It’s rare that spin-offs live up to their predecessors, however Grown-ish does just that. The college -set spinoff of Black-ish is the perfect show to kick off the new year in television. Grown-ish centers around Zoey (Yara Shahidi) as she ventures into unknown territory as a freshman at the fictional college California University of Liberal Arts. We never really ventured into the character of Zoey extensively in Black-ish, and we get to see a new side of her in this show. The show tackles everything that comes with college exploring the topic of courses and curriculum, drugs, parties, sexuality, and more. It captures the very essence of the millennial experience between humor and real issues and experiences we have as young adults. It’s been 25 years since we have had a show that centered around young Black college students. With Black women listed as one of the highest demographics to attend colleges and universities, you would think we should have gotten some portrayal of that in television. Yet are we really shocked we haven’t? The spin-off has garnered a lot of comparisons to A Different World. The two have similarities, and the show draws inspiration from it. Yet both are unique in their own way. While Zoey doesn’t a HBCU, it doesn’t make her experience as a young Black youth invalid.
The show features a diverse group of characters Zoey meets at a late-night drone course. Luca Hall (Luka Sabbat) the Basquiat Skirt wearing, weed smoking- black hipster was giving me total Jayden Smith vibes with his hilarious one liners. Chloe Bailey (Sky Forster) and Halle Bailey (Jazz Forster), who we lovingly know as the sister singing duo Chloe x Halle play a set of athletic track star twins. It seems fitting, considering the girls are always confused as twins, that they would play a set of twins in a series. If I’m not mistaken, this is the girls first acting role. I couldn’t gather much from their small appearances in the two episodes that aired. I will say that I enjoyed them enough to predict that they will be some of my favorite characters. The essence of black girl magic and Beyoncé is with us in these girls! Ana Torres (Francia Raisa) as her Latina Cuban American Republican roommate. From my home, the 305 Miami, FL. Aaron Jackson (Trevor Jackson) Zoey’s “woke” crush rocking the Tenchi Muyo Tenchi rat tail. Nomi Segal (Emily Arlook) the Jewish-American bi-sexual. Her story can resonate with anyone who is in the closet facing the battle of dealing with parents. Vivek Shah (Jordan Buhat) the drug-selling Indian American. I’m pretty sure everyone in college knew, or at least heard of the dude pushing Adderall pills, the academic steroids of college. The characters are all diverse and flawed, as they should be. They are all navigating their way through life and college. There is no time where the characters aren’t checking each other in some way; and they are willing to be checked. One part that stood out to me, was the conversation between the characters when Vivek is ranting about his relationship with his Immigrant father.
“I’ve always had to relate to whiteness for a very long time. For many people of any sort of background, whether you are POC, you’re a woman, you’re an immigrant, there’s a certain having to relate to mainstream culture when mainstream culture finds it unnecessary to relate to you. What’s really special about this is each character is not monolithic and not telling the usual story in any sort of way.”
While the show is diverse, it is unapologetically Black. Less than 5 minutes into the show, it makes a reference to Freaknic. The shows episode titles are named after black songs. The first two episodes were tiled “Late Registration” and “Bitch Don’t Kill My Vibe” by Kanye West and Kendrick Lamar. It pays quick homage to the Inglewood donut shop Randy’s Donuts. Various references to the police injustice as the character Aaron shows off his “I Can’t Breathe” and “Black Lives Matter” enamel pins on his jacket. Along with the characters attending a James Baldwin exhibit. This show is black as hell and I’m here for it. You can catch Grown-ish Wednesday nights at 8/7c on Freeform.