Raw and Real, Freeform’s ‘Grown-ish’ Tackles the College Experience

Photo Credit/ Freeform's Website

Jazmin Cole

Social Media Manager

Everyone has seen the stereotypical “college experience” that movies and television shows like to portray.

The one where students party and hookup all night long, then go to class for two seconds. But we all know that is not how it goes.

College is hard.

There is no question about that but there is something magical that lies beyond just going to class, writing papers and being stressed out.

Many people can attest to college being full of life lessons and experiences, the place where they came into their own, and met some of their closest friends.

This is not easily captured in shows about college students; however, Freeform’s hit show “Grown-ish” is on the right path to uniquely portraying these moments.

“Grown-ish” debuted early January 2018 as its creator Kenya Barris’ other hit show, “Black-ish”’s spinoff. “Black-ish” follows upper middle class African American family, the Johnsons.

Anthony Anderson and Tracee Ellis Ross star as Andre and Rainbow Johnson who are raising four children in Los Angeles. 

“Grown-ish” follows their eldest child and daughter Zoey, played by Yara Shahidi, who goes off to college for fashion at ‘CalU’ or California University.

It is here where Zoey meets a group of people who become her closest friends which the show will also follow, and they begin to experience college life together.

Similar to the parent show, main character (Zoey) breaks the third wall and makes side commentary to viewers and narrates each episode.

The show is mainly focused on Zoey and her experiences, however, viewers are treated to the smaller storylines of her social circle and their own situations as well.

The group is an interesting mix of culture, morals, and values which makes for great conversation starters throughout the show.

“Grown-ish”doesn’t miss a beat with the drama as they do portray some outlandish scenarios to keep the show interesting; however, in those same scenarios there is the unmistakable element of relatability that makes this show so appealing.

The show is meant to be a sitcom, there is almost always some sort of lesson that makes the show double as a guide for young people.

The show addresses real issues and controversial topics like racism, cultural appropriation, mental health. Specifically, black mental health, political and social happenings, hookup culture and drug use to name a few.

Catering to its mature high school and college age Gen Z viewers, Grown-ish flexes muscles by guest starring big names in pop culture.

In its short run of just three seasons, the show has featured model Jordyn Woods, comedian DC Young Fly, actress Ryan Destiny, rapper Joey Bada$$, and this seasons newest guest star, Saweetie.

“Grown-ish”is a good show for the demographic it has obviously targeted. Although it is good it is not great just yet.

The first two seasons did not push boundaries even though there were topics that border lined.

The show still has room to improve and become something groundbreaking.

The show finds itself being compared to the “Cosby Show”’s late 1980s spinoff, “A Different World,” followed Lisa Bonet’s character Denise Huxtable who also goes off to fictional HBCU Hillman College it became a hit among viewers for its impressive delivery.

“A Different World” was funny and relatable butaddressed the controversial issues at the time in a manner that “was able to…deliver it in a thought-provoking way in 30 minutes,” Darryl M. Bell Ron, “A Different World” actor said to NBC News.

It was inevitable “Grown-ish” would have to stand in comparison to its successful predecessor of similar content.

“Grown-ish” is four episodes into part two of its third season and shows promising signs to hopefully push the envelope when it comes to its delivery of its messages.

The show’s raw honesty comes across, but it is not enough to give viewers a real call to action.

This was needed after the last two episodes that explored religion and activism.

The students of CalU found out their university was investing in private prisons which sparks local activism from its students.

Some scenes were well done and felt powerful but as soon as those feelings came, they went going into the following scenes.

So far, successfully capturing the attention of older Gen Z viewers is what “Grown-ish” has done but keeping it is another feat in and of itself.

Tune in to watch the rest of “Grown-ish”’s third season on ABC’s Freeform. New episodes premiere every Thursday at 8 p.m. EST and every Friday morning at 3 a.m. on Hulu.

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