As Tracy Beaker Returns, An Ode To The Brilliant British Teen TV Shows We Still Miss

Because what would our understanding of what it meant to be young be without Skins, The Inbetweeners and Misfits?

What Happened To The Great British Teen Sit-Coms?

by Jazmin Kopotsha |
Updated on

I used to really resent the British school system. Not for any remotely well-thought-out reason to do with important things like class sizes, catchment areas or access to Russell Group universities. I didn't like our schools because they didn't look anything like the majority of the ones I saw on TV. I wanted to be at a super trendy High School, not a boring old secondary or sixth form. What does 'sixth form' even mean? I felt like I'd been mis-sold my adolescence and I blame it on Zack Morris.

Where were our pep rallies? Where were our homecoming dances? Where were our prom queens, pre-university graduation ceremonies and clumsy kisses behind the bleachers? From this side of the Atlantic, the teen experience as relayed to us by Saved By The Bell, The OC, Gossip Girl, Buffy, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Sister, Sister, The Gilmore Girls, Kenan and Kel (we all know the list goes a hell of a lot further than that) looked a hell of a lot glossier than our UK secondary school realities. But glossy was never our gig.

It's only now, as I scroll through the endless list of programmes in the black hole of never ending telly content, that I realise that there's a whole generation of teenagers missing out on what I was too busy pining over Nate Archibald to properly appreciate: The Great British Teen sitcom.

We used to have a humble but powerful arsenal of characters that defined the millennial coming of age in the UK way more than we probably realised. Who knows what would life have been if someone didn't decide to turn Jacqueline Wilson's Tracy Beaker into a CBBC masterpiece. Heaven forbid that our first vocational understanding of sex, drugs, booze and mental health came anywhere but from the lives of Effy Stonem and the gang. And nothing would have made us so grateful for our own shitty school lives if we hadn't watched Simon from the Inbetweeners do all the wrong things for us.

The wonderful Derry Girls and the very enjoyable Sex Education are leading the charge, but the former is more adult than teen, and the latter is a strange - though fun - US/UK hybrid. Being a kid in Blighty hasn't quite been immortalised in entertainment in the same way since the noughties. It was messy, dramatic and glorious and we miss it. So while we wait for the E4 producers to throw another homegrown series about what it's really like being a millennial right now, here's a well deserved look back on some of the greatest British shows of our teenage years.


Ah, I can hear the theme music now as the cast wonder through the streets of Bristol, soaking wet after sinking the car in the lake. Skins was the now iconic coming of age story that we all secretly wanted to be a part of but at the same time were low-key terrified of. I hate to use the word in an un-ironic way but hell, Skins was 'raw' and it spoke to so many of us in a way that talking to your older siblings about what it was like to have sex, smoke weed, get expelled, lose a loved one or develop an eating disorder could never match. We were never able to let Chris go.

The Inbetweeners

If we're honest, the Inbetweeners was a little closer to what it was really like being in secondary school. Much of it was fantastically average and outrageously stupid, much like our faux-rebellious realities. Top points here go for exceptional use of British insults - wanker, bumder, tosser, 'friend'. Classics.


Here's an unsung hero of our adolescent telly rotation. Misfits was brilliant. Yes the storm and the supernatural powers thing was a little far-fetched in the beginning but don't even pretend that you didn't very quickly buy into the whole thing. It's teen drama that wasn't celebrated nearly enough. Orange jumpsuits and community service were just a side dish to some of our all time favourite casts of delinquents.

Fresh Meat

For starters, I blame this show for leading me to believe that my university house would be big and spacious with a nice open plan kitchen, but beyond that I think this was my first proper televised look at what #unay was. It did a good job for the most part and at the very least we got to be imaginary BFFs with Vod for a few seasons.

Tracy Beaker

God, Elaine really was a pain, but let's not pretend that Tracy Beaker was probably the most addicted you've ever been to a quintessentially 00s kids show. If the hype over the return of Tracy Beaker in a brand new Jacqueline Wilson book (and accompanying TV show) is anything to go by, we need more post-dumping ground madness in our lives. It was heartbreaking (remember when Tracy finally met her mum), hilarious (lol, stupid Elaine) and so, so brilliant (what happened to Justine Littlewood in the end again?).

My Mad Fat Diary

Erm, has anyone managed to get their heads around why this ended because I certainly haven't. Set in the 90s we got another incredibly well documented look at everything from mental health and family to sex and friendship through teenage eyes. 16 episodes was not enough but what did get to know of the brilliant Rae Earl really struck a chord.

MORE: Here Are All TV Show You'll Definitely Remember If You're A True 90s Kid


90s TV Shows

The Fresh Prince of Bel Air1 of 25
CREDIT: Youtube

The Fresh Prince of Bel Air

Who can forget Will Smith and Carlton Banks in this American sitcom ... "Now this is a story all about how my life got flipped-turned up-side down"...

Buffy the Vampire slayer2 of 25

Buffy the Vampire slayer

American drama series based on the life of Buffy Summers, who slays vampires and demons

Sabrina the Teenage Witch3 of 25

Sabrina the Teenage Witch

Sabrina the Teenage Witch and her magical talking cat Salem

RUGRATS4 of 25


Who can forget Tommy, Chuckie, Lil & Phil (and Dil)? The Nickelodeon show already had four seasons, three movies and a spin-off, and in 2018 it was revealed another series was in the works. Until then, I'm just going to sit munching on my Reptar Bar and rewatch episodes on Amazon Prime.

F.R.I.E.N.D.S5 of 25


F.R.I.E.N.D.S. - Joey, Chandler, Ross, Rachel, Monica and Phoebe

Saved by the Bell6 of 25
CREDIT: Digital Spy

Saved by the Bell

American sitcom based on high school students Zack Morris, Kelly Kapowski, A .C . Slater, Jessie Spano and Screech Power

Boy meets World7 of 25

Boy meets World

American sitcom based on the every-day life of Cory Matthews.

The X-Files8 of 25
CREDIT: Itunes

The X-Files

Long-running sci-fi based on FBI special agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully.

The Simpsons9 of 25

The Simpsons

Animated American sitcom based on the Simpson family - Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa and Maggie who live in Springfield

Dawson's Creek10 of 25
CREDIT: Itunes

Dawson's Creek

Teen drama series based on college friends including Dawson Leery

Will & Grace11 of 25

Will & Grace

American sitcom based in New York, based on the relationship between Will, a gay lawyer, and Grace, an interior designer

Arthur12 of 25


American animated series based on the life of aardvark Arthur Read

Dexter's Laboratory13 of 25
CREDIT: Youtube

Dexter's Laboratory

American animated series based on Dexter, genius inventor of a laboratory in the basement of his house, and his sister Dee Dee

The Powerpuff Girls14 of 25

The Powerpuff Girls

American animated series based on super-powered trio Blossom, Bubbles and Buttercup

Kenen and Kel15 of 25

Kenen and Kel

American sitcom based on Kenan Thompson and Kel Mitchell... "Who loves orange Soda? KEL LOVES ORANGE SODA"

Bear in the Big Blue House16 of 25
CREDIT: Playbuzz

Bear in the Big Blue House

American TV series based on Bear and friends Ojo, Tutter, Treelo, Pip, Pop, and Shadow

Animaniacs17 of 25
CREDIT: Google


American animated series based on siblings Yakko and Wakko, and their sister Dot

Seinfield18 of 25
CREDIT: Google


American sitcom based on Jerry Seinfeld, George Costanza, Elaine Benes and Cosmo Kramer

Freaks and Geeks19 of 25
CREDIT: Youtube

Freaks and Geeks

American comedy series and teen drama based on high schooler Lindsay Weir and friends

Frasier20 of 25
CREDIT: Amazon


American sitcom based on Dr. Frasier Crane

Full House21 of 25
CREDIT: Itunes

Full House

American sitcom based on the events of widowed father, Danny Tanner, who has to raise three daughters

Recess22 of 25
CREDIT: Recess Wikia


American animated series based on Third Street School fourth-graders T.J, Ashley, Vince, Gus, Gretchen and Mikey

Hey Arnold!23 of 25

Hey Arnold!

Charmed24 of 25
CREDIT: Amazon


Series based on three sisters Prue, Pipper and Phoebe who are all witches with individual magical powers

That 70's Show25 of 25

That 70's Show

American sitcom based on the lives of teenager friends living in 'Point Place', with Mila Kunis and Ashton Kutcher as part of the cast!

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