Grown-ish – Emphasis on the ‘ish’

Grown-ish premiere
Photo Credit: Freeform/Kelsey McNeal

On ABC’s Black-ish, Zoey (Yara Shahidi) is pretty much down to a cameo and that’s because Shahidi went Lisa Bonet on the world and got her own spin-off titled Grown-ish.

The show follows Zoey in her first year of college, a place where she is free to be as grown as she wants to be, but is stumbling to find a balance with her new found freedom. Zoey tackles sex, drugs, relationships, multi-paged essays and one weird professor.

The show doesn’t air on ABC, but Disney-ABC’s cable network Freeform instead. Freeform is a channel similar to TeenNick that is clearly targeted at teenagers, so Grown-ish fits right in. And if anything, it probably gives the network some additional viewers.

Blogs and media outlets speculated that Shahidi’s spin-off would be like the A Different World, which mirrored the The Cosby Show (the show it spun-off from). When the pilot for Grown-ish debuted in an episode of Black-ish, it approached themes the same way Black-ish does but it seemed more like Netflix’s Dear White People with the use of a Black Student Union (BSU) in its storyline. However, its slot on Freeform took out BSU and decided to delve into broader young adult topics.

Grown-ish is inclusive in many ways and the topics are informative. Unfortunately, the show doesn’t follow the popular ABC sitcom formula like Black-ish does. Black-ish is like Modern Family, but with a black American family. Grown-ish is another teen dramedy sans the formula that makes many Americans laugh out loud. But, I say this in my late 20’s with no knowledge of how the target demographic feels.

The series just aired in January and it starts off light and directionless, something I wasn’t expecting. The show spends most of the first episode introducing characters besides Zoey.

There are her crushes Aaron (Trevor Jackson) and Luca (Luka Sabbat); her roommate Ana (Francia Raisa); her friends Nomi (Emily Arlook), Vivek (Jordan Buhat), and the twins Jazz and Sky (Chloe and Halle Bailey). Halle Bailey – I see what you did there.

To help Zoey stay rooted in her beginnings and provide extra comedic relief, writer’s made her father’s coworker Charlie (Deon Cole) an adjunct professor at her university. Charlie’s cameos keep the class scenes fun but his comedic scenes would be better with supportive characters like his pre-teen archnemesis Diane from Black-ish.

The show picks up more in the second and third episode. Zoe goes from stalking her main crush and dabbling with a non-prescribed dose of Adderall in episode two to a spirited debate on “u up?” texts in episode three.

Grown-ish is a fitting title and the background of the supporting characters leave a lot to explore down the road. I hope the series doesn’t spend too much time focused on Zoey because there are some juicy stories to unearth with Vivek, a drug dealer who is so entrepreneurial that he misunderstands his father’s struggles. There are the twins, Jazz and Sky, who are all-star athletes that have mastered the art of being nice-nasty. Zoey’s friend Nomi is nervous to tell her parents about her sexuality and Zoey’s roommate is so naive that she has a hard time being comfortable with her inexperience.

I’m looking forward to seeing how Grown-ish handles the rest of the season.

I give Grown-ish three out of five stars because it’s cute and entertaining, but lacks the depth that my semi-old ass needs to stay tuned in.

Grown-ish airs Wednesday nights on Freeform.