As far as we have seen (and we have binged so much TV together since we have to stay at home seemingly endless amounts of time), the best TV comedy series in 2020, thus far, clearly comes down to the second seasons of both What We Do In The Shadows and now, PEN15 (kudos to Hulu for exclusively streaming the pair). Honestly, with Schitt’s Creek sweeping at the Emmys last night, this showdown might extend to awards season as well.
This latest batch of PEN15 carried pretty high expectations as creators Maya Erskine, Anna Konkle, and Sam Zvibleman enraptured us all with the first season of an incredibly honest coming-of-age dramedy, which is incredibly impressive having to follow in the wake of the likes of a crowded field of critically acclaimed, unrelentingly honest coming-of-age dramedies including Eighth Grade, Lady Bird, and Big Mouth. Konkle and Erskine’s bold choice to play their teenage selves next to real kids really paid off in a way that we’ve never seen before in any sort of coming-of-age series or movie.
In this brand new season, PEN15 really takes the magic of Konkle and Erskine being the most convincing adult children of all time and hysterically runs with it to new heights. The more fantastical moments of this new season not only happen more often this time around but are bolder, more truthful, and so damn funny.
We truly don’t want to give any very satisfying surprises away here. However, this second season really swung for the fences with the adult/kid duality of Anna and Maya, allowing for the sheer absurdity of how genuinely strange and painful those teenage years in the year 2000 to really shine. The episodes of “Three” and “Play” in particular really ratchet up the cringe-worthy tension, sit in it, and then break it in such unexpected, beautifully hilarious ways that would, again, only happen as adults convincingly playing the child versions of themselves.
The accuracy of the year 2000 being depicted in the show is painstakingly spot-on in such a damningly funny fashion. Yet, PEN15 does seem to stand apart in that it is more than its nostalgia for the turn of the millennium and truly capturing the awkwardness and heartbreak of being in middle school, even more so in this second season (especially when it comes to exploring the further separation of Anna’s parents).
Again, PEN15’s second season, though far too short to have us last us through more of the pandemic, currently stands, for our money, as a frontrunner for best comedy and best TV lists in 2020.
All episodes of season 2 of PEN15 are now streaming at Hulu and we highly suggest, for your own peace of mind and a break from the weight of the world seeming like it’s going to end bearing down on you, to go binge watch it right now.