Here’s why you should be watching ‘Pen15’

Maya Erskine, left, and Anna Konkle in their roles as seventh-grade versions of themselves in Hulu's "PEN15."

From new TV shows and cast reunions to virtual musical and arts events, here’s a weekly look at a standout streaming option

My pick: “Pen15,” an awkward coming-of-age comedy on Hulu

Viewers beware: It takes a few tries to fully get into this show because it is so very uncomfortable. It’s set in middle school in the year 2000 and it embraces all the terrible things about that time of life — from getting a bad haircut to getting your first period.

The real deal: “Pen15” is written by real-life friends Maya Erskine and Anna Konkle . They also star in it. So, even though they’re adults, they play middle school versions of themselves, also named Maya and Anna, alongside a cast of actual kids.

Because of this, you’d think “Pen15” would be all about cheap laughs and potty humor (especially considering the name, which is a juvenile way of spelling out the word penis.) But as Linda Holmes of NPR wrote in a review, “Pen 15” is actually “as tender as anything since ‘My So-Called Life.’”

This show captures the messy side of middle school: the fracturing of a solid friendship, what it’s like when your parents fight all the time, smoking your first cigarette, taking care to have the perfect outfit, feeling jealous when your best friend and your mom get along.

These are seemingly small moments that ultimately end up shaping and defining us, something “Pen15” understands.

The new season: The first season premiered in February 2019 and saw Maya and Anna through various fights and momentous moments, including a first kiss. The second season debuts this month with the girls back as solid friends, though with more parental issues, boys and parties to navigate.

Find it: Season two of “Pen15” premieres Friday, Sept. 18 on Hulu.