It’s back-to-school time. Ugh, I still get that kind of tingly, excited-but-nervous feeling, even though it’s been years since I graduated university. I also still get the immense urge to buy twenty different kinds of pens (blue! red! pink! purple! artsy! GEL!). And y’know what else I get the immense urge to do? Watch high school dramas. Because yeah, “school” can mean a lot of things, but in the TV world, “school” should only ever mean “high school”. Cute boys, bitchy girls, rich kids, rugby teams, chem nerds, teen pregnancy, student body elections, cafeterias, gossip, drugs… TV high schools are bubbling cauldrons of drama and bullsh-t.
In case you have a similar urge to drown yourself in back-to-school TV fare, here’s a list of some of the best, most indulgent high school dramas on Netflix Canada right now. What better use could you possibly have for your Labour Day weekend?
1. Pretty Little Liars The summer finale just aired — what better time to catch up? And if you’re all caught up, what better time to go back and watch from the beginning? If you were as bowled over by The Big Reveal as I was, you’ll want to go hunting for all the clues you missed (or reassure yourself that there just weren’t many clues, and you’re not as stupid as you feared). In the case of this drama, high school is mostly inconsequential. But it is the setting for some love stories and conflicts, and the thing that’s putting a (curiously unacknowledged) time limit on the characters’ involvement with one another — so it counts. If you’re not already wrapped up in the phenomenon that is PLL, then I don’t know what to tell you that THE ENTIRE WORLD (including myself) hasn’t told you already. It’s awesome, it’s all-consuming, it’s obsession-worthy, it’s clever, it’s devious… And the girls — the Liars in question — are impossible not to root for.
2. 90210 Netflix Canada has the original version, but that came before my turbulent adolescence, so I never got to know Kelly or Dylan or Donna. I’m here to proselytize to you about the reboot: shirtless Liam, clueless Navid, unbearable Dixon, baby-crazy Silver, batsh-t crazy Adriana, and queen Naomi. I know the ratings stank and it’s since been cancelled, but I love it. Always will. Even the “poor” kids are rich. Teenagers drive Bentleys and start record labels and everyone’s always either at the beach or driving around town looking for each other. Parties are a big deal. Naomi’s hair vacillates mysteriously between curly and wavy. Annie freaks out a lot. Liam is a magnet for all kinds of crazy sh-t. Very few scenes actually happen at school. It’s just… pure magic.
3. Hemlock Grove When it comes to high school dramas, poor critical reception often correlates with dishy and indulgent content. Such is the case with this Netflix original series. I wrote about how weird and familiar but also really fun Hemlock Grove is back when it premiered. It’s satisfying in an expected, trope-y way. As with PLL and 90210, actual high school is pretty absent from this high school drama. But it is very teenage in its lust, angst, rumours, drugs, and shirtlessness. It’s very, very cheesy — but I dare you to watch it and not to have a good time.
4. Square Pegs I already mentioned this one a while back in my list of Netflix’s awesome ’80s shows, but it deserves a second push. Not only because it’s so much pastel/neon ’80s, but also because it’s so much teen angst and cheesy sitcom humour. Sarah Jessica Parker’s massive hair is stellar, and I want every one of her bad sweaters. Square Pegs is very much filled with “I want the boy. Can I get the boy?” scenarios and “Let’s be cool this year, ‘kay?” BFF pacts. SO GOOD.
5. Degrassi Jr. High and Degrassi High God, if you want (pre-)teen angst, Degrassi is the place you need to be. Degrassi: Next Generation may be a modern genre classic, but these are the O.G.s. As with Square Pegs, these Degrassi originals give you all the deliciously hyperbolic drama of high school and a historical setting. (TV set in the ’80s and ’90s count as “period pieces” now, right? Does that make you feel old?)
6. Blue Water High I’ve only seen the pilot of this show, so I can’t elaborate much. Just let me say this: Beautiful, sun-kissed, Australian teens at surfing school. PLEASE. Not only will this show quench the nostalgia for high school, it will also ease that illogical sense of imminent winter that always comes with the start of the school year.
So that’s that. Did I miss anything? High school dramas are my crack, so please, enable my addiction and tell me what I should watch this weekend (aside from beautiful Australians surfing).