Today’s teenagers seem to favor TV shows that were aimed at adult audiences in the early 21st century.
In an article, Leesville Road High School students have listed their top TV shows on Netflix. Now we can analyze those shows in respect to their target audience when they were first created.
The Office is a classic favorite, often trending on Netflix. When it first aired in 2005, the show soon gained popularity, with a target audience aimed at adults between the ages of 18 and 35. The crude humor found in the show is obviously not meant for younger audiences, but in recent years has attracted teenage audiences as well as drawing in adults.
Some attribute the endurance of the show to the classic office setting, which adults can relate to with their jobs and teenagers can relate to with their every-day school settings. Michael Scott’s enthusiasm for his job mirrors some teachers in school who are excited to interact with students daily. This enthusiasm is taken in different ways by the students; some of the reactions are enthusiastic back (like Dwight) and some exasperated (like Stanley). Students often have tricky job interviews that may not go as planned, which reflects some of the episodes (The Job and The Meeting) and allows them to put a positive twist on their experiences. In the workplace, the barrier between coworkers becoming friends is broken down during the show, which is similar to friendships forming in school and even in an adult office setting.
The Office makes political commentary through its humor, and can seem more offensive in the tense 2020 political climate than back in 2005. However, although this might deter some adult audiences, it is still the most popular show for LRHS students. Social media has exposed the teenagers of this generation to political and social issues, allowing them to understand the advanced humor found in The Office.
The main goal of The Office when it first aired was to show how awkward work settings are. Yes, the show has stayed true to this first intent, complete with awkward confrontations and situations, and in doing so has attracted a larger high school audience. High school students find themselves frequently embarrassed by either teachers, parents, or friends. By watching awkward interactions on television, they find humor not only in the show, but also in themselves and their mistakes/awkward situations.
Another reason teenagers might like The Office could be the opportunity to experience adult life and put a positive spin on their futures without stress. It also allows a sense of normalcy for teenagers who no longer have daily social interactions with friends. The Office has never ceased to produce laughs, producing scenes where a “fake-fire” occurred, where the staff of the office created a comedic movie, and the classic pranks Jim pulls on Dwight (putting his stapler in jello as an example). The Office has maintained its popularity since it first aired back in 2005.
Criminal Minds also first aired in 2005, the target audience adults in the range of ages 18-34. The gory and intense scenes require a mature audience. There is a lot of exposure to sensitive topics such as murder, psychotics, and rape. These issues were not as widely discussed in 2005 as they are in 2020, which is why the show was originally intended for a mature adult audience.
However, these topics are found all over social media, and social media is widespread at a younger age (most have it by middle school). Therefore, many teenagers find themselves exposed to more sensitivities and understanding what they mean. This is one of the reasons why so many teenagers watch the show and it quickly became one of the most popular shows among LRHS students. Another reason would be the thrill-seeking aspect of the show, which appeals to many younger audiences who have a thrill for danger and suspense.
Also based on today’s society and the large crime rates, the show relates to everyday lives. Unfortunately teenagers today understand and hear about crimes through the news and social media and the implications surrounding them. However, back in 2005 when the show first aired, adults were the only ones who really knew the news and crimes surrounding the world, as widespread media was not as common.
Grey’s Anatomy also aired in 2005, targeting the ages between 18-49 years. A lot of the situations that occur in this soap-style show relate to later life experiences, which is why this audience was ideal when the show first started.
Exposure to these later life experiences has expanded to younger people as they watch or read about current events, and have closer relationships to family through phone, text ,and email. For example, teenagers now understand the implications of Alzheimer’s and mental illness more than in previous years due to increased communication with older relatives. They have a wider view of world issues with the range of media floating around, gathering perspective on real life problems. This is why more teenagers watch the show originally intended for adults, since it touches heavily on these real (sometimes heavy) topics.
Many teenagers in this day and age aspire to be nurses or doctors, a competitive field to enter. A lot of those prospective nurses watch the show because it is an interesting concept to them. Education is getting increasingly competitive as years go on, therefore Grey’s attracts younger audiences that wish to get a head start.
Gossip Girl, released in 2007, targeted a specific audience of females between the ages of 18 and 34. However, Gossip Girl is one of the youngest skewed TV shows on the CW, gaining a wide variety of teenage viewers as the show moved to Netflix.
Back when the show premiered in 2007, teenagers were not as used to mature and even graphically erotic scenes, which is why the show (which contains a lot of these) was targeted for adults. However, with the rise of social media activism, teenagers search a wide variety of unfiltered videos, pictures, and articles, which ties them into this show without a second thought.
Not only is this show targeted at mature audiences for its graphic imagery, but also for its hardcore betrayal and backstabbing. Adults back in 2007 appreciated the comedy and understood the unrealistic points of view and the soapy-type gossip. However, as those adults lost interest in the long-running show, teenagers now watch it in understanding. Since gossip and cyberbullying is prevalent on social media nowadays, people are often targeted on platforms such as TikTok, Instagram, and Snapchat. This online targeting that teenagers are used to seeing and maybe even receiving allows them to relate to the show more.
The West Wing, another favorite Netflix show among LRHS students, first aired in 1999, 21 years ago. The West Wing had a target audience amongst older adults who were fascinated with the politics of the United States. It premiered right after the impeachment of Bill Clinton and since then has fallen out of tune with true American politics.
Back in the early 21st Century, adults were more interested in politics than teenagers were, which is why they were the target audience for the show. However, now that social media is prevalent, political views and ads can be found anywhere and everywhere. High School clubs such as Voter Registration Club have become more politically active, and so have teenagers. Teenagers are present in rallies now, determined to show their voice in politics. This is why the show is now so popular amongst this generation. The more politically active, the more interesting this show becomes.
Cobra Kai is a relatively new show on Netflix but reflects back to a popular movie that premiered in 1984, targeted at a youth audience. Most everyone has seen the Karate Kid, starting off with the adults of this generation. They grew up watching the movie, and now teenagers are carrying on the love of the movie (probably shown to them by their parents) by watching the spinoff show. The classic fight scenes never get old, and the “vintage vibe” of the movie reflects the style of the show and why so many teenagers love it.
Forensic Files is another older show, airing first in 1996. The crime recreations were originally intended for an adult audience (like many of the shows we have seen before), as there are sensitive topics and gory graphics. However, as the adults of the previous generation grew out of watching crime investigations and onto shows such as The West Wing, teenagers of this generation have picked up watching these crime shows, intrigued with detectives and previously exposed to highly publicized crime and sensitive topics.
A trend that is spotted through all these shows is their intended audience shifting through the generations. What started off as intended audiences for adults when all these shows first premiered, has shifted to teenagers as LRHS students listed them as their favorites. Social media is the greatest contributing factor to this shift, exposing more teenagers to real social issues in the world today, allowing them to understand deeper humor and serious topics.
Hi! My name is Abigail and I am a senior editor for The Mycenaean. I am also a member of Leesville’s cross country team and track team, as well as the president of National Technical Honor Society.