Oughta Get a Nod: Pen15 stars Maya Erskine and Anna Konkle are comedy valedictorians
I never got around to making my list of the 10 best shows last year. So please pardon this very late praise: Pen15 was 2021's best TV series. Co-creators Maya Erskine and Anna Konkle turned their art project comedy into a masterpiece out of the gate, playing their (fictionalized) teen selves. But the final episodes pushed their characters further than ever. BFFs Maya and Anna both got boyfriends, and the show honored their romantic excitement without blinking from the genuine terrors of awkward-or-worse teen intimacy.
Pen15 defied all the cheapo 2000s nostalgia currently lighting up the internet. The co-creators had a knack for zany comedy, but they vividly remembered all the paranoid terrors hiding within the uber-sexualized purple-turquoise gloss of Y2K culture. The show was also, always, incredibly funny — and fearless. There were multiple giggle-eruption jokes about the freaking Holocaust, and an all-night cancer walk managed to be moving and hilarious. In only eight episodes, the duo found time for a breakaway mature-melancholic romance about Maya's mother (Mutsuko Erskine) and an animated trip to Florida.
Erskine and Konkle both wrote and directed memorable episodes this season, but I will be ruined if the Academy doesn't nominate both of them for lead actress. It was nothing short of miraculous to watch them onscreen together, resurrecting their youth with an adolescent physicality that could break your heart and send you ROFLing.