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The top 10 all-time best shows about school

With next week’s premiere of Bad Teacher on CBS (which I will cover for the EW Community), I got to thinking about other shows that take place in schools. Maybe it’s nostalgia, maybe it’s familiarity, maybe it’s masochism, but everybody loves a show set at school. So I’ve taken it upon myself to compile a list of some of the most remarkable,  memorable and rewatch-worthy. This list is a list of shows that highlight our school years — no matter when you  graduated.

10. Fame — Singlehandedly making jazz hands cool, the Debbie Allen–directed-and-choreographed, series ran from 1982 to 1987 and was closely based on a real performing arts high school. With a diverse cast featuring many actors of color, this show broke ground; it was one of the few shows promoting such diversity among its cast. It also did wonders for the leg-warmer industry. Everybody knows the theme:

9. Gossip Girl — While technically set in high school, these Upper East Siders often forgot they were only teenagers. Indulging in every vice under the sun, this sudsy teen soap scratched every guilty-pleasure itch in its five-year run on The CW. Kristen Bell provided the voice of the omniscient blogger with all the salacious dish at the Upper East Side’s premier private school. Launching the careers of some of our favorite abs and cheekbones, Blake Lively, Leighton Meester and Chace Crawford, Gossip Girl became America’s fantasy.

8. Saved by the Bell — People who came of age in the ’90s probably spent their formative years enjoying the neon crop-tops antics and acid-washed dreams of the gang at Bayside High. For me, it was always, Zach Morris, and this spawned more than one heated Saturday-morning debate. What started as Good Morning, Miss Bliss  turned into four years on NBC Saturday mornings, two spin-offs (The College Years and The New Class) and a 2013 critically acclaimed musical called Bayside! The Musical!. Some folks from Saved by the Bell have gone on to make names for themselves far beyond Zach, Kelly and Slater — you can catch Mark Paul Gosselar, Tiffany Thiesen and Mario Lopez on shows now. Others, however, have not gone on to more TV work.

7. Friday Night Lights — This show was criminally underwatched, and it deserves to still be on the air (shame on you, America). Set in the small town of Dillon, Texas, Friday Night Lights follows the lives of the students and players of the Dillon Panthers (and later, East Dillon), the high school’s football team. There haven’t been many shows this sincere or this heartfelt without devolving into sentimental dreck; this show does genuine better than anything I’ve seen. (Yes, it’s that good. Go watch it now!)  Kyle Chandler’s portrayal of Coach Taylor is inspired, and Connie Britton as Tammy Taylor makes you want her to be your mother or your friend or your guidance counselor. She is downright enchanting. Then there’s Tim Riggins (Taylor Kitsch) — Friday Night Lights brought us this gift, and that alone is enough to make the list.  Clear eyes, full heart, can’t lose. *Sniff, sniff.*

6. Welcome Back, Kotter — One of TV’s first shows set almost exclusively in a classroom, it follows the exploits of a class of underachievers, affectionately called the Sweathogs. Mr. Kotter, played by Gabe Kaplan, was also one of the first Jewish protagonists on prime-time television. This show’s contribution to pop culture is invaluable, and we owe “Up your nose with a rubber hose” solely to John Travolta’s character, Vinnie Barbarino. Its reach knows no bounds, apparently, as it recently made a cameo in Tuesday’s The Mindy Project, when Mindy uses a reference to Mr. Kotter’s character to address her teacher-boyfriend, played by Max Greenfield. Good luck getting the theme song out of your head.

5. Veronica Mars — Calling all you Marshmallows out there. Y’all can vouch for Veronica as one of TV’s most memorable and unique female protagonists. The high-schooler-slash-part-time-sleuth snarked her way into our hearts (and stayed there — go see the new Veronica Mars movie) solving Neptune High’s most pressing crimes. This show always felt like something so much smarter and more intuitive than your run-of-the-mill high school show. Even its theme song, by the Dandy Warhols, seemed cooler. Veronica eventually graduated and moved on to college, but in our hearts she’ll always be the plucky outsider with the wit that will saw you in half.

4. Degrassi — If nothing else, this show gets points for mere longevity. Starting in 1979 (yes, I said 1979) as The Kids of Degrassi Street, it has run in Canada for 34 consecutive years. Now airing on TeenNick, Degrassi: The Next Generation features storylines about contemporary adolescence. Not afraid to dive right in, Degrassi has taken on taboo topics like teen pregnancy and abortion, and even featured a transgendered character.

3. My So-Called Life — So much angst and teenage ennui, so little time. This delightfully earnest show was canceled after only one season and a very frustrating cliff-hanger, but has continued to gain the attention of fans long after its 1995 cancellation. Jared Leto was the breakout star of the show as Jordan Catalano, the emotionally immature but incredibly good-looking crush of Angela Chase (played by a very young and beautiful Claire Danes). Angela became the voice of Generation X, and My So-Called Life didn’t trivialize or condescend to its fans by offering a “very special episode” tone. It has found a second home on SundanceTV and is gaining a new generation of fans.

2. Buffy the Vampire Slayer — What to say about the show that (pretty  much) invented our fascination with vampires? For one, you could say that it’s smart and funny and well-appointed and still holds up 11 years after it ended. (That’s would I would say, anyway.) There are few shows with such a dedicated fandom and afterlife (so to speak). Filled with irony and metaphors (high school on a hell mouth?), the best part of this show is its ability to not take itself so seriously, which honors its cult-favorite predecessor, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the movie. Featuring Sarah Michelle Gellar, Allyson Hannigan and Seth Green, is it any wonder we still love this show? Besides, it gave us the greatest human-vampire romance EVER. Twilight be damned!

1. Beverly Hills 90210 — And the number-one show set in schools is, OF COURSE, Beverly Hills 90210, the greatest teen soap of all time and the grandfather of all the modern shows we watch about school today. This show aired for 10 seasons, from 1990 to 2000, on Fox. Long after the characters left school (and some even left the show), it will always be remembered for being the trendiest school in the poshest zip code. This show was incredibly popular (as you probably remember) and made the careers of Jennie Garth, Shannon Dougherty, Jason Priestly, Tori Spelling and Brian Austin Green. These folks and the characters they played are just as much a part of the high school memories of a certain generation as our actual school. Who of the show’s loyal fans doesn’t remember exactly where we were when we heard the chant, “Donna Martin graduates!”? Spawning a new generation of its own, The CW aired a reboot, 90210, that didn’t gain as many viewers as the original. I must confess that I have the last episode of the original series on my DVR to this day. I watch it sometimes when I need a lift, and I am unashamed. David and Donna’s wedding gets me every time.

These shows get honorable mention (in no particular order):

Freaks and Geeks
Head of the Class
A Different World

I know I probably left out your favorite. Tweet me your picks, and tell me what you think of mine in the comments below!

You can see more of my work at honestreviewscorner.com.

TV Families | EW.com
Mark Harris
February 23, 1990 AT 05:00 AM EST

The Bradys are back, with a passel of 90’s hassles. Do they represent the typical American Family? Did they ever? Who does? Stare and compare!

Kind Of Family
TheBradyBunch 1969-74: Blended
The Bradys 1990-: Enormous
Married…With Children 1987-: Postnuclear
Thirtysomething 1987-: Extended
The Flintstones 1960-66: Modern Stone Age

Family Pet
The Brady Bunch: Tiger
The Bradys: Alice
Married…With Children: Buck
Thirtysomething: Grendel
The Flintstones: Dino

Typical Guest Star
The Brady Bunch: Davey Jones
The Bradys: There’s no room
Married…With Children: Sam Kinison
Thirtysomething: Carly Simon
The Flintstones: Ann Margrock

Expression Of Joy
The Brady Bunch: Groovy!
The Bradys: Ritual hugging
Married…With Children: ”Oh, great.”
Thirtysomething: ”Of course I’m happy for you. Really. But what about me? Why does it always have to be about you?
The Flintstones: ”Yabba-dabba doo

Expression Of Rage

The Brady Bunch: ”Hmmm…”
The Bradys: ”If you back away from something you really want, then you’re a quitter!” (the angriest any Brady has ever been)
Married…With Children: ”Aaagh, God, take me from this miserable life!”
Thirtysomething: ”I’m not angry, OK?”
The Flintstones: ”Willllmaaaa!”

Typical Problem
The Brady Bunch: Marcia and her rival both want to be the prom queen.
The Bradys: Bobby gets paralyzed.
Married…With Children: Al doesn’t buy his family Christmas presents.
Thirtysomething: Nancy gets cancer.
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney are staying out too late.

Typical Solution
The Brady Bunch: The prom committee decides to have two queens.
The Bradys: Bobby gets married.
Married…With Children: They hate him.
Thirtysomething: If only we knew…
The Flintstones: Wilma and Betty decide to follow them.

House Style
The Brady Bunch: Conservative but mod, circa ’69
The Bradys: Conservative but mod, circa ’90
Married…With Children: Roach motel
Thirtysomething: Enviable
The Flintstones: Suburban cave

Clothing Style
The Brady Bunch: Early Osmonds
The Bradys: Made in the USA
Married…With Children: Flammable fabrics
Thirtysomething: Eclectic earth tones; nice ties
The Flintstones: One-piece

Most Annoying Character
The Brady Bunch: Alice’s cousin Emma, the substitute housekeeper (too strict)
The Bradys: Marcia’s husband, Wally (chronically unemployable)
Married…With Children: Steve (supercilious)
Thirtysomething: Ellyn (goes through Hope’s drawers, babbles, changes hairstyle every other week, generally mistreats her friends)
The Flintstones: Mr. Slate (bossy)

Attitude Toward Sex
The Brady Bunch: Never heard of it
The Bradys: Omigod — even Cindy does it!
Married…With Children: Peg: Yes. Al: No.
Thirtysomething: They didn’t get all those kids by accident.
The Flintstones: Prehistoric

How Spouses Fight
The Brady Bunch: They don’t.
The Bradys: Infrequently, but it happens
Married…With Children: Tooth and nail
Thirtysomething: They stop talking
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney go bowling while Wilma and Betty max out their charge cards.

How Kids Get Into Trouble
The Brady Bunch: Greg takes a puff of a cigarette.
The Bradys: Carol’s grandson steals her business cards and sticks them in the spokes of Bobby’s wheelchair.
Married…With Children: By committing felonies
Thirtysomething: Ethan plays with a forbidden toy rocket.
The Flintstones: They don’t.

How They’re Punished

The Brady Bunch: ”It’s not what you did, honey — it’s that you couldn’t come to us.”
The Bradys ”Next time, ask.”
Married…With Children: By the authorities
Thirtysomething: It blows up in his face.
The Flintstones: They’re not.

What Family Does For Fun
The Brady Bunch: Takes special three-part vacations to Hawaii and the Grand Canyon
The Bradys: Has flashbacks
Married…With Children: Exchanges insults
Thirtysomething: Talks
The Flintstones: Attends showings of The Monster at the Bedrock Drive-In

Unsolved Mysteries
The Brady Bunch: How exactly did Carol’s first husband and Mike’s first wife die?
The Bradys: What’s with Marcia’s new face and Bobby’s blonde hair
Married…With Children: What kind of hair spray does Peg use?
Thirtysomething: Why did Nancy take Elliot back? What do Gary and Susanna see in each other?
The Flintstones: How does Barney’s shirt stay on if he has no shoulders? Where do Fred and Wilma plug in their TV?

Worst Behavior
The Brady Bunch: The Brady children once made Alice feel under-appreciated.

The Bradys: Marcia’s son Mickey watches Bobby’s car-crash tape for fun.
Married…With Children: The Bundy’s kill their neighbor’s dog.
Thirtysomething: Elliot has an affair and talks about it.
The Flintstones: Characters don’t wear under-clothes.

Best Reason To Watch
The Brady Bunch: This is what life should be.
The Bradys: They’re all grown-ups now!
Married…With Children: Terry Rakolta hates it.
Thirtysomething (Tie) This is your life. This isn’t your life.
The Flintstones: This is what life might have been.

Best Reason Not To Watch
The Brady Bunch: Blurred vision from rerun overdoses.
The Bradys: You’re all grown-ups now.
Married…With Children: She has a point.
Thirtysomething: After a while, you think it’s real.
The Flintstones: The Simpsons

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