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. 

21. Swagger

best

8.0

Country

United States of America

Actors

Caleel Harris, Isaiah R. Hill, James Bingham, O'Shea Jackson Jr.

Moods

Dramatic, Emotional, Heart-warming

Swagger could’ve easily been a generic sports drama about an ambitious prodigy who, against all odds and through sheer determination, makes it to the top. It is that, but it’s also so much more. Swagger offers biting commentary on race and economic realities, as well as heart-warming and relatable stories about family, love, and coming of age. It’s finely acted, with everyone from the kids and their parents to the coaches offering lived-in and realistic performances. The show is most reminiscent of the 2000 film Love & Basketball, which would make sense since the latter is directed by Swagger director Reggie Bythewood’s spouse, Gina Prince-Bythewood. Swagger and Love & Basketball have unique differences, of course, but both deeply understand and powerfully speak to the Black experience.

22. How to Sell Drugs Online (Fast)

7.9

Country

Germany

Actors

Bjarne Madel, Damian Hardung, Danilo Kamber, Danilo Kamperidis

Moods

Binge-Worthy, True-story-based

This is Breaking Bad meets The Social Network. Based on a true story that took place in Leipzig, Germany in 2015, this show is about Moritz, a high-schooler who starts Europe’s biggest drug market online. He initially does this to impress his ex-girlfriend, who had just come back from the States with new drug experiences.

The transformation of a nerd into a drug kingpin is fascinating. But because it is based on a true story, there is an important nuance to that transformation. Moritz is rarely portrayed as a hero, and his creepy side is always present. This makes for an interesting and exciting plot-heavy show.  

23. High School

7.9

Country

United States of America

Actors

Amanda Fix, Brianne Tju, Cobie Smulders, Esther McGregor

Moods

Character-driven, Discussion-sparking, Dramatic

Based on a forthcoming memoir by queer music duo Tegan & Sara, High School follows the twin sisters in ’90s Canada as they figure out their place in school, in family, and ultimately in each other’s lives. Despite the well-worn premise and the throwback setting, High School feels fresh and honest in ways that are not always present in teen stories. It’s delicate and subdued while still being potent and edgy—a great alternative if Netflix’s brasher teen fare isn’t for you. High School has been likened to other great authentic coming-of-age shows like Freaks and Geeks and My So-Called Life.

24. Teenage Bounty Hunters

7.9

Country

United States of America

Actors

Anjelica Bette Fellini, Charity Cervantes, Devon Hales, Eric Graise

Moods

Action-packed, Binge-Worthy, Funny

With the deluge of hyper-stylized teen shows everywhere (but especially on Netflix), Teenage Bounty Hunters comes as a refreshing and welcome surprise. Sisters Blair and Sterling, played by Anjelica Bette Fellini and Maddie Phillips respectively, strike the perfect balance between spiky and endearing, creating a chemistry that’s rare to see among TV siblings. There’s friction but also love all around. 

Their interactions alone make the series thoroughly enjoyable, but their coming-of-age hijinks and comedic timing, especially around their reluctant mentor Bowser (Kadeem Hardison), make it an absolute must-watch. If you enjoyed Booksmart but wished it was more action-packed, you’ll surely love this show.  

25. My So-Called Life

7.9

Country

United States of America

Actors

A.J. Langer, Bess Armstrong, Claire Danes, Devon Gummersall

Moods

Binge-Worthy, Discussion-sparking, Dramatic

Coming-of-age shows are not hard to come by these days. If anything, there might be too many, with a majority of them being hit-or-miss in terms of quality. But before all this, there was one show that tested the waters and bravely went where no teen show had gone: it was called My So-Called Life, and like anything ahead of its time, it was canceled almost from the get-go. 

The show was one of the first to forgo happy endings and neat tie-ups in exchange for depicting the messy, complicated, and real. Fifteen-year-old Angela Chase (Claire Danes) was hardly likable, what with her bouts of angst and anger, but she was always relatable, and you could rely on her and the rest of the Three Rivers gang to deliver the unfiltered truth about teenhood. Even though the ’90s series didn’t attract enough eyeballs to warrant a second season, it’s now getting its due among modern audiences who recognize its influence in every disaffected young lead trying their best to navigate the confusing waters of youth.  

26. Never Have I Ever

7.8

Country

United States of America

Actors

Adam Shapiro, Cocoa Brown, Darren Barnet, Eddie Liu

Moods

Funny

This comedy is about a girl whose family moves to the U.S. on September 2001. She grows up to excel academically but, as she asks from the shrine in her room on her first day of sophomore year, she has yet to be cool. “I want to be invited to a party with hard drugs,” she prays, “not to do them, but just to say: no cocaine for me, thanks. I’m good.”

The show is narrated by tennis legend John McEnroe who was known for his explosive temper (played recently by Shia Laboeuf in Borg vs McEnroe). It’s a genius arc because Devi is a “hothead”, exactly like McEnroe. Instead of recoiling, Devi keeps boiling over, making for a fresh and original high-school comedy.

27. My Mad Fat Diary

7.8

Country

UK, United Kingdom

Actors

Ciara Baxendale, Claire Rushbrook, Dan Cohen, Ian Hart

Moods

Binge-Worthy, Character-driven, Emotional

Sixteen-year-old Rae Earl struggles with many things, among them: severe mental illness, a distorted body image, and less-than-ideal home life. In an attempt to redefine herself and pursue the teenage dream she’s always wanted, she reconnects with her estranged friend Chloe and the cool new people she’s met in Rae’s absence. As Rae gets to know this group more, she embarks on a coming-of-age journey that is, at turns, hilarious, awkward, and painfully real.

Set in ‘90s-era UK and scored to the unbeatable, headbanging tunes of English rock, My Mad Fat Diary is also an effective throwback of a show. It’s sure to be nostalgic to those who grew up in that era, while also doubling as a finely-aged portrait of a simpler time to the rest of us. Elevated, too, by diary doodles come to life and Rae’s unflinching witticisms, the series is a gem for anyone who has struggled to come to terms with their teenage self. 

28. Heartstopper

7.8

Country

United Kingdom

Actors

Kit Connor, William Gao, Yasmin Finney

Moods

Binge-Worthy, Character-driven, Feel-Good

Life should be difficult for Charlie Spring, an openly gay student in an all-boys high school. And it is, to be sure—he’s mocked, ridiculed, and at times literally shoved to the sidelines. But Hearstopper doesn’t just dwell on misery; rather, it shows us the many colors, the multifaceted wonders, of Charlie’s life. His friends, family, and newfound crush, Nick, help keep him afloat in the murky waters of teenhood.

Like the show itself, Charlie and Nick are insistently sweet and charming, which can feel bold in a world that is driven by so much cynicism and hate. It’s this glowing sensitivity, coupled with the show’s inclusive characters and levelheaded insight, that make Hearstopper a heartwarmingly good watch. 

29. Boy Swallows Universe

7.8

Country

Australia, United Kingdom, United States of America

Actors

Felix Cameron, Lee Halley, Phoebe Tonkin, Simon Baker

Moods

Challenging, Emotional, Heart-warming

Coming-of-age shows are practically Netflix’s bread-and-butter, but the working class side of Brisbane in the 80’s is a suburb we didn’t expect the international streamer to visit. Based on the semi-autobiographical novel with the same name, Boy Swallows Universe is centered on the precocious Eli Bell, whose age and curiosity naturally pushes him to try and figure out how he fits in the world. There are some magic realist elements, and the crimes escalate as we go further and further into the miniseries, but the show shines best when depicting the slow, day-to-day moments in Bell’s family. The show never judges them, nor does it totally excuse their actions. Instead, Boy Swallows Universe depicts a certain nostalgic compassion one could only have for their hometown, regardless of how downtrodden it is.

30. One Day

7.8

Country

United Kingdom

Actors

Amber Grappy, Ambika Mod, Essie Davis, Leo Woodall

Moods

Character-driven, Depressing, Emotional

With a film version that didn’t live up to the hype of the original novel, Netflix’s adaptation of One Day released just in time to wreck the fans’ hearts all over again, but this time, it’s a good thing. The expanded runtime allowed Netflix to delve more into the moments in the novel, with each episode dedicated to a day in the year in Emma’s and Dexter’s lives, contrasting their respective worlds and opportunities available to them as different members of London society. And the couple is played beautifully by Leo Woodall and Ambika Mod, with a believable chemistry that isn’t formed in a single spark, but made in multiple moments. If you’re needing a good cry just right before Valentine’s Day, One Day is a superb slow burn romance to let those tears out.

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