Legacies are hard to uphold - be they universal or socially distinct - especially in reference to classic portrayals and timeless writing.
Actress Yara Shahidi’s new Freeform show, Grown-ish has the difficulty of trying to add a refreshing twist to coming-of-age college tropes while showing deference to the culturally significant, often black references that draw in a devoted audience, which helped give the program its green light.
Shahidi’s character, Zoey Johnson, is experiencing college for the first time.
Carving out its own niche is important. Is it more The Breakfast Club or School Daze? Greek or A Different World?
With the season already at the halfway point, Grown-ish does seem to be biting off more than it can chew, choosing instead to be all of the above.
The show finds time in its minimal 30-minute slot to tackle the limitations imposed upon student athletes (twins Jazz and Sky) and gloss over the trite "virginity-loss' storyline, yet fall victim to the dramatics of a short-lived romance (Zoey and Cash). It cuts to an homage to Beyonce’s “Hold up” (Zoey) and carries over relationship baggage from previous episodes (Nomi), while still managing to steal a piece of my heart with the sweet mention of Love & Basketball. It’s all a little overwhelming but interesting, to say the least.
ABC's Black-ish spinoff is fun and comical - don’t get me wrong. However, it would benefit from some editing; cut down the romance-centric narrative and up the character-development driven plot lines.
Wasted dialogue devoted to pop-culture references and short-lived comic relief leave me wondering the obvious: Where is this show going?
I want to hear about Ana (Francia Raísa), the religious and Republican Latina. I want to hear from Aaron, the activist struggling to find a viable career. And what about Luca, who kind of disappears later, though is clearly beloved by the audience? He's the cool, cultured one who is non-judgmental enough to be in Zoey’s corner but bold enough to call out her inconsistencies. Show me Vivek, Nomi, Jazz, Sky and Dean.
Part of what works so well about the first episode of Grown-ish is that it takes the time to explore each of our main characters and then pulls the audience back to view how they all interact with each other.
That episode alone has me convinced that all this show really needs is a longer runtime to focus less on how to relate to and create trendy, culturally-relevant moments, and more so to make the characters and their plot lines the driving force behind the show’s success.
Because it doesn’t need to talk about what’s so great and relevant, to be exactly that.