Comedy

In the age of Instagram filters, PEN15 celebrates teenage flaws in all their awkward glory

Maya Erskine and Anna Konkle portray an uncensored and R-rated retelling of their memories of middle school.

Maya Erskine and Anna Konkle portray an uncensored and R-rated retelling of their memories of middle school.

PEN15 -- "Pool" - Episode 201 -- Two days after the dance, Maya and Anna reluctantly go to a lame pool party. A crush unexpectedly shows up, causing them to question their sanity and reputations. Maya Ishii-Peters (Maya Erskine) and Anna Kone (Anna Konkle), shown. (Photo by: Erica Parise/Hulu) (CBC)

The critically acclaimed cult comedy PEN15 is like nothing else on television, and it's back with a second season premiering October 16 on CBC Gem

With a unique take on adolescence, PEN15 is a real nostalgia treat from the 2000s filled with cringey middle-school humiliations. You can't miss the 33-year-old stars, Maya Erskine and Anna Konkle, who play 7th-grade teenagers among other young actors. 

The PEN15 creators are no longer the underdogs.

Erksine and Konkle started writing PEN15 in their mid-twenties, and they wanted to play outcasts because they thought of themselves as outcasts. 

They were used to being "the underdogs, struggling, pushing their ideas forth," says Konkle, so when the series premiered and became an instant success, they were in a deep shock and state of confusion. 

"We were on the floor freaking out, " says Maya Erskine. "It's very scary revealing your diary to strangers. Putting out the masturbation stuff [from season 1], we didn't really think about it. "

PEN15 resonates with audiences worldwide (the UK, France, Australia, Latin America) because it is "purposely filterless." says Konkle. 

Maybe with all the Instagram filters and pressure to be perfect, there's a subconscious craving to see flaws flaunted.- Anna Konkle

"To have anyone relate to these stories is a gift to us," says Erksine. "Things we felt so ashamed about became things we could feel proud of through our art, which blew our minds."  

By playing out those R-rated moments as adults, the audience could feel safe to laugh at some of the traumatic embarrassing moments. 

"The story of rejection is in all of us," says Konkle, "and it's healing to know others feel the same, like Anna and Maya. We try to celebrate the reject, laugh at it, look at it up close instead of push it away."

Telling the story from childhood to tween-hood.

In season one, we see the characters experience major adolescent milestones like their first kiss, first boyfriend, and getting their period. In the second season, premiering on CBC Gem on October 16, Anna and Maya are right in the middle of "that intense transition where you're not quite a kid but you're also not a teen," says Erskine.

Season two picks up right after the dance in the last episode of season one, where a single event jumpstarts a chain reaction affecting Maya's and Anna's identities. They try on many different identities, like witches and wrestlers, as a means to escape their own identities. 

In the new season, there will be some more subtle moments like "micro-firsts," as Anna's parents' situation is changing, and the girls are experiencing the darker side of adolescence.  

This season is broken into two seven-episode instalments. The second half, originally intended to come out six months after the first, will likely debut a year from now, Konkle said.

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