The story behind Heartstopper is one that threatens to put the legend behind the creation of Harry Potter into sharp relief.
The show is based on the self-published graphic novels of 27-year old author Alice Oseman who signed her first book deal at the age of 17 years old, flunked her Cambridge University Entrance Exam, and is currently selling more than £1 million of books a month and has seen her creation snapped up by Netflix.
Heartstopper is the story of Charlie Spring, a gay schoolboy who falls in love with his classmate Nick Nelson. It also follows the lives of their classmates Tao, Elle, Tara, and Darcy.
Heartstopper was released in April 2022 to broad critical acclaim and widespread popularity. It has already been recommissioned for two more series.
But if you can’t wait that long to get your next fix of teenage romantic drama, here is a rundown of fifteen other shows like Heartstopper that you can watch right now.
This British drama series created by Laurie Nunn follows the lives of the students, families, and staff at Moordale Secondary School.
Its main focus is Otis Milburn (Asa Butterfield), who begins the series ambivalent about sex, but that soon changes when he starts a sex therapy clinic with his friend Maeve (Emma Mackey), who is somewhat rebellious.
Things get complicated though when Otis starts having feelings for Maeve.
We also follow his best friend, Eric Effiong (Ncuti Gatwa), who is both gay and the son of strict Nigerian immigrant parents, Adam Groff (Connor Swindels), the bullying son of the head who becomes Eric’s love interest, Jackson Marchetti (Kedar Williams-Stirling), the head boy struggling to live up to expectation, and a clique of girls known as the Untouchables.
With a terrific ensemble cast including Gillian Anderson (X-Files), Jason Isaacs (Event Horizon), James Purefoy (A Dance to the Music of Time), and Hannah Waddingham (Ted Lasso), Sex Education is powerful drama and teenage angst at its very best.
Atypical is a US comedy drama that follows the life of autistic teenager Sam Gardner (Keir Gilchrist). It ran for four series, all of which are available to stream on Netflix.
Sam is eighteen years old and has a fascination with the Antarctic and especially with penguins. We also see his very protective mother Else (Jennifer Jason Lee), his father Doug (Michael Rappaport) and his younger sister Casey (Brigette Lundy-Paine).
Casey is also very protective, but we also follow her life as she wins an athletics scholarship to a prestigious private school and also has to come to terms with her bisexuality.
Then there is Sam’s best friend Zahid Raja (Nik Dodani), his therapist Julia (Amy Okundu), and Paige (Jenna Boyd), a high achieving friend and future love interest of Sam.
With another excellent ensemble cast that includes Sara Gilbert (Rosanne), Eric McCormack (Will and Grace), and Casey Wilson (Happy Endings), this is teen romantic drama with the added twist of handling autism thrown in.
It is a heart-warming and genuinely funny show with no lack of drama thrown in and exactly the sort of series that fans of Heartstopper will enjoy.
It’s a Sin
It’s a Sin was created by the imperious Russell T. Davies and follows the lives of a group of gay men living in London in the 1980s. It is a mini-series made by Channel 4 and available on both their All 4 streaming service and Netflix.
The show portrays the LGBTQI+ lifestyle with a searing honesty, but the real drama in this mini-series comes from the spectre of HIV and Aids, which is constantly hanging over the group.
It follows Roscoe Babatunde (Omari Douglas), who runs away from his family after they learn about his sexuality and threaten to send him back to Nigeria, Colin, a Welsh apprentice at a Saville Row tailor, and Ritchie Tozer (Olly Alexander) also moves to London after not coming out to his family.
Ritchie’s best friend Jill has a friend, Gloria, who gets ill really quickly and she tries to warn Ritchie and his friends about the risks. Colin then contracts Aids and dies quickly.
His death prompts them all to take HIV tests, but Ritchie leaves before getting the results. The final episode deals with the powerful aftermath of his test result.
It’s a Sin does not always make for easy watching, but it has an exceptional cast including, Neil Patrick Harris (How I Met Your Mother), Stephen Fry (QI, Blackadder) Keeley Hawes (Line of Duty, The Bodyguard), and Tracy-Ann Oberman (Eastenders) and its popularity is a testament to its vitally important subject matter.
Love, Victor is based in the same world as the similarly-titled movie Love, Simon and streams on the Hulu service.
It focuses on a new student at Creekwood High School, Victor Salazar (Michael Cimino), a teen from a half Puerto Rican, half Colombian-American family and who is struggling with his sexuality.
When this all becomes too much, Victor reaches out to Simon (Nick Robinson – mostly via voiceover), who messages him back with advice and guidance on if and when to come out.
The series also follows Mia (Rachel Hilson), Victor’s friend and some-time girlfriend, Felix (Antony Turpal), his neighbour and best friend, and Lake (Bebe Wood) Mia’s best friend, who is obsessed with social media and dates Felix for a time before coming out as queer.
Love, Victor ran for three series and follows the character as he comes out and the aftermath of that, as well as detailing his first relationship with Benji (George Seer), who is both out and proud.
It’s shmaltzy American rom-com fare at its best, with plenty of twists and turns and no shortage of laughs along the way.
Dash and Lily
Dash and Lily is a US rom-com series that ran for just a single season on Netflix but which left a lasting impression on all who watched it.
It was created by Joe Tracz and based on the young adult novel, Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares, which was written by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan.
The story is set over Christmas and follows two New Yorker teenagers who trade a series of messages and dares with each other across New York City, while their romantic feelings for each other blossom.
Dash (Austin Abrams) is a teenage boy who hates Christmas while Lily (Midori Francis) is looking for love and hopes she has found it in Dash.
We also meet Boomer (Dante Brown), Dash’s best friend, and Langston (Troy Iwata), Lily’s older brother, as well as a whole host of other quirky and interesting characters, including an Elf actor, a bookstore salesman, a carolling group, Lily and Langston’s Japanese grandparents, and many more.
Perhaps the most notable guest stars are the Jonas Brothers, who perform their Christmas song Like Christmas, while Nick Jonas appears as himself (and is also an Executive Producer).
This is a quirky tale of teenage love set at Christmas and, given that it is based on a successful book, it is a surprise and a shame that there wasn’t more than one series. But that single series is a gem and well worth seeking out for Heartstopper fans.
Never Have I Ever
Never Have I Ever was created by Mindy Kaling and Lang Fisher and is loosely based on Kaling’s childhood growing up in the US as an Indian-American High School student.
The show, which runs on Netflix and has already had a fourth series commissioned, follows Devi Vishwakumar (Maitreyi Ramakrishnan), a 15-year-old Indian-American Tamil girl from Los Angeles who loses the use of her legs in the trauma of the death of her father.
She recovers but still has a horrible freshman’s year, which is not made any easier by her family. Devi has feelings for Paxton (Darren Barnet) and Ben (Jaren Lewison) and cheats on them both with each other.
Meanwhile a new girl, Aneesha Quereshi (Megan Suri) arrives at the school, and becomes her rival.
The show uses a curious narration structure in which Devi’s voice is narrated by former tennis player John McEnroe. Other episodes are narrated by Andy Samberg (for Ben) and Gigi Hadid (for Paxton).
The show deals with all the usual teenage issues, but it is its portrayal of south Asian characters that has defined it as an exceptional show and a huge popular success.
Skam is a teen drama from Norway that follows the lives of a group of teenagers at the Hartvig Nissen School, a gymnasium in a wealthy suburb of Oslo.
It proved to be a smash hit success in Norway despite barely receiving any publicity and ran for four series before ending as a result of the stress its success caused its creators.
The show followed a different lead character in each series. Series one focuses on Eva (Lisa Teige), series two on Noora (Josefine Frida Patterson), series three on Isak (Tarjei Sandvik Moe) and series four on Sana (Imam Meskini).
The show had a clever concept in which at the start of each week a video clip or social media clip was posted on the show’s website, followed by daily updates leading into the show on a Friday. Each fictional character also had a social media account that was updated throughout the series.
The show has a terrific ensemble cast of Norwegian actors and each season has its own set of topics to focus on. These range from relationship difficulties, identity, eating disorders, sexual assault, homosexuality, mental health issues, religion, and more.
The show has been remade in the USA and a number of other European countries, but it is the Norwegian version that is still the best.
One Day at a Time
One Day at a Time is a recent US sitcom which is actually based on a much older sitcom of the same name that was broadcast in the 1970s.
The big difference with the new version is that the lead family is reimagined as a family of Cuban-Americans living in LA.
It follows the everyday lives of Penelope Alvarez (Justina Machado), who is a US Army veteran with PTSD. She has to adapt to civilian life and has split from her husband due to his alcoholism.
She is raising her two children, Alex (Marcel Ruiz) and Elena (Isabella Gomez), who is struggling to come to terms with her sexuality. The other main character is Pat Schneider (Todd Grinnell), their landlord, a Canadian who also has issues with alcohol.
The show deals in a forthright way with issues around sexuality, dating, and nationality while all the time keeping the humour of every situation to the forefront.
There is a long list of guest stars, including Gloria Estefan, Ray Romano (Everybody Loves Raymond), and Lin Manuel Miranda (Hamilton). The show ran for four hugely successful series offering a comedy outlet for the Latin American community and a show that people from all backgrounds could enjoy.
Genera+ion only ran for a single series on HBO Max, but it is a must for fans of Heartstopper because of the frank and open way that it deals with teenagers coming to terms with the sexualities in a strongly conservative community.
The show is set in Orange Country, California and follows a group of teenagers, including Nathan (Uly Schlesinger) and Naomi (Chloe East), two teenage twins. Naomi is careless, while Nathan is neurotic and also coming to terms with his bisexuality.
Arianna (Nathanya Alexander) is Naomi’s best friend who is wealthy but has massive insecurities, which she hides with bigoted jokes. Nathan’s best friend is Riley (Chase Sui Wonders) a popular girl and talented photographer.
Other characters include Greta (Hayley Sanchez) who is a shy lesbian with a crush on Riley, Delilah (Lukita Maxwell), an activist, Chester (Justice Smith), an openly gay student, and Sam (Nathan Stewart-Jarrett), the School’s guidance counsellor who forms a bond with Chester.
The show picks up on the challenges they face at school and with their families as they deal with life, love, and precisely what family means in the 21st century.
It is a powerful show, with plenty of light moments to lift the mood and was generally well received by critics and fans. Sadly, it was not renewed, but the show remains on HBO Max and is well worth taking a look at.
Young Royals takes us back to Scandinavia and Sweden, for a show set in a fictional boarding school called Hillerska.
It follows Prince Wilhelm of Sweden (Edvin Ryding), a fictional royal teen prince and his developing homosexual relationship with fellow student Simon Eriksson (Omar Rudberg).
When Wilhelm’s brother is killed in a car crash, he becomes Crown Prince and has to manage the public expectation around his life as well as his feelings for Simon.
But when a video of the two is leaked to the press, Simon’s life is invaded, and the series ends on a cliff-hanger regarding whether their relationship will survive. The good news is a second series is due later this year which will continue the story.
This series also touches on issues around drug use, class, and Asperger’s Syndrome, as well as the challenges and perks of being a member of the royal family.
It is a very different teen drama from all of the others on this list, but no less enjoyable and rewarding for that.
Elite is a Spanish teen drama series that ran for five action-packed and exciting series on Netflix.
It is set in Las Encinas, a fictional elite secondary school in Spain, and follows the lives of three working class kids who arrive at the school on scholarships and their relationships with their rich classmates.
We see their initial rejection and subsequent assimilation as their lives intertwine through a mixture of anger, cliques, and sexual attraction, with the first series ending on the cliff-hanger of a murder.
Subsequent series see new characters added, with their own secrets and plotlines touch on more death, cancer, suicide, corporate interests, sexuality, and much more besides.
If you have ever watched a Spanish-language Netflix production, then you will likely recognise some of the names in this brilliant ensemble cast who create dramatic and believable characters that really deliver in this exciting, dark, and ambitious series.
Queer as Folk
Queer as Folk was the series that made the name of Russell T Davies and was a massive controversial sensation when it was released in the UK in 1999. It was the series that bought the LGBTQI+ lifestyle to mainstream audience for the first time.
The series follows Stuart (Aiden Gillen), an active and sexually active young gay man, and his long-time friend Vince (Craig Kelly), who has a crush on him.
Stuart has a huge personality and is able to manipulate people to his will; he does exactly what he wants to do (including blowing up a car in one infamous scene) and outing Vince to his workmates.
The other character, which caused much of the controversy around the series, is Nathan (Charlie Hunnan), a confident gay teenager, but aged just 15 in the show and often shown in sexually active scenes.
That aside, the show was generally well received by audiences and critics, despite predictable criticism from some quarters for the topics it portrayed. There was also some criticism for the lack of an AIDs related storyline, something Davies more than made up for with It’s a Sin (see above).
Some twenty years later, Queer as Folk still stands up as a powerful portrayal of urban gay life in northern England and although there are only ten episodes, fans of Heartstopper should still dig them out on All 4.
Degrassi: The Next Generation
This Canadian Teen Drama is the fourth series in the Degrassi franchise and ran for four series. The whole franchise is worth a look, but it is this generation that is the pinnacle in the eyes of most viewers.
The show follows up Degrassi Junior High and Degrassi High with four series of cutting edge teen drama looking at issues as diverse as teen pregnancy, bullying, date rape, drug use, homosexuality, domestic violence, gangland violence, self-harming, suicide, abortion, mental health issues and more.
The structure of the show is fairly formulaic, with three plots running alongside one another in each episode. But, that allowed the show to touch on a wide range of issues and develop its huge roster of characters.
The show featured guest appearances from Kevin Smith and Jason Mewes (Jay and Silent Bob), Billy Ray Cyrus, Natascha Beddingfield, Chaz Bono, Alanis Morrissette, and many more.
It is the rapidly rotating ensemble cast that held this show together though, and you can catch all four series of Degrassi: The Next Generation and the entire Degrassi franchise on HBO Max now.
Feel Good is a British-made comedy drama starring Canadian comedian Mae Martin, who identifies as non-binary, as does her eponymous character in the show.
Her partner in the show is George (Charlotte Ritchie) a middle class and repressed British girl who starts dating Mae and encourages her into Narcotics Anonymous to deal with her drug issues.
Both the drug use and Mae’s non-binary status causes relationship issues, not least George’s reluctance to come out to her parents. Mae is also diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, which doesn’t help.
Feel Good was originally made by Channel 4, but the second and final series was recommissioned by Netflix alone.
It is one of the few TV shows to portray a non-binary character with such frank honesty and drew a terrific array of support for this as well as some amazing guest stars including Lisa Kudrow (Friends), Anthony Head (Buffy, the Vampire Slayer), Pippa Hayward (The Brittas Empire), and Adrian Lukis (Black Mirror).
Skins was a generation-defining series when it was broadcast in the UK on Channel 4 and made massive stars of many of its child actors.
The show ran for seven series but shifted to a new group of kids every two series. It was based in the sixth form of a school in Bristol and looked at issues ranging from dysfunctional families, mental illness, eating disorders, drug abuse, gender, sexuality, bullying, and death.
The format saw each episode focus on an individual lead character and their particular issues and personalities.
The roster of stars that came from its ranks is exceptional and includes Nicholas Hoult (About a Boy, X-Men), Dev Patel (Slumdog Millionaire), Hannah Murray (Game of Thrones), Kaya Scodelario (Maze Runner), Aimee-Ffion Edwards (Peaky Blinders, Detectorists), Jack O’Connell (Godless), Dakota Blue Richards (The Golden Compass), and Jessica Sula (Split).
The show’s full and frank portrayal of the darker side of teenage life was not popular with some. But for fans, it was what made the show so relatable and even though Skins ended in 2010, it is no less relatable to young people today than it was then.
Fans of Heartbreaker will certainly find much to enjoy in it, even if it is somewhat darker than that show.