The modern television landscape is defined by influential and ambitious shows for and about teenagers. Groundbreaking series like Euphoria, Sex Education, and Pen15 dominate awards season and lead the way when it comes to progressive, diverse, and creative storytelling. So how did we get here from Beverly Hills, 90210?
In Freaks, Gleeks, and Dawson’s Creek, entertainment journalist Thea Glassman takes readers behind the scenes of seven of the most culturally significant series of the last three decades, drawing on dozens of new interviews with showrunners, cast, crewmembers, and more. These shows not only launched the careers of such superstars as Will Smith, Michael B. Jordan, Claire Danes, and Seth Rogen, but they also took young people seriously, proving that teen TV could be smart, revolutionary, and “important”—and stay firmly entrenched in pop culture long after it finished airing. And while many critics insist that prestige dramas like The Sopranos and Mad Men paved the way for television, some of the most groundbreaking work was actually happening inside the fictional hallways of high schools across America in teen shows whose impact remains visible on our screens today.