nyc prepNYC Prep (2009, Bravo)
This reality show had only one glorious season, but in my opinion it’s among the most important televised documents of the American high school experience. It follows the lives of six very rich teens who attend super-elite private schools in Manhattan. They balance issues a lot of us can relate to—friendships, dating, schoolwork, trying to get into college—with experiences that very, very few of us can relate to, such as sitting in the front row at fashion shows, throwing parties in hotel rooms, casually shopping at expensive boutiques, and various other activities that accompany having endless amounts of money. Theoretically, I might envy them, but their shenanigans are so over the top (particularly those of Peter Cary “PC” Peterson, the most extravagant 18-year-old I have ever seen) that I’m as relieved that I am NOT them as I am transfixed. Also, the episodes were filmed before smartphones took over all our lives, so there are only a few clips of the characters glued to their phones (Blackberries!). They fight in person instead of via text, making for more entertaining TV for you and me. Watch this on Netflix immediately! —Julianne

as-told-by-gingerAs Told by Ginger (2000–2006, Nickelodeon)
Middle school is tough, and the animated series As Told by Ginger grapples with the pain that goes with it. Ginger Foutley tries to make it through those trying years the best she can, with the help of her friends (and no help from her enemies). But the low-key greatness of this show can be attributed to Ginger’s diary entries: Through writing, she inspires viewers (like yours truly) to find their own ways of expressing themselves—whether by keeping a journal or through activities like painting or sports. There’s a self-care aspect to the show that resonates—cultivating oneself is such an important part of girls’ lives, especially when there are outside forces saying we’re not cool or worthy enough. It’s nice to have someone like Ginger on our side. —Chanel

Temple GrandinTemple Grandin (2010, HBO)
In this made-for-TV movie, Claire Danes plays Temple Grandin, a real-life autistic woman who earned a PhD in animal science, revolutionized the livestock industry, and became a best-selling author and university professor. Temple faced a lot of obstacles: She was diagnosed with autism in the ’60s, when not as much was known about it as is known now. The movie depicts her heightened sensitivity to sights and sounds, as well as her difficulties as a woman working in the super-masculine world of cattle ranching, as she tried (successfully, in the end) to improve the way livestock is treated. It’s a thorough, smart, and funny story of a strong, fierce, and world-changing woman. It doesn’t dilute or minimize her developmental disorder, either. Temple Grandin (in reality and onscreen) has worked hard to overcome her fear of the world, and used what she knows to help animals. She’s super cool. Just look at how stoked she was when Claire Danes won a Golden Globe for playing her! —Brodie

transparentTransparent (2014–, Amazon Studios)
With actors including Jeffrey Tambor, Gaby Hoffman, Carrie Brownstein, and Rookie’s very own Petra (in a cameo role!), what’s not to love about Transparent? It follows Maura Pfefferman, played by Tambor, as she leaves behind her old life as Mort and comes out as transgender to her adult children. The characters manage to be relatable and incomprehensible at once. Transparent shows, and hopefully helps viewers understand, many sides of gender and sexual expression. It pushes boundaries, challenges cultural norms, and gets uncomfortably close to the truth. It is so, so good! —Mads

March of the PenguinsMarch of the Penguins (2005)
This National Geographic documentary, narrated wonderfully by Morgan Freeman, follows Antarctica’s emperor penguins as they march across the ice to their breeding ground and mate. After the female penguins lay eggs, the males keep the eggs warm while their partners journey back to the sea for food. This movie is filled with adorable, heartwarming moments of penguins belly-sliding across the ice, and penguin-parents nestling together, delicately passing their eggs back and forth. There are equally heartbreaking ones, too, like when the birds are chased and hunted by leopard seals, or when eggs crack or penguin chicks are lost to the elements. I generally cry the whole way through this movie—hell, the trailer alone gets me choked up—but those tears are usually of joy and delight at the magic happening in the natural world. —Stephanie

peppermintaPepperminta (2009)
This psychedelic movie, by the Swiss video artist Pipilotti Rist, follows Pepperminta, a self-proclaimed “anarchist of the imagination,” on her outlandish adventures with an unlikely group of pals. Her friends include Werwen, a sheltered man who falls in love with Pepperminta, and Edna, a gender-bending woman infatuated with tulips. As a trio, they liven up the boring world around them by exhibiting a series of strange behaviors, including pressing door buzzers with their tongues, flapping car doors like wings, and spreading happiness through hypnosis. Before the movie is over, though, the bizarre becomes mundane. It seems totally normal that they have strawberries as pets and colors as friends. Pepperminta also disrupts ideas of traditional womanhood—and boldly supports female sexuality—by reworking, reframing, and reclaiming women’s expressions of pleasure. It is so fun to watch! Please seek it out. It’s one of the strangest and most thrilling movies I’ve ever seen. —Mads

lizziemcguireLizzie McGuire (2001–2004, Disney Channel)
Lizzie McGuire is a gem because of its golden depiction of awkward tween moments, with running commentary from a sassy, animated version of the title character. It’s kinda strange that cartoon-Lizzie doesn’t even have the same hairstyle as IRL-Lizzie, but the illustrated inner-goddess pinpoints the intimate and raw feelings (well, as raw as the Disney Channel gets) that girls deal with during puberty. Watching Lizzie McGuire made me feel like someone on TV truly understood what a struggle it could be to hardcore crush on someone, go bra shopping with a parent, or grow up in general. —Chanel

children underground croppedChildren Underground (2001)
Children Underground follows five Romanian children living in a subway station in Bucharest: 16-year-old Cristina; 14-year-old Violeta (or “Macarena”); 12-year-old Mihai; 10-year-old Ana; and Ana’s eight-year-old brother, Marian. Cristina and Macarena both ran away from the same orphanage—they keep their hair super short, and dress and act like boys because it keeps them “safer.” Many of the street kids huff chrome paint, and Macarena is addicted. It streaks her face and hands silver and causes her to cough horribly and hallucinate. Ana and Marian come from a family that Ana describes as loving, but they are so poor that she is convinced that life on the streets is better. When this documentary was filmed, there were an estimated 30,000 homeless children in Romania; birth control and abortion were banned and thousands of children were born to poor families who couldn’t take care of them. Orphaned, unwanted, and impoverished kids had nowhere to go but the streets. This was a crisis I knew nothing about until I saw Children Underground. It’s a very painful film to watch, but it gives children like Cristina, Macarena, Mihai, Ana, Marian a voice. —Stephanie ♦