Puberty is suddenly all the rage on television
PEN15, Big Mouth, Sex Education and even the canceled American Vandal are all part of the new teen TV "golden age," says Kate Knibbs. "Coming-of-age stories about tormented, horny teens have been popular for centuries," says Knibbs. "What is Oedipus, after all, if not the tale of the world’s worst way to lose your virginity? Recently, though, a new and decidedly less tragic breed of puberty story is on the rise, with an emphasis on 'coming of age' as a double entendre. These shows are dirty, and are as funny as TV has been in recent years. But they’re also a new strain of teen comedy, where d*ck jokes coexist with a social conscience." As Knibbs points out, "for a long time, coming-of-age stories with an emphasis on sex tended to be dramas, if not melodramas... The most beloved TV shows with lots of teen sex, from the soapy Dawson’s Creek and Gossip Girl to earnest outings like My So-Called Life, had a humorlessness about their frisky, underage characters. Long-running Canadian soap Degrassi was perhaps the frankest teen show about sexuality, but it was even more melodramatic than its American counterparts, with plotlines about gonorrhea, teen pregnancy, and, uh, impotence issues stemming from paralysis, that were played for gasps, not laughs. Freaks and Geeks is the most obvious precursor to this genre, as it was a psychologically realistic comedy about teens, but the short-lived and much-loved show was a fairly tame network outing. Main freak Lindsey Weir (Linda Cardellini) ends the show a virgin, as do all of the geeks." The new puberty TV shows owe a debt to 1980s raunchy teen sex movies, which have been dragged down by their sexual politics, says Knibbs. "The new crop of sex comedies on television are equally enhanced by their progressive streaks," says Knibbs. "Sex Education, as the title suggests, is essentially a celebration of learning about sexuality... Big Mouth is similarly interested in accurate representations...This influx of stories that treat teenage sexual awakening like the deeply ridiculous time it is are a positive side effect of television’s current awkward phase." ALSO: These Puberty TV shows seem like the first chance to pay tribute to Freaks and Geeks.
- PEN15 plans to stay in 7th grade should it be renewed for Season 2
- PEN15 proves that the frank, no-holds-barred Big Mouth approach to puberty can work without animation
- Watch two women play 13-year-old girls in the trailer for Hulu's Pen15
- Hulu's PEN15 will have two 30-somethings play 13-year-old versions of themselves