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10 Shows Like 'Dawson's Creek' to Watch Next

The iconic teen drama premiered 25 years ago, so if you need a new teen drama to binge, check out the below 10 series.

Allison Bowsher
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The cast of 'Dawson's Creek'

Getty Images

It's been 25 years since creator Kevin Williamson's beloved Dawson's Creek (Metascore: 62) premiered on The WB. The drama quickly gained critical praise and a loyal viewership thanks to its handling of difficult storylines, including homophobia, broken homes, and affairs. Plus, there were plenty of gif-worthy scenes

The series centered on budding filmmaker Dawson Leery (James Van Der Beek), who lives with his parents in Capeside, Mass. The 15-year-old high school student spends most of his time with best friends Pacey Witter (Joshua Jackson), a funny underacheiver who comes from an abusive home, and Joey Potter (Katie Holmes), the no-nonesense girl next door who is being raised by her older sister. The trio's friend group, which would become the basis for a series-long love triangle, expands with the arrival of city girl Jen Lindley (Michelle Williams), and eventually more characters, including closested football player Jack (Kerr Smith) and his sister Andie (Meredith Monroe), who struggles with undiagnosed mental health issues. 

Over six seasons, the teen characters graduate high school and move on to college and full-time careers with varying degrees of success. Their friendship and families often bring them back to their small town, including in the series finale, which takes place years in the future.

Unlike most coming of age shows, the teens on Dawson's Creek discuss their complicated feelings of love and friendship with dialogue that was significantly advanced for the YA landscape at the time, giving young viewers a show that spoke directly (not down) to them. The series also has a penchant for layered debates and discussions around pop culture, while at the same time creating several notable pop culture moments of its own, including helping to launch the career of Paula Cole, whose song "I Don't Want To Wait" was used as the show's opening theme. 

To celebrate the 25th anniversary of the premiere of Dawson's Creek, we are looking at 10 other shows that YA fans will love to binge, ranked by their Metascore.


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Claire Danes and Jared Leto in 'My So-Called Life'

ABC

My So-Called Life

Metascore: 92
Best for: Anyone who has felt the angst of being a teen
Where to watch:

, Google Play, Hulu, iTunes, Vudu
Seasons: 1

The teen years represent a small snapshot of a long life, yet the events that transpire during this time can result in some of the most formative and enduring changes in one's understanding of self. In that regard, it's almost perfect that My So-Called Life ended after one season, representing a short-lived but hugely influential collection of episodes in the wider pop culture landscape. Predating Dawson's Creek, My So-Called Life stars Claire Danes as 15-year-old Angela Chase, a middle class high schooler who realistically navigates family strife, friendships, and first loves. Both shows were applauded for the way they handled serious subject matter for the teen characters, as well as dramatic storylines for the on-screen parents.

"Easily the best show about the teen experience TV has yet produced." — Liam Lacey, The Globe and Mail


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Linda Cardellini and Jason Segel in 'Freaks and Geeks'

NBC

Freaks and Geeks

Metascore: 88
Best for: Seeing today's A-listers in their first coming-of-age comedy roles
Where to watch:

, Google PlayHulu, iTunes, Paramount+, Pluto TV, Vudu
Seasons: 1

My So-Called Life is often discussed in the same breath as Paul Feig and Judd Apatow's Freaks and Geeks as another cult-classic coming-of-age series that tragically ended after only one (nearly) perfect season. Set in the early 1980s, the series is as known for its realistic portrayal of teen suburban life as it is for casting some of today's biggest actors in their earliest roles, including Jason Segel, Linda Cardellini, Seth Rogen, and Busy Philipps, who would go on to star on Dawson's Creek. Like Dawson's Creek, Freaks and Geeks acts as a time capsule for teenagehood thanks to its accurate portrayal of popular (freaks) and nerdy (geeks) high schoolers.

"In mere minutes and with a few instantly evocative images, Freaks draws its characters more precisely than some shows do in a season." — Robert Bianco, USA Today


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Scott Speedman and Keri Russell in 'Felicity'

Buena Vista Television

Felicity

Metascore: 87
Best for: Collegiate enthusiasts who love a love triangle
Where to watch:

, Google Play, Hulu, iTunes, Vudu
Seasons: 4

If Dawson's Creek and Felicity went head-to-head to decide which show had more of an impact on teen viewers in the late 1990s, the winner would come down to a photo finish. Like Dawson's Creek, this series is named for protagonist Felicity Porter (Keri Russell), a college student in NYC with her own heavily debated love triangle of bad boy Ben (Scott Speedman) and nice guy Noel (Scott Foley). The series features a seriousness and sophistication within its coming-of-age storytelling, focusing on such previously taboo topics as consent. Both shows also pull off the almost impossible with time-hopping finale episodes that appease fans who want every character to have a happy ending.  

"Despite its requisite melodrama, it is emotionally plausible and endearing." — James Collins, Time


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The cast of 'Heartstopper'

Netflix

Heartstopper

Metascore: 85
Best for: Romance fans who have been waiting for an LGBTQ+-friendly series
Where to watch: Netflix
Seasons: 1 (so far)

Dawson's Creek never shied away from the excruciating beauty of first loves and neither does the Netflix series Heartstopper. Based on Alice Oseman's graphic novel, the series follows a group of teens navigating high school and their love lives. Heartstopper stands out from the YA crowd by featuring several LGBTQ+ characters, including protagonist Nick (Kit Connor), an openly gay teen, and his friend Elle (Yasmin Finney), who is transgender. Dawson's Creek and its first on-screen gay kiss walked so Heartstopper could run.

"It's the kind of gem that rarely pushes its characters and their stories. Instead, it allows them to feel as gradual and real as possible, ensuring that its wisdom within strikes especially true." — Nick Allen, The Playlist


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Minka Kelly and Taylor Kitsch in 'Friday Night Lights'

NBC

Friday Night Lights

Metascore: 83
Best for: Fans of drama, football, and inspiring coaches
Where to watch:

, Google Play, Hulu, iTunes, Netflix, Peacock, Vudu
Seasons: 5

Football and cheerleading may have only played a small role in a few episodes of Dawson's Creek, but sports take the spotlight in Friday Night Lights. Like Dawson's Creek, this drama also focuses on a group of high schoolers and a handful of adults, including football coach Eric Taylor (Kyle Chandler) and his wife and school principal Tami (Connie Britton). The members of the fictional Texas high school football team face several issues plaguing teens across the U.S., including broken and abusive homes, addiction, lack of financial and educational support, and racism. And yes, there are more than a few inspirational monologues. Clear eyes, full hearts, binge Friday Night Lights.

"This show delivers the dramatic goods with painstaking authenticity each week, and even when it isn't trying to make you cry, you can't help but get emotionally involved in the lives of these instantly recognizable and compelling characters." — Matt Roush, TV Guide Magazine


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Maitreyi Ramakrishnan and Darren Barnet in 'Never Have I Ever'

Netflix

Never Have I Ever

Metascore: 81
Best for: Dramedy and YA fans who have been waiting for more inclusive casting and storytelling
Where to watch: Netflix
Seasons: 3 (so far)

Dawson's Creek dealt with a variety of familial structures and their effect on the teen characters. In Never Have I Ever, the series opens with high schooler Devi (Maitreyi Ramakrishnan) coming to terms with the sudden death of her father, a devastating blow that Dawson also endures. Never Have I Ever injects much more humor in its take on the high school years, but similar themes, including parental pressure, love triangles, and planning for the future, are all present. Plus, both shows love their pop culture references. 

"It's not a surprising show, but rather a comfortingly consistent one. It remains smart and funny, with a killer cast." — Maggie Fremont, TV Guide


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The cast of 'Sex Education'

Netflix

Sex Education

Metascore: 81
Best for: Comedy fans who prefer adult-adjacent humor
Where to watch: Netflix
Seasons: 3 (so far)

Hormones are raging during the high school years, a fact that was discussed with a big dose of seriousness on Dawson's Creek. Sex and sexuality are also handled with care in Sex Education, but there are plenty of laughs as well. The British series follows a group of high school students, led by Asa Butterfield as Otis Milburn, a wallflower who finds his contained social circle blown wide open when he and his crush set up a sex therapy clinic for fellow students.

"Sex Education is one of the rare works that go beyond that trope to give depth and validation to teenage insecurities and emotions that coexist with raging hormones and mythic sex drives." — Alex Abad-Santos, Vox


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Rachel Bilson and Adam Brody in 'The O.C.'

Warner Bros. Television

The O.C.

Metascore: 67
Best for: Fans of 2000s indie music and rich people problems
Where to watch:

, Google Play, HBO Max, Hulu, iTunes, Vudu
Seasons: 4

Trade Capeside for Orange County and update the pop culture references by a few years, and you've got The O.C., a teen drama that boasts a handful of similarities to Dawson's Creek. A music and movie lover, Adam Brody's Seth Cohen is Dawson with a sense of humor, while his best friend and pseudo-foster brother Ryan (Benjamin McKenzie) is Pacey without the humor. The real estate and cars are a significant upgrade, but like Dawson's Creek, The O.C. experienced a similar surge in popularity, turning the young cast into household names overnight and featuring several pop culture zeitgeist moments. Merry Chrismukkah, do you remember where you were when Marisa Cooper (Mischa Barton) died?

"The O.C. may be a lousy title but it's cast, written and directed well. Early indications are that the show is smartly going after two generations of viewers — not just the 20-somethings Fox is famous for, but also their parents." — Mike McDaniel, Houston Chronicle 


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The cast of 'Beverly Hills, 90210'

CBS Television Distribution

Beverly Hills, 90210

Metascore: 53
Best for: Drama fans who want to hear how the popular kids gossip
Where to watch:

, Google Play, Hulu, iTunes, Paramount+, Pluto TV, Vudu
Seasons: 10

It's nearly impossible to discuss teen dramas without mentioning Aaron Spelling and Darren Star's hugely successful Beverly Hills, 90210. The series opens with twins Brenda (Shannen Doherty) and Brandon (Jason Priestley) moving from small town Minnesota to the upscale, titular town in Los Angeles. The pair befriend the cool kids, plus one nerd (shout out to Andrea Zuckerman/Gabrielle Carteris), and create a clique that will endure through high school, college, and the adult world. There's no shortage of drama, love triangles, beautiful people, and some iconic pop culture moments. Cue R.E.M.'s "Losing My Religion."

"It is based on the assumption, so common among show-biz people who meet each other for lunch at the Beverly Hills Hotel, that they are not only the cultural center of the Western world, but the envy of everybody who is not part of their glittery ZIP code." — Robert P. Laurence, The San Diego Union-Tribune


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The cast of 'One Tree Hill'

Warner Bros. Television

One Tree Hill

Metascore: 46
Best for: Fans of family dramas with plenty of basketball montages
Where to watch:

, Google Play, HBO Max, Hulu, iTunes, Vudu
Seasons: 9

One Tree Hill may not have resonated with critics, but it has a loyal fan base that kept the series going for nine seasons and still lives on in streaming and podcasts. Premiering in the television season after Dawson's Creek ended, the new teen drama has a similar small-town look and feel. One Tree Hill focuses on rival half-brothers Lucas (Chad Michael Murray) and Nathan Scott (James Lafferty), who eventually become best friends after some turbulent years that, of course, involve a love triangle (no YA show is complete without one). Like Dawson's Creek, One Tree Hill is a drama that makes the jump from high school to adulthood, although in this case, the series employs the use of time hops to varying degrees of success. 

"Impressive photography and a good-looking cast add up to a drama that is at least pretty to look at." — David Zurawik, Baltimore Sun