Ultimate cringe comedy: Why was ‘Pen15’ cancelled after season 2?
Since it debuted in early 2019, Pen15 has steadily become one of the most popular & acclaimed comedy series on streaming. This cringe comedy show from Hulu stars Maya Erskine & Anna Konkle, who portray fictionalized versions of their thirteen-year-old selves. Part of the humor of Pen15 comes from the fact that Erskine & Konkle are in their early thirties.
Konkle & Erskine look objectively off-putting next to actual thirteen-year-old actors. This is just part of the show that you have to buy into. Certainly, executives at Hulu did at first. Konkle & Erskine developed the show together with Sam Zvibleman, who all serve as executive producers. Lonely Island members Andy Samberg, Akiva Schaffer, and Jorma Taccone also produce.
Pen15’s initial success led to its renewal for season 2 in May 2019. Season 2 premiered in September of 2020. Despite seasons 1 & 2 receiving both critical & popular acclaim, Hulu announced last month that season 2 would be the end of Pen15. So what happened? Let’s dig into the story of this cringe comedy series to find out.
A blast from the past
The tagline of Pen15 is “middle school as it really happened.” The show’s plot centers on teenagers Maya Ishii-Peters (Erskine) & Anna Kone (Anna Konkle). Maya is an introverted Japanese-American seventh-grader who goes through fits of immaturity & spontaneity. Despite being quiet, she’s able to win people over with her antics.
Anna is Maya’s best friend who’s attempting to reconcile her parents’ separation. Being the best vocal talent in the school, Anna deals with her own emotional turmoil by turning to music. Even though she’s more straight-laced than Maya, Anna is more likely to be affected by what her classmates say.
Pen15 is set in the year 2000, when “the best day of your life can turn into your worst with the stroke of a gel pen.” Season 1 of Pen15 consists of ten episodes, with season 2 being upped to fourteen. In addition to starring in the series, both Erskine & Konkle wrote some of the episodes. Additionally, Sam Zvibleman directed multiple episodes of Pen15.
Behind the scenes, Pen15 was created by production companies including The Lonely Island, Party Over Here, Odenkirk Provissiero, and AwesomenessTV. Season 2 was released in several parts, with two seven-episode segments split up by an animated special in between. Pen15 is critically adored by many writers, so let’s examine the reception of the series.
Response to Pen15
From a public standpoint, Pen15 is very popular amongst viewers. Season 1 of the show holds a ninety-three percent “Certified Fresh” approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Remarkably, season 2 somehow extended this success by garnering a whopping 100% on Rotten Tomatoes.
The critical consensus read, “An excellent showcase for Maya Erskine, Anna Konkle, and their well-cast classmates, PEN15’s sophomore season goes deeper into the nuances of middle school life without losing any of its cringey charm.” Individual critics also had wonderful things to say about Pen15 season 2.
Hank Stuever of the Washington Post wrote, “If one has to choose only one millennial-made TV series that ventures into adolescent angst in the AOL era, please make it this one.” With all of this glowing praise from critics & fans alike, why is it that Pen15 is ending after only season 2?
Why is Pen15 over?
It really comes down to the fact that the creators did what they wanted to do. According to Variety, Erskine & Konkle are apparently at the end of the story they initially had in mind for the series. Perhaps this is the best outcome, as many shows have stayed in production past the point of them being creative or relevant. Maybe Erskine & Konkle didn’t want to “jump the shark.”
Sadly, Pen15 seemingly will not continue after season 2. However, maybe Maya Erskine & Anna Konkle can use the cultural clout they’ve achieved through the series to create other projects. What’s your favorite moment from Pen15? Let us know in the comment section!