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The Top 15 Currently Airing Shows Gen Z & Millennials Say They Love

Yes, they love watching Office reruns, but what currently airing shows are capturing young viewers? We asked…

 

From more game shows to fewer scripted series, the pandemic is changing what viewers see on TV. The Wall Street Journal reported that on the brink of fall TV season, major networks have been scrambling to find backup plans. Lineups are filled with reality shows, game shows, and talent competitions—all of which resumed production and were able to have a quick turnaround. On ABC, The Bachelorette, an updated Supermarket Sweep, new series Emergency Call (centered around real-life 911 operators), and reruns of popular shows like Grey’s Anatomy will take the spotlight until flagship scripted series can return. Streaming services like Netflix and Disney+, which finished the new season of The Mandalorian right before lockdowns, have a pipeline of never-ending programming. Meanwhile, pandemic-themed TV shows are becoming a popular trend as entertainment mirrors reality.

To keep tabs on how these disruptions and changes might be impacting young consumers’ television preferences, in our newest TV and entertainment report, we asked Gen Z and Millennials to tell us their favorite TV shows. But we know that thanks to streaming their favorite shows are often those that have been off the air for years (Yes, we’re talking about The Office.) So we also asked them specifically, “What currently airing show is your absolute favorite? A show that is still making NEW seasons, not airing via reruns.”

As we mentioned earlier this year, it is becoming harder than ever to make a top ranking of TV favorites. There are more series than ever before as streamers and traditional providers rush to provide original content, increasingly fragmenting viewership and fandom. So who’s breaking through and pulling in enough fans to make a top favorites ranking? Here are the top 15 currently airing shows that young viewers say they love:

Their Favorite Current TV Shows

13-38-year-olds

  1. Grey’s Anatomy
  2. The Boys
  3. Lucifer
  4. Power
  5. Family Guy
  6. Stranger Things
  7. The Walking Dead
  8. All American
  9. Riverdale
  10. The 100
  11. Supernatural
  12. The Masked Singer
  13. South Park
  14. Shameless
  15. Ratched

 

Though comedy is the top type of TV show genre that young consumers tell us they watch regularly, the ranking of their favorite TV shows right now is full of darker dramas and mysteries—as it has been for years. When we look at the reasons behind their favorite show picks, the word “interesting” is what many of these series have in common. Young viewers are looking for shows that are intriguing and exciting—whether it’s because of a twisty mystery, intense storyline, or supernatural worlds. In fact, more somber and serious content might be more popular than ever right now: the number of 13-39-year-olds who agree with the statement “I enjoy watching dark content” increased from 60% in 2019 to 67% in 2020. Meanwhile, the number who agree with “I enjoy watching pure/wholesome content,” decreased from 87% to 77% this year.

Interestingly, many of the shows on their top ranking have been on the air for many years, with top pick Grey’s Anatomy the prime example. A notable exception here is Netflix’s Ratched, which just recently premiered on the streamer—but certainly provides the darker characters and “twists” that young viewers are clearly craving.

There’s another clear theme in the top performing shows here: cast diversity. A number of the shows in the top 10 ranking here are ensemble casts that feature BIPOC actors, or have Black actors in many lead roles. As one female 16-year-old said of All American, “Let’s be honest. You hardly get a show with a majority black cast.” All American was actually the number one top ranking show among Gen Z 13-19-year-olds, and The Umbrella Academy (a show with a diverse ensemble cast) made their top five.

Young viewers’ demand for diversity in TV shows is exceeding studios’ supply. According to a CAA report, audience demand for diverse TV shows rose 113% from 2017 to 2019. The level of demand for shows with diverse casts was 17 times greater than the demand for the average TV show in the U.S.— and Hollywood has been trying to keep up. The number of new TV shows with at least 40% people of color in the U.S. surpassed non-diverse titles for the first time last year, increasing to 71—up from 50 shows in 2017. Clearly young consumers want more. YPulse’s TV & entertainment research shows that 71% of young consumers believe shows and movies should star non-white actors and actresses, and 81% agree “TV shows / movies should make an effort to represent all races.”