Looking for TV shows like Riverdale? You and the rest of us who are hooked on the CW’s dark, teen drama.
Riverdale is based — loosely based — on Archie comics. Most of the main characters come straight from the comic book’s pages: Archie, Betty, Veronica, Jughead and Josie and the Pussycats. Like Archie, Riverdale is full of teenage love triangles and brand-name parodies, like Glamazon.com (Amazon.com) and American Excess (American Express). Unlike Archie, it’s also full of murder, drugs, street gangs and conspiracy plots.
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I got hooked on Riverdale over the holidays, when I was free to binge-watch the whole first season on Netflix. A friend of mine had recommended Riverdale, so I figured I’d watch the first episode, just to be able to say honestly that I had given it a go. One episode turned into two, two into three, and several peppermint cocoas later, I was hooked.
I can’t believe I’m a fan of Riverdale. I’m too old for that, right? I mean, when Archie takes off his shirt, I don’t get all slobbery. I get more, like, “Honey, it’s cold in Vancouver (where the Riverdale is filmed). Put that shirt back on!”
I told another friend of mine that I was addicted to Riverdale. In turn, she got hooked! That makes three middle-aged women, in this blog post alone, who are unable to look away from the train wreck that is Archie Andrews.
Why is Riverdale so addictive? In the time-honored tradition of teen dramas, Riverdale has a successful formula: good-looking kids + soapy stories + melodrama + the occasional life lesson learned. The gorgeous clothes and dreamy homes don’t hurt anything, either. (Plus, I feel super hip when I’m able to use Veronica’s lingo in a sentence.)
Now that we’re addicted, we want more TV shows like Riverdale. I trolled through my gauzy memories to pull together a list of teen dramas from the past that had the same appeal. Check out these awesomely addictive TV shows like Riverdale when you need your teen angst fix.
(You can also watch my YouTube video or download my podcast for TV shows like Riverdale. Just scroll to the bottom of this post.)
Beginning in 1990, these cool kids from Beverly Hills spent ten seasons exploring after-school special material. They survived high school, graduated, then went to college. Kelly, Dylan, David, Donna, Andrea, Brandon and Brenda fell in and out of love, and became alternately friends and enemies (and friends again). I remember when 90210 ended. Friends of mine felt like a phase of their lives had come to an end, because they grew up with these crazy kids.
Riverdale connections: Luke Perry, who played Dylan, plays Archie’s Dad on Riverdale. Plus, Pop’s Chock’Lit Shoppe and the Peach Pit are very similar.
Awards: Nominated for three Golden Globes, including Best Television Series – Drama in 1993. (I know. I can’t believe it, either.)
#8 Dawson’s Creek
Dawson’s Creek successfully launched the careers of its four stars: James Van Der Beek (Dawson), Katie Holmes (Joey), Michelle Williams (Jen) and Joshua Jackson (Pacey). In the beginning, Dawson and Joey were learning to navigate romantic waters after spending their entire lives as childhood BFFs. As Dawson’s Creek progressed through six seasons, the kids dealt with problems that ranged from existential crises and to pregnancy scares.
Riverdale connections: Just like Riverdale, Dawson’s Creek manages to mix and match the four main characters more often than seems mathematically possible.
Awards: Joshua Jackson won three Teen Choice Awards.
#7 Party of Five
Before Matthew Fox was ordering everyone on the island around in Lost, he was ordering everyone around on Party of Five. He played the oldest of five siblings whose parents were killed by a drunk driver. They were forced to raise themselves, with lots of squabbling and drama along the way. Like, a lot of drama.
Riverdale connections: An ensemble show with high-stakes stories.
Awards: Party of Five won a Golden Globe for Best Television Series – Drama in 1996.
So, you think you “discovered” Chris Pratt on Parks and Recreation? Nope! Before Pratt became Peter Quill in Guardians of the Galaxy, he played Bright Abbott on Everwood. Everwood was about a widow who moved to a sleepy Colorado town with his two children. His son, Ephram, and Bright’s sister, Amy, have great chemistry in their on-again, off-again teen relationship.
Riverdale connections: No wonder this soapy teen-centered show reminds me of Riverdale. They’re both executive produced by Greg Berlanti!
Awards: Nominated for Emmys and SAGs, but never won.
#5 The O.C.
A street-tough kid ends up in a snobby, rich neighborhood where he falls for the girl and she returns his affection, for the most part. The O.C. was hot hot hot when it aired from 2003 to 2007. It launched the careers of Ben McKenzie (now on Gotham), Adam Brody (StartUp), Rachel Bilson (Nashville) and Mischa Barton (Recovery Road). (Chris Pratt had a recurring role on The O.C. too!)
Riverdale connections: Here, again, is a soapy show set about four teens in a suburb where the haves and the have-nots are pitted against each other. In The O.C., however, the grown-ups create as much drama as the kids.
Awards: Won a bunch of Teen Choice Awards, natch.
#4 One Tree Hill
You might think One Tree Hill was an address, but you’d be wrong. You see, if you lived in the fictitious town of Tree Hill, then you knew there was only One Tree Hill. Because it was so awesome. Get it? Well, nebulous title aside, this drama about two basketball star brothers competing for their father’s love on and off the court was crazy addictive. People were up-SET when it was canceled.
Riverdale connections: Instead of Riverdale’s football team being the crowning glory of the high school, it’s the basketball team.
Awards: Chad Michael Murray, who played Lucas, one of the basketball brothers, was the break-out star, winning a Teen Choice Award more than once.
#3 Degrassi High
Degrassi High isn’t just the oldest TV show on this list. It’s also Canadian. Degrassi High was all aboot the teens who were oot and aboot on Degrassi Street. The reason Degrassi was so addictive wasn’t the stellar acting or the riveting dialog or the suspenseful plots. Degrassi was addictive despite those things. These were regular teens playing themselves as hard as they could. The series captured the essence of the ’80s, along with the awkwardness that comes with being a teen.
Riverdale connections: As much as I love Riverdale, you gotta admit that sometimes that acting is a bit sketch, y’know?
Awards: Won an International Emmy Award and a bunch of other awards you’ve never heard of.
#2 My So-Called Life
Although My So-Called Life only aired for one season, an IMDb user says, “It is a travesty of justice that it was ever cancelled.” How’s that for a review? The success of My So-Called Life allowed other teen-centered shows to explore more territory than Happy Days ever dreamed of. My So-Called Life focused on Angela Chase, a 15 year-old girl dealing with the pressures of high school. It was the first TV series to portray the problems of modern teens, like drugs, confusing sexuality, violence and divorced parents. Most of the romantic drama revolves around Angela and her boyfriend, Jordan.
Riverdale connection: Teens must not only deal with their own problems, but also the fallout from their parents’ problems.
Awards: Claire Danes won a Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series – Drama.
#1 Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Yes, Buffy the Vampire Slayer is #1 on this list of teen dramas. This is my blog, honey; of course Buffy the Vampire Slayer nabbed the top spot. (In fact, it’s very possible that I wrote this entire blog post just to mention Buffy the Vampire Slayer.) It may be the only TV show on this list that had a supernatural element, but vampires and demons were only stand-ins for the enormous problems teenagers face. Creator Joss Whedon always said that he never felt like Buffy the Vampire Slayer was any less hellish than your average high school. The series started with Buffy coming to terms with her identity and crushing on a mysterious dude. By the time the show ended, Buffy the Vampire Slayer had explored death, the afterlife, homosexuality, addiction, betrayal, redemption and a whole host of other epic themes.
Riverdale connections: Teen romance and drama with lots of pop culture references sprinkled on top.
Awards: Won Emmy awards for music and make-up. Sarah Michelle Gellar was nominated for a Golden Globe for her performance as Buffy.
If you watch any of these TV shows like Riverdale, I’d love to hear your thoughts. Feel free to comment below!
Thanks for reading!