Pen15, a new show that premiered this month on Stan, is the latest show to tackle burgeoning teenage sexuality and the trials and tribulations of puberty, and it does so with such accuracy that it’s almost painful to watch.
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t watch it, though. You should. Just be prepared to be transported back to the early-2000s, or years six and seven, or both if you were born in the late 80s.
The show follows Maya and Anna, played by Maya Erskine and Anna Konkle respectively, as they fumble through seventh grade. The weirdest part of the show is that the girls are played by the grown-up Maya and Anna, while all of their classmates are played by actors that actually look 13.
It makes for some pretty hilarious scenes, particularly ones that involve any sort of hooking up – the way the camera moves around to avoid showing a grown-up Anna actually kissing a 13-year-old boy is hilarious. And a relief, tbh, because watching an adult kiss a teen would be incredibly uncomfortable.
While crushes and lacklustre attempts at hooking up play a big role in the show, it also explores issues of bullying, cliques, divorce, periods, masturbation, and trying to navigate that awkward space between childhood and adolescence.
Where Big Mouth focuses almost entirely on puberty, masturbation, and sex, Pen15 feels more balanced, and, most importantly, centres the perspectives of teenage girls. The show is very much by-girls and for-girls, and it’s a breath of fresh air in amidst what feels like a culture over-saturated with shows for teenage boys created by former teenage boys.
If you were a teen in the early 2000s, you’ll enjoy the nostalgia that the show is infused with, and even if you were a bit younger at the time (aka 7 like I was), it will still resonate with you. There’s things like waiting for the dial-up to connect, trying to navigate AIM chatrooms, and countless tragic outfits that you probably wore yourself more than once.
It’s got some great comedic minds behind it, too – in addition to Erskine and Konkle, legends like Andy Samberg, Akiva Schaffer and Jorma Taccone (aka The Lonely Island) served as executive producers on the series.
You can check out this trailer to get a feel for the show, and then mosey on over to Stan, where you can find the entire first season available for you to enjoy.