I confess...I watch Glee. Aside from the fact that we never burst out into song, I'm often caught by how different TV high school is from my own experience. I think there's two primary sources of discord here, one that is simply about who I was as a young teen and the other is about how my school stood quite distinct from any I've really seen on TV.
Although they've since caught on to the error in planning, at the time I went through the doors, my district consisted of nine elementary schools (flooded and flowing out into trailers), three junior highs (the same), and a single high school (jammed in tight). I do think it is typical to have more lower schools, both because they serve a larger number of grades and to represent the desire for keeping the small ones close, but this was simply poor planning. Our high school only served grades 10-12 and even then we were busting at the seams. I was in the "tiny" class with about 800 students, the school overall encompassed about 2500 teens. My mind boggles at the amount of hormones in that place.
The size in itself accounts for some differences. The Saved By The Bell kids lingered in the halls and talked between classes. Not so much at my school. Granted, my social status came into play in my hallway experience, but everyone pretty much had to book it just to get across the building in the five minutes allotted between classes. I'm not sure I ever visited my locker other than before lunch (which 2 of the 3 years was around 1PM, just before the last class of the day...in 10th grade, it was more like 10:30AM), let alone had deep conversations there. In fact, I tended to walk with my elbows turned out a bit in order to avoid being swept along with the crowd in the wrong direction. At my tiny little liberal arts college, you were sure to run into anyone you wished to avoid. In contrast, I heard names at high school graduation that I hadn't heard since 4th grade. Kelly could totally have avoided Steve after a mistaken hook-up and Brenda wouldn't see Dylan on the way to every class.
Until the funding fights unravelled on Glee, cheerleaders abounded. I met a cheerleader from my high school last year, during my stop back at my parents' house. I'm really not sure I ever knew one before. I'll admit the bias here that I was in a pretty narrowly defined group of Honors Class kids so really only attended class with a small portion of my peers and we probably had our own social world (though I am fairly sure several dance crowns went to a fellow honors kid). But I still don't recall skirted cheer-gals parading around. There was no room for the crowds to part in awe as the Mean Girls walked by.
In every TV show, the high school world includes a lot of heads-in-the-toilet, kids-stuffed-in-lockers, and (the latest trope) of the Slushy facial. It would be hard to be less popular than I was in those days. I could chat with some of my classmates, but I can count on one hand (maybe half-a-hand) the number of times I ventured out socially. But none of that stuff happened in my high school world. Junior high got vicious at times. I was pants-ed in gym class, popped between the shoulders daily by a boy in my homeroom every day of 7th grade, and relentlessly mocked until I'd ask for a pass to the nurse to escape. But this was done by high school and I'm fairly sure this wasn't unique to me or even to my school. By high school, I was just ignored. The teasing pretty much stopped. I simply didn't exist. Which isn't fun either, but is quite different. Of course, it makes for pretty boring TV (and a bit of a boring three years from a social standpoint).
I never had to carry a sack-of-flour baby. Or plan for a science fair. Slater, Jessie, Zach, and Kelli didn't head EVERY club and pull off a stunt for every assignment. We didn't eat on the lawn or run to the Peach Pit during study hall. I heard about study hall, but never knew anyone who had onel. Despite these obvious gaps in my schooling, I did have some amazing teachers and cannot complain these. I read stuff in high school that other people didn't encounter until their graduate programs (Kant, Chaucer, Upton Sinclair). I was VERY well-prepared for college. I was used to working. Hard. A lot of my teachers held graduate degrees. Tracking kids into ability groups bothers me in theory, but I sure as heck benefited from it (as I've rambled on about before). I don't know what our football program cost, but I give the school the credit of assuming that the AP program cost more.
I hid in the crowd for my three years in high school. I'll own that and own that my actions shaped my experience. I chattered with the other honors kids but didn't really ever ASK to be included in their non-school world (and they did have one). I wasn't a Rambler then (though I probably raised my hand too much), but I was a Watcher. And I'm pretty sure none of the creators of TV High wandered the halls I walked.
I'd say you couldn't pay me to go back, but I doubt that's true. You could. But it'd take a lot.