201x animated comedy series with Jenny Slate, Jessi Klein, Maya Rudolph, Nick Kroll, Fred Armisen and John Mulaney voicing various children hitting puberty together at a Westchester County junior high school.

Puberty is a veritable gold mine for comedy, because of its 21st century awkwardness. Well, it's been awkward in every age in every culture, but it is especially in 201x. In antiquity, schooling was something that very few people got to enjoy and the bulk of humanity learned the skills of survival on the job from childhood. By the time the first hairs started appearing on the mons veneris boys were just waiting for adult strength to kick in to handle the demanding farm or skilled labor chores, and girls had raised their own siblings and had done a fair share of cooking, cleaning and running a household somehow. They were practically adults when their bodies hit adulthood. But our culture, which extended childhood far beyond its "natural" state and extended it with our societal understanding of teenagers and adolescence - has people still starting to hit their stride in understanding a far more complicated world when their bodies throw them into chaos.

So it gets mined and mined hard as a cast of characters, from nerdy Andrew (Mulaney) and his short best friend Nick (Kroll) to everygirl Jessi (Klein) and her nerdy biracial friend Missy (Slate). Representing school is the only teacher we ever really see, "Coach" (who is literally illiterate), the extended families of Andrew, Nick, Jessi and Missy, and other characters, including the wise ghost of Duke Ellington who offers somewhat mixed advice, and the hormone monster, a personification of the effects of puberty. 

As the series starts, we have Andrew, who is further into puberty having to deal with the constant irritation of the hormone monster goading him to masturbate, reminding him he's getting erections in school, and when a girl finally does show interest, well, you know the drill. He even punches a hole in the wall and draws a figure of a nude woman around said hole and suggests coitus with it. When it's not literally always doing that, it's encouraging Andrew (at first) and then Nick (later) to get into physical fights and so forth. He's an unpleasant, nasty perverted satyr of a character with genuinely no redeeming qualities.

The only sign that puberty sucks for girls at the beginning of the series is Jessi noting wryly that whereas sex ed goes on about the fact that boys will be able to enjoy the pleasure of ejaculation, girls (she notes a diagram projected on the white board of the internal female reproductive system) get to be a yarn-ball of tubes that hurt. Within an episode she deals with getting her first period in tiny white shorts while on a field trip in New York City. She panics, runs to a bathroom to find no toilet paper available anywhere and hides there until Andrew finds her and tries to get something for her to use. (paraphrased: "So I'll just get a receipt and you'll reimburse me later?" "I've got blood coursing out of my vagina!" "Right, right, got it, sorry."  (ducks out) ). The only thing he can find is a 9/11 "Never Forget" beach towel, but Andrew gallantly lends her his shirt to tie around her waist to conceal the fact that she's fashioned a diaper of sorts out of it, which fools nobody.  The coach tries his level best to be sympathetic, which does nothing but make her feel worse, and buys what he thinks are the correct supplies, but are actually a bag of marshmallows. The whole affair ends with an animated tampon drawn to look like Michael Stipe singing a parody of "Everybody Hurts" by R.E.M.

But given the 3:1 ratio of male to female writers and the fact that puberty generally hits boys harder in terms of awkwardness, most of it centers around the boys dealing with the constant harassment by the Hormone Monster, and going to the ghost of Duke Ellington for advice. Andrew at one point gets a raging erection while looking at The Rock and wonders if he's gay. The hormone monster doesn't in any way help him sort out his confusion, just simply goads him to shove it into a boy instead. 

Eventually we do see a female hormone monster, who shows up to bother the girls. Only, it isn't the distaff version of the male version - she's a voluptuous demon with curves who promises power and the girls love her. She tells Jessi "Your job now is to make your mother cry and laugh at her tears" and later when Jessi says "I think my mother was right" angrily scolds her with "Never say those words again". But at no point does she ever encourage the girls to shove people and/or things into their genitals or make out with anyone - instead it's about shoplifting lipstick and persuading mom to buy a bra from Victoria's Secret that accentuates her budding A-cups. She encourages Jessi to hold a sleepover to get in with the popular girls, and persuades her to backstab Missy and betray her friend in an attempt to become popular. 

The show does concede "girls get horny too" (a sentence which causes every male character's head to explode (and then reappear), even the (male) hormone monster's). But the show concedes it as "yes, but not quite". The girls and women end up all obsessed with a book called The Rock of Gibraltar in which a character, "Gustavo" (eyes glaze over, body tremors) cannot see "Fatima" because she's Muslim and he's Christian, in medieval Moorish Spain. So he has a magician painfully transform him into a horse so that they can be together. This confuses the ever loving hell out of the boys because there's literally nothing sexual in this, even though the girls readily admit "I felt like I was sitting on a fountain reading this" and so forth. Eventually the female characters try to explain to the boys "it's erotic because they can't have sex, and it's sexy because there's no sex in it" and say things like "sometimes a faceless man with a baby in a carrier is sexy, I don't know" which frankly confused them and me even more than before. One of the boys complains that the girls are in essence reading their version of pornography on trains and in school and so forth, whereas they'd get strongly disciplined for reading Hustler in public. But the other boy points out remember, it's not really pornography and they're not really aroused.

Given that the characters are friends at the beginning of the show, they're in essence friendzoned with each other but Andrew does pair off with Missy, at the especial goading of the hormone monster. She shyly pulls him into a closet at a high school party and a touching scene transpires in which the whole adolescent fumbling is represented by a cutaway to the two hormone monsters sitting at a boardroom table negotiating a contract. ("My client..... 's got nothing." "Mine neither." "Well, what are we talking here? Outside the clothes, inside the clothes? Tongue?" "I don't know!") It ends disastrously in multiple ways - she tries pressing her mons veneris against him to rub up against him and he panics fearing imminent ejaculation and she panics thinking she did something horribly wrong. They're interrupted anyway (but not discovered) by the return of the owner of the bedroom they're hiding in, whose boyfeind attempts to force her into fellatio which they both witness from the closet in horror. (Cutaway again to the boardroom: female hormone monster says "Nah, I lost her. I've lost her for the next few years at least. Sorry, Maury.") Then they're discovered by the parents they lied to and both sets of parents basically break them apart worrying they're moving too fast, a heartbreak which is not resolved by the end of the first and possibly only series.

There's a certain level of in-baked toxic masculinity to the show - sexuality for the boys is an unwanted hassle that goads them to force themselves against other people against their will, and female sexuality is something that's bad not because it's exploitative but because there's side effects (Jessi wears the bra, and loves the "wanted" attention but not the "unwanted" attention from male teachers and jealous accusatory stares from other girls). Male masturbation is seen as a demeaning thing akin to a bathroom visit to get rid of waste products, and the notion of female masturbation is touched on with an empowering vignette in which Jessi talks to her own vulva (which she sees in a mirror), animated Disney style and voiced by Kirsten Wiig (also, the female hormone monster isn't literally looking over her shoulder making unwelcome comments). Jessi's mom is married to a comparative slacker, and cannot handle the fact that she makes more money than him and dumps him for a female cantor at the Temple of Beth Amphetamine. Likewise, Jessi herself takes on with the "bad boy" of the group, a boy from a dysfunctional household in the extreme. 

Nevertheless it's an engaging little show, it's telling that we're not sure who the audience is. Adults don't really get much out of the whole thing because puberty's in the rear view mirror. It's too adult for children and it wouldn't really help them that much anyway - because at the end of it the two sets of genders involved really don't learn that much about the other. Hands up any girl who didn't know boys want to stick things into them. As for the boys, well, you're really none the wiser as to how girls are affected here, because even they aren't that aware.

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