The 7 best TV graduations

It's hard to beat 90210's "Donna Martin graduates!" chant... unless your mayor turns into a monster while delivering the commencement address.

(Image credit: Screen shot)

1. Beverly Hills, 90210

If ever there was an epic graduation arc, it was this one. It all started when Donna (Tori Spelling) couldn't hold her liquor, and was caught drunk and puking at the prom. Fast forward: She's two seconds away from being expelled by the school board when Brandon, Brenda, and the gang show up outside with hundreds of other students and start chanting, "Donna Martin graduates! Donna Martin graduates!" Of course, a bunch of teenagers ditching their finals to scream at the board totally worked, and Donna was able to don her cap and gown and graduate with the rest of the crew. Then they defaced the Hollywood sign, but that's a different story for a different list ("The 6 Craziest Graduation Pranks Pulled by Fictional High Schoolers Played by Adults!").

2. Boy Meets World

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Topanga (Danielle Fishel) was all set for the Ivies when she graduated from John Adams High in 1998 alongside her boyfriend, Cory (Ben Savage). Then she totally threw everyone for a loop though when she decided to propose to him at the end of commencement. They didn't wind up getting married until they were in college together, but it was still completely unexpected. In fact, the only thing more shocking than this role reversal was the fact that Mr. Feeney taught these kids from the sixth grade all the way to college. Is that even legal?

3. Dawson's Creek

For a show that made so many TV watchdog groups angry (Remember how racy it was considered? Ah, the '90s!), the Dawson's Creek graduation ceremony was downright quaint. Joey (Katie Holmes) gave a touching speech, while everyone's families beamed proudly in the audience. Even the senior shenanigans — the sprinklers turned on, and everyone got soaked — were on the innocent side. It was nice to see this group that was so used to drama get a nice sendoff from Capeside High.

4. Saved by the Bell

In his time off from making calls on his giant phone, Zack Morris (Mark Paul Gosselaar) was actually able to graduate from Bayside High. Of course, he cut it close — he was a credit shy, and had to scramble to join the gang as they accepted their diplomas from Mr. Belding. Let's just pretend that they all stopped learning the day they graduated, and that Saved by the Bell: The College Years never happened.

5. Gilmore Girls

Gilmore Girls reminds us that really, commencement ceremonies are as much for the families as they are for the graduates. Who didn't sorta kinda tear up when Rory (Alexis Bledel) started talking about how awesome her mom was?

6. Buffy the Vampire Slayer

After several seasons of slaying vampires, you wouldn't expect Buffy (Sarah Michelle Gellar) to have a peaceful graduation, would you? Of course not. So while delivering his commencement address, Sunnydale's mayor creepily transformed into a gigantic monster (around the 32:30 mark). Always prepared, Buffy led the rest of the Class of 1999 (who hid weapons underneath their gowns) in an attack against him and an army of vampires. The school was destroyed in an explosion and the principal got eaten, but the Sunnydale High grads lived to see another day.

7. The O.C.

The O.C.'s graduation didn't stand out all that much; it was the aftermath that everyone remembers. Right when Marissa (Mischa Barton), Ryan (Ben McKenzie), Summer (Rachel Bilson) and Seth (Adam Brody) were about to start a new chapter in their lives, Marissa died after Volchok ran Ryan's car off the road. As sad as it was, at least it caused Ryan to briefly become a cage fighter the next season — for that, we will always be grateful for you, Marissa.

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Catherine Garcia

Catherine Garcia is night editor for Her writing and reporting has appeared in Entertainment Weekly and, The New York Times, The Book of Jezebel, and other publications. A Southern California native, Catherine is a graduate of the University of Redlands and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.