This Thursday, Netflix will launch the first season of Riverdale, the CW series that turned the comic on its head and brought new meaning to maple syrup empires. Steeped in teen drama and elevated by its Gen-X cameos, the pulpy melodrama eclipsed its CW predecessors by merging the worlds of romance, mystery and questionable hair choices. Riverdale was as compelling a watch for adult viewers as its target teen demo.

Today, teen dramas are finally getting the prestige recognition they deserve.

But we should’ve seen the the success of Riverdale coming. Not only are its cultural predecessors finally far enough away to seem nostalgic (which means there’s room for a new generation), teen dramas have always dealt with themes of death, heartbreak, substance abuse, and familial strife. Those issues define not only Riverdale but also series like 13 Reasons Why, Pretty Little Liars, iZombie and Supergirl. The only difference? In 2017, teen dramas aren’t aren’t ignored by adults outside the high school and college realms.

Today, teen dramas are finally getting the prestige recognition they deserve.

Where AMC and HBO introduced sweeping, cinematic programming in the form of The Sopranos, Breaking Bad, Mad Men, Game of Thrones and The Wire, network television and streaming services upped their dramatic ante over the last couple of seasons by introducing This Is Us, The Crown, Empire and Narcos. So, by making award-nominated drama more accessible, networks helped level the storytelling playing field; giving authenticity to series that everybody could see, feel, and even relate to. (Who among us would not like to yell at Prince Philip in a church?)

But that also explains why we’ve begun treating teen-centric series with more authority. While 13 Reasons Why has come under fire for over-romanticizing suicide, Pretty Little Liars has been the subject of controversy for normalizing statutory rape. Compare these discussions to the lack of conversations that revolved around Chuck Bass’ attempted rape in Gossip Girl or The OC’s depiction of mental illness (see: Oliver) and it’s proof that shows geared towards teens are drawing audiences outside their targeted age group. The conversations may not be pleasant but they mean that the shows are finally being taken seriously.

That’s a good thing. Teen dramas have long tackled serious topics, even if sometimes in campy, sensationalist ways. Where Riverdale revolves around the murder of Jason Blossom, it focuses less on who did it than the extenuating circumstances (divorce, drugs, emotional abuse) that led to somebody murdering him in the first place. Then, as if pulling from Veronica Mars’ film noir approach to mystery while adopting Dawson’s Creek’s parent-centric storylines, Riverdale becomes less into a tale of a few kids trying to solve a mystery and more into the sad story of how screwed up a small town can really get.

Regardless of location or era, it’s a series’ deep exploration of big questions that makes it prestige. And teen shows are the best at it.

Telling the story behind the story is the backbone of all prestige television. Breaking Bad illuminated the (fictional) realities of the New Mexico drug trade. The Wire lifted the cover on police in Baltimore so successfully some people still mistake it for real life. Even Game of Thrones–the most over-the-top and extra series of the last decade–draws its entire bonkers plot from the complexities of family and community. Regardless of location or era, it’s a series’ deep exploration of big questions that makes it prestige. And teen shows are the best at it.

13 Reasons Why zooms out to expose the fundamentals of high school and the type of town that particular high school exists in. iZombie revolves around Liv’s ability to solve crimes by devouring the brains of victims, but expands to bring light to the conflicts representative of Seattle as a whole. Meanwhile, Supergirl’s day-to-day conflicts pale in comparison to the problems we see her face in National City, while Stranger Things leans heavily on the town’s history–and indeed our cultural memory–to achieve its effect. Each shows may differ, but all still take time to draw attention to the complexities that make us human. Or, as it were, teens.

That’s critical because teens are deep in the throes of figuring out how a person should be. These shows are the perfect exploration of that question.

Young adults can watch shows like Riverdale, 13 Reasons Why and Stranger Things and enjoy them in part because we’re not far enough away from our young selves to stop relating to young characters. As millennials entrenched in online culture, nostalgia’s become a currency through which we relate to those around us and keep aspects of our past selves alive. We can watch Riverdale and acknowledge the wonder of Luke Perry as Mr. Andrews, but we also relate to Jughead’s complete disinterest in high school parties. Unlike series like The OC or Dawson’s Creek, teen shows today treat all characters–regardless of age–similarly. And unlike series like Mad Men or Breaking Bad, we haven’t had to wait until young actors hit a certain point before their narratives carried weight.

Of course, teen dramas have never shied away from depicting teenagers are people, nor have they shied away from using them to articulate the realities of what it’s really like to grow up and exist. Cable dramas are deeply rooted in a particular kind of storytelling, typically of men behaving badly. Teen dramas know no such restraints. They exploring narrative terrain of all sorts, reflecting the complexities of the human spirit by using the jumping off point of, say, a murder to uncover the grip of a maple syrup dynasty on a small town that once played backdrop to an infamous love triangle.