brett Gray, Carmen Ejogo, Jharrel Jerome

Moods

Challenging, Discussion-sparking, Funny

Boots Riley established himself as a wildly creative voice with 2018’s zany anti-capitalist satire Sorry To Bother You, and with his second project, he digs his heels even deeper into that singular approach. I’m A Virgo’s world feels deeply uncanny yet intimately familiar, what with its absurdly militarised authority figures, dog-whistling media, and greed-driven economy. It’s set in Oakland, where 13-foot Black teenager Cootie (Jharrel Jerome) lives in secrecy with his normal-sized family. Frustrated, Cootie decides to venture into the outside world, but he’s soon exploited, projected onto, and demonized. However, it’s also not long before he makes his first friends, falls in love, and unlearns everything he thought he knew about the world.

The biggest revelation is that Cootie’s favorite superhero, an Iron Man-esque billionaire called The Hero (Walton Goggins), isn’t actually doing good by enforcing the law to the letter. Though it takes many weird and wonderful detours, it’s this aspect of Cootie’s consciousness-widening that is the show’s ultimate destination. These radical politics give it a sharp overarching focus, meaning its mind-bending eccentricity never feels too indulgent. It all makes for a refreshingly original, gloriously weird watch that you’re guaranteed not to have seen the likes of elsewhere.

20. AlRawabi School for Girls

best

8.0

Country

Jordan

Moods

Discussion-sparking, Gripping

With teen dramas crowding not just Netflix but all of TV, it’s easy to think that the Jordanian series AlRawabi School for Girls won’t be any different. But while it may share a lot of similarities with other coming-of-age stories, it stands out for its willingness to explore dark themes and cultural specificities without a pandering tone. It’s smart, mature, and complex enough to give us a feminist lead who weaponizes misogyny against other girls, for instance, or a fierce bully who eventually earns our sympathy. It’s hard to imagine the treatment being this sensitive, nuanced, and wholly engaging without the all-female cast and crew that AlRawabi thankfully has.

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