By Sumayah Medlin
With the success of the ABC hit show “Black-ish,” a spinoff was inevitable. “Grown-ish” is one of the few spinoffs that began before its predecessor “Black-ish” ended.
This shows how the entertainment industry is running out of original ideas and clinging to preexisting shows, like “Full House,” “Gilmore Girls” and “Will and Grace” for the sake of nostalgia.
“Grown-ish” is reminiscent of “A Different World,” a spinoff of “The Cosby Show” that followed Denise Huxtable’s journey at a historically black college.
“Grown-ish” details the experiences of Zoey Johnson, a black college student and supporting character in “Black-ish,” while “Black-ish” details the experiences of a suburban upper-middle class black family. Though both “Black-ish” and “Grown-ish” appear on separate networks, have different casts and have different settings that determine each show’s plot, the two shows have the same general premise.
In “Black-ish,” the main character helps the viewer see what it means and feels to be black in society, while in “Grown-ish,” the main character is helping the viewer understand what it’s like to be a college student in the 21st century.
Andre Johnson grew up struggling financially on “Black-ish” and still tries to emphasize the importance of hard work and gratitude, even though Andre and his wife both end up with well-paying jobs.
His kids, including Zoey, had a different upbringing. Zoey grew up spoiled, so when she goes to college and is away from home for the first time, she discovers that she won’t get everything she wants, and that being 18 years old doesn’t necessarily mean that she’s grown up.
So far, “Grown-ish” has all the factors to be successful. I fully intended to enjoy “Grown-ish” as a fan of “Black-ish,” but I only enjoyed the show at certain moments. The show just doesn’t click that well for me.
While I love Yara Shahidi, who played Zoey on “Black-ish,” I realize now that she’s not that great of an actress without the “Black-ish” cast performing alongside her. Many tweeted that Zoey isn’t sorely missed on “Black-ish” now that she is away at college.
“Grown-ish” will still most likely gain the support of many “Black-ish” fans, even though it moved to Freeform.
It will win over the young adult watchers on Freeform who enjoyed similar shows like “Pretty Little Liars,” “The Bold Type” and “The Fosters.” It will also attract people who want to see more diverse protagonists on television shows.
Shahidi is black and Iranian. There are other black and Latina actors, and the characters are also diverse in their personalities and sexualities, but I fear that the show prioritized diversity over acting ability when casting. Most of the actors are inexperienced, or just haven’t yet gained recognition for past roles. The most captivating performance was from Luka Sabbat, and he hasn’t even acted before.
The script doesn’t enhance the show either. Dialogue between high school and college-aged kids is difficult to make sound natural, and “Grown-ish” does an awkward, unconvincing job. Some of the slang sounds like it was taken from Urban Dictionary rather than from actual college students.
While the show is relatable to a certain extent, it reminds me of a cheesy ’90s show, and that doesn’t work in 2018. While the narration in “Black-ish” is funny, Yara’s monotone narration on “Grown-ish” comes off as preachy.
The one thing I do appreciate about “Grown-ish” is how the story handles conflict. Issues tend to last more than one episode, such as Zoey’s introduction to Adderall.
“Grown-ish” is good, but not great. Zoey doesn’t have the same charisma that her father has, and the acting and script are questionable, but as others have pointed out, only a few episodes have aired. Maybe over time, the show will improve.