On paper, a show like PEN15 shouldn't work.
The Stan series features co-stars and co-creators Maya Erskine and Anna Konkle as Year 7 versions of themselves but surrounded by real 13-year-olds on screen.
Normally, seeing women in their 30s playing 13-year-olds could only be a recipe for some hit and miss comedy, but in the hands of Maya and Anna the series, now in its second season, is poignant, emotional and wildly funny.
According to Maya, choosing to cast themselves as the main protagonists was a way for the creative duo to tell an essentially an R-rated story, in a young adult setting, without the content ever feeling inappropriate.
"It started with us knowing we wanted to play outcasts because we think of ourselves as outcasts," Maya told Mamamia in a statement.
Take a look at the trailer for PEN15 season two, only on Stan. Post continues below.
"We came up with this convoluted idea where we escape a cult and hide in a foster family and go to middle school. We then asked our friend Sam Zvibleman to write it with us and he asked why can’t you guys just be in middle school? That was an 'ah-ha' moment.
"We wanted the show to be an uncensored and R-rated retelling of middle school, of our memories of middle school. And to do that, we knew we had to have adults play out those r-rated moments.
"What we found was that by having us play this age, the audience could feel safe to laugh at some of the traumatic or embarrassing moments. As opposed to it being a kid who could potentially be going through those moments - that would be a lot harder to watch."
Season one of PEN15 sees Maya Erskine play Maya Ishii-Peters, an initially shy Japanese-American seventh-grader primarily raised by her mother. Her best friend Anna, played by Anna Kone, is struggling with her parents' divorce and often uses her music to escape her home life.
While season two of PEN15 is still very much a coming-of-age comedy, the co-creators said they were able to touch on a whole new range of young adult issues in their second on-screen outing.
"We started writing this in our mid-twenties, we’re 33 now," Anna said. "So many years working in a vacuum. We wrote PEN15 and we act in it, so very vulnerable. But we’ve had such a positive reaction – exceeded my highest expectation! It’s been a really wild thing.