Why Grown-ish Isn't Exactly MY "ish"

As soon as I saw the initial promos for Black-ish in 2014, my 10th-grade self was sold on the concept of a modern-day revival of The Cosby Show. Amidst white suburbia, Andre, an advertising executive, and his wife, Dr. Rainbow Johnson, manage to successfully raise four dynamic children: Jack, Diane, Andre Jr., and my personal favorite, Zoey (played by Yara Shahidi). However, soon after the show begins, this fashion-forward, tech-savvy high schooler has to leave the comfort and familiarity of her home to attend college. Rather than letting her disappear from the screen, Freeform decided to launch a spin-off series (supposedly similar to that of A Different World) called Grown-ish. Even though I was enamored with Yara after she quoted a tweet of mine two summers ago (#stillinshock), I was admittedly disappointed with the first episode of her new show.

After months of hype and excitement, Grown-ish aired on January 3rd. As the clock struck 7:50 PM, I ran from my bedroom, brewed a large cup of tea, and prepared to live-tweet the premiere. I saw familiar faces (Trevor Jackson, Francia Raisa, etc.), but what I did not see was anything remotely indicative of the college experience. First of all, how many undergraduate students do you know that are enrolled in a 12 a.m. class on drones? In the show, seven freshmen somehow conveniently ended up in the same lecture section - and then proceeded to spill their guts to each other on the first day. It does not matter how poorly you botched the registration process; there is not a single professor in academia that would hold classes beginning at midnight. More importantly, there is absolutely no way I would have been comfortable sharing my deepest, darkest secrets, embarrassments, and failures with complete and utter strangers on my first day of classes at UNC.

Secondly, the introductions to the supporting characters - Nomi, Vivek, Luca, Aaron, Jazz, and Sky - were incredibly rushed. I would have preferred to have learned their back stories gradually, thus leaving some aspects of their identities up to the viewer’s imagination. Furthermore, I kept feeling this aura of “pseudo-wokeness” throughout the entire first episode. A prime example of this was when Zoey was introducing the twin track duo, Jazz and Sky, and talked about their life in the hood and public scrutiny - which she immediately compared to that of other black female athletes in history. Now, don’t get me wrong. It is imperative that transparent discussions regarding social awareness are properly held in higher education. Unlike Yara in real life though, Zoey Johnson hadn’t quite developed a heightened sense of consciousness, which is why I was slightly surprised by her unfazed affinity for these newfound friends. Aaron is the token student activist of the group, Luca is  the I-don’t-care-about-anything, “artsy” type, Nomi is the newly sexually liberated friend, etc. While you certainly find individuals like this in college, it’s virtually impossible to glean all of that information from just one encounter. I do appreciate the presence of those characters and understand that pilot episodes have to encapsulate so much information in such a short time, but their interactions felt forced and not genuine. The cohesiveness just seemed to be missing.

Let’s talk about other glaring inaccuracies, such as the ridiculously large size of the dorm room and the fact that Zoey became hooked on Adderall after three days of classes. Casual. Also, sis, please explain to me and everyone else how within the first week you somehow had a 25-page paper due and absolutely no one told you about the drop/add period. However, I will say that Yara’s show has some redeeming qualities. The costume designer is incredible. Jazz and Sky were rocking some apparel from Ivy Park and, as usual, I aspire to own literally all of Zoey’s wardrobe. Plus, in later episodes, they do continue to tackle modern-day issues - like the NCAA’s exploitation of collegiate athletes and the stigma within the LGBTQ community towards individuals who identify as bisexual. Although Grown-ish has yet to grow on me, one thing I do know is that I’ll be supporting my girl Yara regardless.

Ruth Samuel