Zoey meets Cash Mooney, one of her love interests.
College life is often the stuff of legend. If TV and movies are to be believed, it’s a never ending party fueled by drugs and alcohol that’s the place where dreams come true. However, that couldn’t be farther from the truth. In reality, college is an incubator of insecurities, unreasonable expectations, and constant stress that is only masked by drugs and alcohol. This jarring difference in expectation and reality has left a dissonance between Hollywood and younger audiences looking for a more realistic look at what college life is like. This is where the Freeform series Grown-ish comes into play. A spinoff of the uber popular ABC show Black-ish, Grown-ish is a contemporary take on the current issues facing both students and administrators in the world of higher education. The show premiered on January 3rd, 2018, and stars the ensemble cast of Yara Shahidi, Deon Cole, Trevor Jackson, Francia Raisa, Emily Arlook, Jordan Buhat, Chloe Bailey, Halle Bailey, Luka Sabbat, and Chris Parnell.
Zoey gets a first hand look at what party life is like in college.
The show is centered around Zoey Johnson (Shahidi, continuing the role she started on Black-ish) as she transitions from high school to college at the fictional California University (Cal U). She is the popular, entitled, stylish and socially active 17-year-old daughter of Dre and Rainbow Jackson (Anthony Anderson and Tracee Ellis Ross in guest spots). Zoey was the “it girl” in high school, so she assumes that college would be no different. However, she quickly discovers that not everything is going to go her way at Cal U, and her social and academic status is not guaranteed. We see things go horribly for Zoey right off the back, as she quickly makes enemies and bad choices. She also finds out that her supposedly chill midnight class is actually taught by her father’s friend from work, Charlie Telphy (Cole). Zoey faces the perils of dating, classes, social media, partying, internships, and her future in her first year at school, giving us a great look at what it means to be a modern college student.
Many of the students at Cal U wear chucks on campus.
It’s in her odd, midnight class that Zoey meets the group of friends that’ll help define her college experience. There’s Aaron Jackson (Jackson), a sophomore at Cal U who’s “woke” by all accounts, as he’s a champion for many movements and causes. He also acts as an on and off love interest for Zoey. There’s also Ana Torres (Raisa), Zoey's roommate and first friend she makes in college, and Nomi Segal (Arlook), one of Zoey’s best friends and confidants. The group is rounded out by Vivek (Buhat), The Forster Twins (Bailey), and Luca (Sabbat). This group is a well-rounded and accurate representation of the typical demographics in college as it’s a pretty diverse cast of characters. During the show’s first season we see Zoey wear a pair of Comme Des Garcons chucks in the episode “If You're Reading This, It's Too Late”, and we see other students at Cal U wearing chucks at various times during the season.
Zoey speaks to Dean Parker.
The first season of Grown-ish is a strong starting point for a new series. In the short time that it has been on the air, the show has created a likeable set of characters and setting, and told interesting stories. It has dealt with contemporary issues in a way that doesn’t feel like pandering or in a way that makes the show come off as trying too hard. The young cast is extremely likeable, and offers a well-rounded and diverse look at modern America. Yara Shahidi is the obvious standout as she carries the lead role perfectly, adding on to the established character of Zoey well and stepping out from the shadow of her Black-ish co-stars. Other standout performances come from Trevor Jackson, Chloe Bailey, and Halle Bailey. Some key episodes to check out are “Late Registration”, “B*tch, Don’t Kill My Vibe”, “Starboy”, and “Un-Break My Heart”. Grown-ish perfectly captures the college experience in today’s day and age, highlighting the pressures today’s young adults are under, and showcasing what truly makes them special.
One of the show’s running themes is how technology affects the social lives of today’s college students.
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