Hulu’s Pen15 is another autobiographical coming of age comedy that has a slightly nostalgic edge to it as it’s set in the year 2000, but there’s another slight twist to it as well as though the majority of the cast are played by young teenagers, the two leads (and the show’s creators) Anna Konkle and Maya Erskine play versions of their thirteen year old selves despite now being in their early thirties.
Such a concept allows the show to be brutally honest when it comes to what it was like at that age where you’re not quite an adult but are no longer a child, with the first season exploring the duo tackling a number of firsts including masturbation, periods, smoking, and relationships, along with other aspects of the madness that being that age involves, while heightening the absurdity of what it’s like, as we see these two adults obsess about what in hindsight is often silly or absurd.
Picking up two days after the big dance in the first season finale where the duo were both felt up by Brandt (Jonah Beres) at the same time, or at least there was some very minor over clothing chest touching, of course Anna and Maya are obsessing over this to an enormous degree because it’s what they do, and that’s made more complicated when at a pool party Brandt claims it never happened. Other than this there’s not a lot going on in the opening episode, with most of the other characters getting little to do.
Perhaps it’s because it’s a fairly low key effort, but while fairly funny in places it definitely doesn’t feel like the series at it’s best. There’s some funny enough cringe moments like when Maya practices kissing herself in the mirror, and the girls indulge in vacuous conversations which are amusing enough, but by having such a very slight plot it felt fairly predictable and the show wasn’t exactly trying out anything new.
It’s a series I’ll definitely stick with as the central characters are really fun, and Erskine and Konkle’s performances are pretty damn stunning and it’s easy to see why they didn’t cast an age appropriate actor. But if it’s going to be as memorable and hilarious as the first season was than it really needs to kick up a gear, and quickly too, as otherwise the joke might start to wear a little thin.