Grown-ish Season 1 Premiere (Review)
There has been an abundance of great black television shows lately, and it’s hard to keep up. From undisputed favorites like Insecure and Atlanta (which I just started), to the recent table shaker She’s Gotta Have It, black writers and directors have delivered phenomenal work that is actually being recognized. And if you aren’t joining Black Twitter discussing these shows live, you’re missing out. Grown-ish is spin-off of the sitcom Black-ish. Prior to its Wednesday night premiere the series had been met with both hype and hesitation on social media. Controversy about the star Yara Shahidi’s light skin, and the lack of dark-skinned actors in the series sparked discussion about colorism in Hollywood. But, it also seemingly forced Yara to defend her blackness. When a tweet was circulating calling Yara "racially ambiguous", she responded with a series of tweets. Stating that she is “perceived as black in most spaces”. While colorism and representation is an important conversation to have, which Yara made a point to say, tearing apart the show before it even premiered seemed counterproductive. And while these conversations were still happening even up to the premiere, there was still a fair amount of excitement. So at 8:00 on Wednesday night, I sat my ass down in front of the tv, turned to Freeform (the re-branded ABC Family) and tuned into Grown-ish.
I couldn’t make it through the 1st season of A Different World so I’ll never be able to understand the comparisons. But despite that, Grown-ish is its own series, and based on the first episode it has potential to do great things. The two episode kick off was charming, comical, and full of relatable moments. HBCU’s, Southern universities, Greek life, and drumlines often get the shine in most depictions of black college student life. But oftentimes they miss the stories about the first day of class, the struggle of writing a paper for a class, the prominence of “smart” drugs on college campuses, those freshman year crushes and flings, and a different perspective on college parties. All of this is done well in these first two episodes. As someone who attends a PWI, I was able to identify with being disappointed in a black professor, and that tragic night class that you had to take because everything else was closed. And yes, people do open up to their classmates that quickly, spilling all the details of their life that you didn’t care to know, and this gave us a peek into who all of the characters are.
The series premiere served as background on all of the characters. Zoey, the main character played by Yara Shahidi, is a true freshman in all of her naivety. Sis, don’t let Aaron get you with that “You up?” text. Yara’s character seems to thrive with all of the personalities surrounding her, I worried that she wouldn’t be able to carry a series, but she does well. Aaron (played by Trevor Jackson), tipped the line of “corny pro-black millennial” talking about the many social justice related pins on his jacket but it was comical. [Side note: A rat-tail is never cute, no matter how fine you are] He quickly became Zoey's love interest, and in the second episode we get to know him a little more. He seems like that one guy who just takes advantage of any freshman girls who falls for his chiseled jawline and brown eyes. Nomi provides some bisexual representation, she is in college and experiences a "sexual awakening". In terms of compelling and radical queer storylines Nomi's is lacking. Adding some queer people of color to this series is only right. Vivek represents for Indian millennials, and I would love to see how they develop his character's relationship with his father as the series progresses. Sky and Jazz are the queens of code-switching, and the only characters that I didn’t completely believe. They are played by Chloe and Halle, and these two will have to work to convince me that they are “hood girls who made it to college on a track scholarship and just want to make their family proud”. Overall, with Yara and a great supporting cast, Grown-ish has potential to be great, and tackle a wide array of topics.
It doesn’t feel like it’s trying to be too “woke” or “preachy”, it has a diverse cast, and is entertaining. I’ll be tuning into the next episode, will you?