If you are a human of a certain age and you don’t have a visceral reaction to the songs in the PEN15 trailer, then I am going to go ahead and assume you ended up beneath a pile of Tamagotchis, Nano Babies, and Giga Pets in the late ‘90s and emerged only just this week. Next month, Hulu will release PEN15, an original comedy series about a pair of best friends navigating the weird, complicated, and occasionally fun world that is seventh grade in the year 2000.
Maya Erskine and Anna Konkle play the 13-year-old versions of themselves and, as a press release from Hulu notes, they are “surrounded by actual thirteen-year-olds.” Created, written, and executive produced by Erskine, Konkle, and Sam Zvibleman, PEN15 combines Y2K nostalgia and middle school horror in one hilarious package.
To borrow a phrase from the '90s, the trailer is all that and a bag of chips, and the music is one of the reasons why. The preview begins with Len’s 1999 hit single “Steal My Sunshine.” And then, it gives us a snippet of “I Wanna Be Bad,” the first single off of Willa Ford's Willa Was Here. As if that one-two punch of turn-of-the-millennium goodness didn’t already leave you wondering if your tube of very expired roll-on body glitter is OK to use, the trailer also includes the dulcet tones of AOL dialing up. A modem's wail really is the sound of an era.
And oh, how PEN15 pays homage to the era. There are the Adidas Superstar sneakers with the powder blue stripes. There are the Billabong/PacSun/Delia's-esque tank tops. The one shoulder top Anna wears to a school dance. Maya’s capris with the drawstrings. The shoutout to gel pens. The accessories that were almost certainly acquired at a Claire's store. The misplaced Discman. So many early '00s artifacts in this trailer, so little time.
The fashion and pen references may be dated, but the storylines highlighted in the trailer are forever. No matter the decade, middle school is a time of self-discovery, hormones, growth, hormones, and more hormones. And PEN15 is all about these timeless themes, warts (or should we say hormonal acne?) and all.
So whether you attend junior high when platform foam flip flops were all the rage or not, this show will surely speak to the part of you that’s still not over that one time in 7th grade when one of the most popular girls in your grade threw a birthday party and invited everyone all of your friends but did not invite you and then told you to your face that she didn’t want you there because she heard you told everyone she wears two bras and it’s not cool to gossip about someone’s bra situation. (For the record, you did not tell everyone she wears two bras. You still don’t know how or why that rumor happened. Middle school gossip is a heck of a thing.)
Anyway, all ten episodes of PEN15 will be on Hulu on Feb. 8, so grab your favorite Gelly Roll and mark it down in your Pokémon day planner.