How many times have you watched something where a character taps their phone screen once or twice, and suddenly they’ve drafted a paragraph-long text? Frequently TV shows and movies will cut corners when it comes to portraying messaging and social media because it might not always feel like the most dynamic thing on screen, but they lose something in the process. Enter: HBO Max’s new teen dramedy, Genera+ion—in its pursuit of portraying an authentic modern teen experience, the series goes so far as to show us texting as it really happens: One letter at a time.
But there’s so much more to appreciate about Genera+ion, which focuses on a diverse group of high school students, following their highs and lows as they explore their identities and the very meaning of “identity” in today’s world. The show was created by 19-year old Zelda Barnz, who wanted to tell a story that felt “authentic” in all respects, from the messy drama to the confusing crushes to the cast who is, refreshingly, not too many years removed from high school themselves. And, yes, texting—and the way teens use their phones in general—was hugely important to Barnz, as she told The A.V. Club: “I definitely think it’s important to see kids use their phones the way kids really use their phones!” But Genera+ion is a family affair, so we also spoke with Barnz’s fathers and co-EPS, Ben and Daniel Barnz (Daniel, a series co-creator, also wrote and directed some of its episodes). The trio spoke to the painstaking process of depicting social media in television, and shared what they learned about one another in the process of creating Genera+ion.
Generation premieres on HBO Max March 11.