Grown-ish 1.1 and 1.2
Kevin Bray (Director) Kenya Barris, Larry Wilmore and Jenifer Rice-Genzuk (Writers)
Yara Shahidi, Emily Arlook, Jordan Buhat, Luka Sabbat, Trevor Jackson, Chloe Bailey and Halle Bailey (Cast)
“Bitch, Don’t Kill My Vibe”
Stella Meghie (Director) Kenya Barris, Larry Wilmore, Jordan Reddout and Gus Hickey (Writers)
Yara Shahidi, Emily Arlook, Jordan Buhat, Luka Sabbat, Trevor Jackson and Francia Raisa (Cast)
Black-ish is a hit ABC show starring Anthony Anderson (playing Andre “Dre” Johnson) and Tracee Ellis Ross (playing Rainbow Johnson). It’s about a family man’s concern that he’s losing his sense of black culture while raising his kids in a white affluent neighbourhood. Grown-ish is focused on Andre’s eldest daughter Zoey Johnson (Yara Shahidi) as she goes off to college. The latter is ripe with interesting storytelling because you have an affluent black young woman who, according to the first episode, hasn’t really dealt with difficulty in her life. She’s entering a space that’s full of young people finding themselves through social issues but also learning to be independent.
I was really worried about the show when the first episode ended. I say this as someone who isn’t a big fan of sitcoms for the most part and is very picky about the network comedy I find funny. I watched an episode of Black-ish before deciding I’d probably get back into it later (later never came). “Late Registration” was a messy first. I can acknowledge when a show does what it sets out to do without necessarily being a fan of the genre but the writing in Grown-ish‘s first episode was horrible.
The first episode of a new show is always hard, especially when it’s only thirty minutes. It establishes the premise, characters and vibe while asking the viewers to give them a chance. “We promise you won’t regret it!” This felt like a draft episode with a lot more exposition than you’d expect from a fourth-wall-breaking type sitcom. The characters were boring and felt like caricatures of late-millennials/early generation z college kids, the kind that you’d read about on Twitter or Tumblr. It came across as cheesy when Zoey and her fellow classmates revealed how they ended up in a midnight class with an eccentric (incompetent?) teacher (reasons ranged from hiding their sexuality from their family to being a drug dealer to abandoning a friend when they needed them the most). The music begins to swell and Zoey’s voiceover ensures that we understand what this moment means: the fear of striking out into the world on your own.
I think I was ready to write it all off at this point.
Then I discovered there was another episode. “Bitch, Don’t Kill My Vibe” is significantly better and was directed by Stella Meghie of Everything, Everything and Jean of the Joneses. We get more fourth-wall-breaking from Zoey but it feels more like a quirk of the show rather than a tool used for exposition. The characters feel a little less forced (Vivek and Nomi are growing on me) and Zoey has an emotional arc that’s a lot more natural while also not resolving itself completely. There’s even a nice little moment with her and Ana that feels more authentic than the previous episode’s “moment.”
It’s also the first time I felt like I connected with the show’s premise: starting post-secondary education for the first time as a young adult. This upcoming June will mark four years since I graduated university and although I can’t relate to partying or taking Adderall, I can relate to the pressure to make something of myself, and writing papers hours before they’re due because I opted to do something else (in my case, it was usually to read a new book or binge on a show like Doctor Who). Grown-ish is a show I want to succeed and hopefully the second episode will mean it’s all the way up from here.