Tonight, Riverdale returns to the CW, in all its gory, maple-syrupy glory. There are hot teachers, hotter parents, lots of abs, rival gangs, evil cheerleaders, and regular, run-of-the-mill teen horniness and dysfunctional relationships. Everyone’s name is somehow absurd, and there’s plenty of intrigue afoot in a town built by a maple-syrup empire (and soon, it will add Riley Keough!).
The show’s concoction of mystery, intrigue, and high-school libido isn’t exactly a rarity, though it is hard to pull off with such finesse. To that end, Vulture has put together a list of equally fun, frantic teen dramas with equally hot make-outs (think: The O.C.’s upside-down kiss, Gossip Girl’s limo sex scene, or anything that happens on Pretty Little Liars). These shows have to be over the top in some way — any show where there isn’t at least one surprise ridiculous death or a parent hitting on their child’s significant other simply cannot compete. Misfits, Awkward., NYC Prep — these shows have varying levels of mischief and mayhem, but they all prioritize what really counts in high school: cliques, group texts, and love triangles that are delicious until they’re devastating.
13. NYC Prep
After the success of Gossip Girl, why wouldn’t reality-TV producers cash in on interest in the glittering lives of Manhattan’s elite? Those elite weren’t exactly available, but Bravo found the next best thing: the kids of NYC Prep, a reality show where each character seemed modeled after a GG counterpart. Sebastian was Nate with longer bangs, Camille was a Blair with similarly lofty Ivy ambitions, Jessie’s hair was blonde like Serena’s, PC was the spoiled Chuck Bass, Taylor was the public school Jenny Humphrey. Compared to any other show’s sex, drugs, and SATs, NYC Prep was relatively buttoned up, which makes it the least horny on this list. But it’s still teeming with sexual tension, and maybe funnier for its awkward-teen reality-show dating.
12. Friday Night Lights
The Dillon Panthers have more abs than every other show on this list combined, but Friday Night Lights actually labors to be a realistic and moving drama about family and friendship and coming of age. No one gets caught having sex in a shower or falls off a cliff or launches competing slumber parties. There’s just Tim Riggins and the Taylors and Matt Saracen trying to win football games and get into college (and our own theories on which of these Texans would’ve voted for Donald Trump in the 2016 election). As good as FNL is, its dramatics and sex appeal is in a separate universe from shows like Pretty Little Liars or Skins.
I prefer my teen dramas gritty and poorly lit, but 90210 made a fair case for West Coast dramatics. There’s little murder-y intrigue here but there are sex tapes, contrived undercover schemes, premature deaths, and lots and lots of kissing in open-floor-plan homes with floor-to-ceiling windows, which is at least glamorous in theory.
10. 13 Reasons Why
The mental-health drama executive-produced by Selena Gomez has plenty of heavy material: On top of high school’s normal drama, the students of Liberty High deal with sexual assault, school shootings, drugs, and Hannah Baker’s suicide. But like every teen drama, it has enough material for a stan to cut into a kiss reel. Season one is mostly focused on the flirtationship of Hannah and Clay and the ramifications of one experimental kiss between Hannah and Courtney, but season two reveals a surprising, sexy summerlong fling between Hannah and Zach.
9. Teen Wolf
A werewolf bit Scott McCall the night before his sophomore year of high school, which complicates the whole back-to-school thing. Now he’s hotter, with sharper instincts and more alarming rage. Scott juggles mastering his new abilities with regular high-school stuff, like dating (a girl who conveniently is the daughter of his werewolf-hunting nemesis), parties, lacrosse games, and homework. Teen Wolf’s season one is passable, but season two’s supernatural drama is when the show starts to improve. Scott discovers more of the creatures lurking in and around Beacon Hills High School, and not just because Tyler Posey gets a haircut.
8. The Vampire Diaries
When Vampire Diaries began, it was basically True Blood for the teen set. Elena Gilbert is in love with two vampire brothers — Stefan and Damon Salvatore — but does it really matter what’s happening when the only criteria to join the show is that you can smolder with the appropriate amount of gloomy sex appeal? These teens kiss to Sara Bareilles songs, make out in motels, woods, and on deathbeds. (Sure!) There are lots of furrowed brows and sexual tension here, but the regular high-school teen drama falls by the wayside.
Awkward seems like a straightforward entry into the canon of teen love triangles: The only real plot developments here are that everyone sleeps with everyone else, and the consequences are predictably devastating in that extremely internet way where someone just has to blog about the whole thing. The blogger in question is Jenna Hamilton, who was secretly hooking up with popular guy Matty, until she became friends with his best friend Jake, and eventually she and Jake start dating, and Matty is their third wheel. But obviously Matty and Jenna still have feelings for each other, and eventually Jake starts dating Jenna’s best friend, and round and round it goes. Vulture declared Awkward MTV’s best scripted show during the slog of remakes (Skins) and pre-big-dick-energy shows about having a big dick (The Hard Times of RJ Berger) on MTV in 2010, and for good reason: It seems like mediocre teen TV, but it’s a lot more sly with a brainiac like Jenna at its center.
6. The O.C.
Teen angst came freshly bronzed and wearing a bikini on The O.C., the show about a group of wealthy-but-jaded California teens. Ryan and Marissa are hot; Seth and Summer are relatable; and there are plenty of the sexually frustrated make-out scenes that only wholesome teens on a Fox show who listen to Death Cab for Cutie can have. Summer wore a Wonder Woman bustier and Seth almost fainted. Marissa’s mom slept with her ex-boyfriend. Mischa Barton kissed Olivia Wilde. But is there anything hornier and teen-ier than Seth and Summer re-creating Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst’s Spider-Man upside-down kiss?
Maybe you’re looking for a Riverdale-adjacent show that is not only horny but very murder-y, too. Enter Netflix’s new international drama, Elite: It’s a Big Little Lies’ murder mystery dressed in a Gossip Girl’s school uniform. Three working-class kids transfer into Spain’s most exclusive private school after an earthquake destroys their old school. (They’re gifted scholarships by the construction company looking for a little bit of good PR.) Rather quickly, the trio are sucked into the rumor mill: One boy has a crush on the school’s popular rebel, another starts hooking up with a popular girl with a boyfriend, and the two leaders of the popular pack are indebted to the third transfer student after she catches them having sex in the showers. Elite is just as slick as its American counterparts, with much more scandal.
Come on: Even the title sounds like a scandal in the making! Through three generations and seven seasons, Skins was Europe’s naughtiest and most emo export: Tony, Sid, Cassie, Michelle, Chris, Maxxie, and Anwar fall in and out of crushes, addictions, anxiety, and angst. What other show could pull off a monologue about adolescent infidelity that ends with the lines, “It didn’t mean anything but I lost my head, then he gave me head, then we got deported from Russia and I’m really, really sorry for being a slut, okay?”
Skins, but with superpowers: When five wayward teens doing court-ordered community service are caught in a thunderstorm, they’re struck by lighting and get special abilities. (Alisha’s whole special power is that anyone who touches her skin loses their mind over her prowess.) As they navigate gaining and losing new powers, the gang manages their angst and finds solace in their mutual feelings of being misunderstood: there are dysfunctional relationships, resurrections, and an alternate timeline where Hitler wins World War II. Misfits’ most iconic, salacious scene is also an entirely G-rated one: The boys look on wide-eyed as Alisha recounts asking an officer if she should suck or blow on a breathalyzer.
2. Pretty Little Liars
Got a secret, can you keep it? Swear this one you’ll save … so begins the iconic Pretty Little Liars theme song, which prefaces every installment of this murderous and very hot drama. Queen bee Alison has gone missing from Rosewood, and her former friends Spencer, Aria, Hanna, and Emily are minding their own business until they start getting curious messages from a mystery “A.” Is Alison alive and back, or is someone else (with goals more nefarious than Gossip Girl’s hunt for web traffic) messing with them? There are fell-off-a-cliff deaths, bodies buried in backyards, a secret message found in Hanna’s teeth, coffins, mini-coffins, one girl was blinded (?!), and Aria’s cry-face. Bliss!
1. Gossip Girl
Gossip Girl’s Upper East Side high-school socialites — Blair and Serena and Chuck and Nate — weren’t Stephanie Savage and Josh Schwartz’s first foray into the happenings of extremely beautiful teenagers, but it was the first one with drama that everyone wanted to talk about online. Gossip Girl watched as her subjects hooked up and acted out: queen bee Blair lost her virginity to jaded rich boy Chuck in the backseat of a limo (right after an iconic burlesque-club striptease); cool girl Serena thought she killed someone during a threeway gone awry. There were marriages and divorces and highly steamy one-night stands and Lisa Loeb, all documented in the low pixelation of pre-iPhone camera phones.