School dances. First kisses. First – ahem – experiences. Breaking up with your best friend. We’ve all been there – but hopefully our own experiences were less embarrassing than Anna and Maya’s.
Maya Erskine and Anna Konkle, both 30-somethings, play the 13-year-old versions of themselves in this hilarious series, but their classmates are played by real-life middle schoolers – which made certain scenes challenging to film. (Thank goodness for body doubles!)
If you came of age in the early noughties, and felt like you never really fit in at school, this is the millennial-nostalgia show you’ve been waiting for. Maya and Anna are dorky 7th-graders who start middle school in the year 2000, and as Arizona Republic writes, “PEN15 is incredibly smart about the way it explores the social dynamics shaping (and being shaped by) young adults – in this case, in the early 2000s.”
But it’s not just about laughs at the expense of awkward teenagers. PEN15 also confronts more serious issues, including discrimination and racism. Mimi Wong says that, while watching the show, “I was brought back to my first confrontations with racism, with having someone insist that I was somehow different or inferior.”
And for the Gen Zs currently in their teens? The Globe and Mail says: “Rarely has the maddening insecurities of being a teenager been so ably mocked but utterly understood with sympathy.” So it’s one for you as well (as long as you’re over 16!).