Trailer Watch: 'PEN15' Has Awkward Teen Comedy Vibes to Spare

In this new regular feature, The Hollywood Reporter puts the spotlight on TV series that may fly under the radar.
Alex Lombardi/Hulu

Welcome to Trailer Watch, a new regular feature that helps put the spotlight on series that may fly under the radar in the crowded Peak TV landscape. Each installment of Trailer Watch will explain what the show is and why it looks interesting. This week it's Hulu's new original comedy offering PEN15.

In a landscape where most popular teen dramas are focused on incredibly good-looking 25-year-olds getting up to mischief entirely bereft of the mundanity and awkwardness of most teenage experiences, Hulu is hoping to throw a hilarious wrench in the works with its new Lonely Island-produced comedy PEN15.

Created by Maya Erskine and Anna Konkle — who also star — this smart twist on teen comedy sees the two comedians play themselves as teenagers opposite a cast of actual 13-year-olds, traversing the trials and tribulations of seventh grade in the year 2000. According to the team behind the show, "PEN15 is middle school as it really happened. Where the best day of your life can turn into your worst with the stroke of a gel pen." The first trailer gives audiences a taste of the sincere, silly, and downright cringe-inducing humor that the show promises.

The line between teen and adult content has long been one that networks and streamers have tried to straddle. Stranger Things presented a popular adult show which focused on a cast of young children, and properties like Riverdale, Pretty Little Liars and Runaways have tried to cater to both their teen demographic and a wider audience who are open to comic-book and genre stories. PEN15 appears to offer up a unique counterpoint to these shows by presenting an authentic, decidedly adult look back on the more embarrassing side of growing up.

The trailer showcases a surprisingly mature take on millennial adolescence that will likely ring true for anyone who was hitting puberty during the '00s, as well as just seeming relatable to anyone who's had to live through being a teenager — so, basically everyone.

It's always intriguing to see women getting to dip their toes into the crude teen comedy waters that are so often inhabited by men, which also sets PEN15 apart. It'll be interesting to see how The Lonely Island's signature brand of humor will cross over with a female-fronted and -created project like PEN15, and it's exciting to see the collective using their platform to bring original women-centric comedy to a massive service like Hulu.

Along with their co-creator Sam Zvibleman, it seems like Erskine and Konkle will be focusing on their own experiences as teenagers at the turn of the millennium. From trying to stay in touch in the era of bandwidth internet to first kisses through mortifying moments with crushes and the uncontrollable hormones that come along with puberty, PEN15 looks like it could be a hilarious antidote to the spate of sexy and often really unrealistic teen offerings that we've seen over the last few years. If this first look is anything to go by, this promises to be a solid addition to Hulu's original slate. The series premieres Feb. 8.