The Best TV Prom Episodes That Have Us Missing Our High School Days

Let’s face it. This time of year it’s impossible not to get caught up in all of the glorious hype surrounding prom. Whether you’re a freshman going with a hot upperclassman or dancing the night away with a big group of girlfriends at your last dance, prom is nostalgic and wonderful and overrated all at the same time. And if you’re like me, where your senior prom was in an events center that held a livestock show a few hours before (yes, it still smelled like cattle and hayfeed), the lights kept brightly on the whole time and the “DJ” “spun” from an iPod set up, prom certainly was a night to remember. (Shout out to my Nebraska youth!) But no matter, because luckily, network television always delivers an excellent prom night with dramatic king and queen announcements, outrageous themes and a pretty sparkling bow on the high school coming-of-age sitcom. We’ve sorted through the gowns and corsages of our favorite TV proms EVER, including the glory days of The WB line-up (oh yeah, we went there). Get ready to relive it all.


Rachel and Finn win Prom Queen and King at the dinosaur-themed prom in ’Glee.’
Photo: Courtesy of FOX

We don’t have to go too far back in time (literally) to remember the prom of Glee’s McKinley high school, but we do have to go back several million years to embrace Brittany’s “Dinosaurs” theme. Although fossilization and spiked punch don’t seem to go hand in hand, the Cheerio cheerleader-turned-class president selects the theme and institutes a “no hair gel” ban, targeting dear Blaine who has never made a public appearance without slathering his normally frizzy fro with product. In protest, Kurt, Blaine and Rachel decide to throw an anti-prom, but gathering in a damp and dirty motel with nothing to do and no good Bravo TV to watch the crew quickly turns around and heads to the Mesozoic era with the rest of the kids. Of course what’s a dinosaur themed prom without some modern day pop song performances? The girls perform the Selena Gomez anthem “Love You Like A Love Song” while the boys croon 1D’s “What Makes You Beautiful.” We conclude with a “Take My Breath Away” ballad as Finnchel (Finn + Rachel) take the title of prom king and queen and ride off into a Brontosaurus-filled sunset.


Nate and Blair win Prom Queen and King at the prom in ’Gossip Girl.’
Photo: Courtesy of The CW

Although the Upper East Siders enjoyed many dances far fancier than your average high school prom with debutante balls and cotillions (notably, occasions that require elbow length gloves), they get a last dance, too. But the joyous occasion gets lost in a backstory of Serena’s own mother Lily having her arrested, where we also take a flashback to the shoulder pads and big hair of the ’80s and Lily’s parallel story of when she ended up in jail (The CW’s ploy to launch a spin-off series that never took flight). But we do get to see an appearance by Gwen Stefani and No Doubt however, who are supposed to be the random band performing at an ’80s raving underground nightclub in LA (when IRL it was their first performance together after a four-year break). Back in the present, each phase of Blair’s fairy tale prom plans have been ruined, from her corsage to the limo, but it doesn’t stop her from looking fantastic in a glittering black and gold Marchesa dress while Serena is sprung from the slammer just in time to make her entrance in Christian Dior. In an effort to keep Blair’s tiara dreams alive, Chuck stuffs the ballot box to see her named queen and preside over the rest of the subservient student body.


Pam Macy, Kelso, Eric and Donna at the prom in ’That ’70s Show.’
Photo: Courtesy of FOX

Hands down, the best thing about this episode is the retro fashion. Most notably (a non-married) Ashton Kutcher, who we impartially favored in his Punk’d-era trucker hats at the time, looks strapping in a disco-era white tux with ruffled shirt and wing-collared jacket. Kutcher’s character Kelso has been dumped by his girlfriend Jackie (Ted actress Mila Kunis), so he takes along the socially attentive Pam Macy to make her jealous. But of course, it doesn’t work, and the two end up dancing together underneath a disco ball, Kelso towering over Jackie in his platform shoes.


Pacey dances with Joey at the alternative prom in ’Dawson’s Creek.’
Photo: Courtesy of The WB

Remember the time that Katie Holmes wasn’t a mother/subject of Suri’s Burn Book/clothing designer? Well, that time was the ’90s, when most people knew and loved her as Joey Potter on The WB hit show Dawson’s Creek (before the network became The CW). Is “I Don’t Want To Wait” scrolling through your head yet? Amid the New England lakes and boat shoes, Capeside High is bustling with prom anticipation. But when Jack wants to bring his love-interest Ethan and the know-it-all prom ticket seller/gatekeeper refuses to sell to Jack and “his kind,” the kids band together and decide to throw an alternative prom at Dawson’s mom’s restaurant. In Dawson’s Creek style, the episode is emotional with forlorn glances, and Joey is torn over going as Dawson’s prom date and wearing his mother’s diamond earrings on one hand, yet ALSO dancing and exchanging sweet nothing whispers with Pacey on the other. AND in Dawson’s plain sight. There’s lots of heart-spilling feelings, longing glances off docks, and everything we love and miss about our ’90s television lineup.


Buffy wins the Class Protector award at her prom in ’Buffy The Vampire Slayer.’
Photo: Courtesy of The WB

Before Twilight mania, Robert Pattinson’s bedhead and KStew’s affinity for wearing her red carpet dresses with Converse shoes, Buffy and Sarah Michelle Gellar were the blond ambition against immortal evil forces in third period. But before Buffy can get to the dance (“a cotillion with spiked punch and the electric slide” in her own words) she has to fight off a few hell hounds who have been trained to attack those awkwardly bopping to music in formalwear at school dances by watching repeated viewings of Carrie. She’s also dealing with a devastating break-up with Angel, her vampire boyfriend (a muscle-ier, less sulken Edward Cullen). But when Buffy dons her pale purple satin dress and wins the Class Protector award (that bedazzled umbrella contraption you can kind of tell she’s holding), Angel swoops in for the last dance.


Jessie, Slater, Kelly, Zack, Lisa and Screech at the western-themed senior prom in ’Saved By The Bell.’
Photo: Courtesy of NBC

Please tell us we weren’t the only ones to wake up before 7 a.m. just so we could eat our cereal in front of re-runs of Saved By The Bell? Also, how can we get that stamina back? *drinks second cup of coffee before noon* Economically conscious Bayside High can’t sell expensive prom tickets during the recession (but really, $50 prom tickets in 1992 does seem a little outrageous), so the gang opts to use the Western-themed decorations in the gym already set up for the school play, “Oklahoma,” and get down with a square dance instead. We’re completely fine with that because we get to see Kelly in a white fringed leather jacket and leopard-print tank top and fashionable Lisa in a bedazzled jean jacket and high waisted denim skirt. Romantic tension is fraught as Jessie and Slater end up trapped in the basement and covered in black dust after turning on the furnace to get everyone’s attention. Upstairs, students wipe their sweaty brows and do-si-do to Screech’s square dance calling. Again, the denim ensembles just really make the whole episode.


Stephen, Kristin, Morgan, Christina, Trey, Lo, Lauren and Talan at their last prom in ’Laguna Beach.’
Photo: MTV

Appropriately, the “Our Last Dance” episode of the first season of Laguna Beach did actually feel like OUR last dance as the LB crew basically dictated our desired high school experience while we lived the less dramatic, sans beach version. I mean, come on, you know you wanted to go on a picnic with Stephen and model hats in Trey’s super-cool fashion show. Not to mention we get to see our girls Lauren Conrad and Kristin Cavallari in tip-top prom shape! LC (who has since stamped the Hills star, author and beauty expert on her resume) wears a red spaghetti strap dress, dangly earrings and a daisy in her side-swept ponytail, honoring a freshman year prom pact and going with her friend David. Kristin (who we just caught up with showing off her Chinese Laundry shoe collection) goes with her boyfriend “STEPH-ENNNN,” matching in mint green ensembles. After going on a solo cup-filled limo ride and singing along to Michelle Branch’s “Goodbye To You” with senior girls Lo, LC, Morgan and Christina, we had to officially acknowledge that high school was “dunzo.”

We sure do miss the glory days. Thank goodness for Netflix.

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