Today, online streaming services make binge-watching so much easier than it used to be. Back in the day, we’d have to await new releases on TV every week, and even sit through — gasp! — commercials. Either that, or we’d have to purchase a box set of DVDs (!!!) just so we could watch an entire series from start to finish at our leisure. But no matter the case, all the effort was worth it, so long as I could devour all the teen drama series I absolutely lived for when I was in high school.
While I certainly enjoy watching the exciting new shows that continue to be released on a regular basis, there’s nothing quite like the teen dramas of the early 2000s. Perhaps it was because they came out when I was a teen myself — back when the littlest dilemmas felt like the most monumental problems I would ever experience in my life. As an angsty teen, these shows made me feel oh so seen.
The thing is, whenever I have the time to revisit them (and even binge-watch them from start to finish), they seem to instantly take me back to the good ol’ days. The annoying characters still make my eyes roll, the kilig scenes still make me smile goofily to myself, and all the heart-wrenching moments hit in just the same way — sometimes, even more profoundly than before. If you were a big fan too, perhaps you can relate: They truly just don’t make ’em like they used to. For nostalgia’s sake, we look back on some of the most iconic teen series of the early 2000s and reminisce on all the storylines we can’t help but miss.
Iconic ’00s teen drama series we need to rewatch, ASAP
1. Gilmore Girls (2000-2007)
Stream it on: Netflix
Oh, how we miss the fictional town of Stars Hollow! Having premiered in 2000, Gilmore Girls was the first of many teen drama series we found ourselves engrossed with. The show, which ran for seven seasons, revolves around Rory and Lorelai Gilmore — a quirky yet endearing, fast-talking, best friends-slash-mother-and-daughter duo. Together, they navigate issues on family, friendship, and — most of all — love.
Gilmore Girls fans can relate to how Lorelai and Luke’s slow-burning love story was the ultimate test of patience, and how even that would have to be an understatement. Meanwhile, it was just as frustrating to see Rory fall in love with (and break the hearts of) just about every one of our teen crushes: Chad Michael Murray, Jared Padalecki, Milo Ventimiglia, Matt Czuchry, and so on. But of course, we couldn’t help but keep on watching. That’s the beauty of the teen drama series, after all: It makes you feel all sorts of things and leaves you wanting more.
The series was actually rebooted back in 2016, but fans weren’t quite as happy about it as they expected to be. In the case of my own close friends, the revival basically just inspired them to watch the original series from the start — because it was that much better!
2. The OC (2003-2007)
Stream it on: HBO Max, All4
I still remember how I ended up getting hooked on The OC. My best friend called me out of the blue telling me, “I can’t stop crying, I just watched the finale of The OC!” At the time, I’d never watched a single episode of the hit teen drama series; but I lived for teen magazines like Bop, Tiger Beat, and J-14, and the stars of The OC would always grace their pages. Even though I didn’t follow the series, Adam Brody was already one of my top celebrity crushes — and I realised it was about time I started tuning in to his show!
In The OC, Ryan Atwood is thrown out of his home in Chino after his single mom and older brother continue to make one bad decision out of another. Upon realising he has nowhere else to go, his public defender, Sandy Cohen, decides to take him in. What Ryan soon realises is that the Cohens are from a whole other world — the wealthy society of Newport Beach, to be exact. Ryan then befriends Sandy’s son, the awkward Seth Cohen; and despite their startlingly different personalities, one of the most iconic on-screen bromances develops between the two.
On his first day in Newport, Ryan also meets next-door neighbour Marissa Cooper (who happens to be BFFs with Seth’s longtime crush, Summer Roberts), with whom he shares an instant attraction. And for those of us who watched the series from start to finish, how could we forget their iconic first exchange? “Who are you?” “Whoever you want me to be.” What ensues is an endless string of (disastrous) high-society events, wild teenage partying, heartwarming family moments, love triangle after love triangle, and — of course — a whole lot of drama.
3. One Tree Hill (2003-2012)
Stream it on: Hulu, All4
I’ll admit, I was late to the One Tree Hill party. Back in the day, they seemed to put this series against The OC, and I was fiercely loyal to the latter. After seeing some cute posts on Tumblr (so much #throwback feels!), I finally caved and started watching OTH. The verdict? I have absolutely no regrets. (I might have even loved it more than The OC.)
One Tree Hill centres on two half-brothers — the broody and mysterious Lucas Scott, who comes from a simple single-parent family; and the wealthy and arrogant Nathan Scott, who also happens to be the star of the basketball team. There’s a lot of bad blood between the two, although they’ve managed to stay away from each other for most of their lives — until Lucas is wooed into trying out for the basketball team and ends up befriending Nathan’s longtime girlfriend Peyton Sawyer, and even gets into a relationship with her bestie, Brooke Davis.
Nathan, wanting to get back at Lucas for “invading his world”, attempts to seduce the latter’s best friend, Haley James, by asking her to tutor him. His plan backfires when he actually falls for her — and Nathan and Lucas’ separate worlds inevitably merge into one.
There’s loads of character development on One Tree Hill (I mean, it ran for a whopping nine seasons!), but let’s be real: What we’re really all here for is the romance. OTH lovers, are you #TeamNaley, #TeamBrucas, or #TeamLeyton?
4. Gossip Girl (2007-2012)
Stream it on: HBO Max
Sure, a Gossip Girl reboot is in the works — but we’re certain it just won’t be the same. The teen drama series, based on Cicily von Ziegesar’s novels of the same name, presently continues to gain new fans. Despite that it went off the air almost 10 years ago, I’ve discovered people at least 10 years my junior getting hooked on the series today! (To give you a better idea, GG premiered when I was in my freshman year of high school 14 years ago.)
In Gossip Girl, an anonymous blogger would dissect the lives of Manhattan’s elite (along with a handful of Brooklynites!) and put it on display for everyone to read about. The series saw an insane amount of drama — from BFFs fighting over one guy, to secret-half siblings and illegitimate children, to scandalous affairs. Considering that these characters start out as 16-year-olds, it’s all a little unbelievable (but we couldn’t turn it off, anyway)!
As the series went on, we couldn’t help but get attached to all the characters and their respective stories: Serena and Blair’s fragile best friendship, Rufus and Lily’s rekindled high school romance, Dan and Serena being both step siblings and boyfriend and girlfriend (?!), and not least of all, the unending saga that was Chuck and Blair’s on-again, off-again relationship. And despite that questionable big reveal during the series finale (we’ll hold the spoilers in case any of you haven’t seen it just yet), we can’t seem to resist rewatching the series from the start every time we start to miss it!
5. Skins (2007-2013)
Stream it on: Hulu
British teen drama series Skins was quite controversial back in the day, due to its portrayal of sex and drugs. (Little did they know these types of shows would be commonplace today!) The show eventually grew such a great following that a US version of the series was released in 2011. Needless to say, however, nothing could beat the original version — the British accents were key!
Skins lasted seven whole seasons and covered three different generations, each of which involved a group of teens based in Bristol. OG fans know that Nicholas Hoult and Dev Patel appeared in the first seasons before landing their more iconic roles on X-Men: First Class and Slumdog Millionaire, respectively!
Sex and drugs aside, what truly set this teen drama series apart from the rest was that it didn’t have a popular-boy-meets-quiet-girl kind of story line; neither did it focus on an outsider penetrating the rich, cool kids’ world. Instead, Skins shed light on “uglier”, true-to-life issues: drug abuse, physical abuse, death, dysfunctional families, and various mental health disorders. Because each character had their own share of troubles, the love stories on the show were anything but easy, too. Looking back, it can be said that the series helped pave the way for more shows to touch on these sensitive topics — it was definitely way ahead of its time.
6. 90210 (2008-2013)
Stream it on: All4
A spinoff of Darren Star’s hit ’90s TV series Beverly Hills, 90210, this show presented a whole new generation of drama — but in the same ol’ zip code. 90210 focused on Beverly Hills newcomers Annie and Dixon Wilson, who moved to the city from Kansas. (And no, they definitely were not in Kansas anymore!)
While, in characteristic teen drama fashion, 90210 depicts the lives of privileged teenagers, the show presents us with lots of life lessons, too. The series touches on usual issues like teen pregnancy, drug abuse, and extramarital affairs, while also exploring not-so-typical tropes like a traumatic hit-and-run, coming out as homosexual, physical abuse, and assisted suicide. Serious topics aside, 90210 also served us with loads of kilig scenes and heartwarming family stories that make it so worth binge-watching again and again!
Oh, how we miss the early 2000s! We’ll take all this teen drama over our real-life drama, thank you very much. Are your fave series on this list? Let us know in the comments section!
Featured image credit: Gossip Girl, The OC, and One Tree Hill Official IMDb Pages