Grown-ish, on Freeform, Wednesdays at 10PM
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This is a spin-off of Black-ish. But unlike that show, which is on ABC, this is on Freeform, which I don't get. (Also, it's more of a dramedy than its parent series.) It had a backdoor pilot in the penultimate episode of season 3 of Black-ish, "Liberal Arts." That episode began with Dre dropping Zoey off at college (Cal U, a fictional school in south L.A.), for a two-day orientation. And as usual on "Black-ish," Dre begins narrating... but he's quickly cut off by Zoey, who begins narrating the episode herself. (And she'll narrate "Grown-ish," but in more of an aside style.) She soon befriends a girl named Miriam. And crushes on an activist named Aaron Jackson. And discovers that her father's coworker, Charlie Telphy, is an adjunct professor of marketing. And she meets the dean, Burt Parker (Chris Parnell), and president Schock. And... there's a problem with student housing... which somehow leads to Parker making Zoey the school's "student cultural liaison." (But that position never comes up in the series.)
When the actual series started, I managed to watch an episode or two on ABC's website, but that was it. Then around the time the second season started, I got to watch the series on Hulu. So I'll have more to say as I catch up. To begin with, the first episode introduces us to friends Zoey makes in Charlie's class. I was a bit disappointed that Miriam isn't in the series, and she's never even mentioned. Anyway, one of Zoey's new friends is Aaron. The others include twin track stars Jazlyn "Jazz" and Skylar "Sky" Forster (played by Chloe and Halle Bailey, aka R&B duo Chloe x Halle, who perform the show's theme song, Grown), and a bisexual Jewish girl named Nomi Segal, and an Indian-American drug dealer named Vivek Shah, and a totally chill guy named Luca Hall. In that episode, we learn how each of them came to enroll in Charlie's class (because they were late for registration). Zoey's reason involved going to a party with her first college friend, Ana Torres, whom she bailed on when Ana embarrassed herself by getting sick. (Again, this seems weird to me because Miriam should have been Zoey's first college friend, but whatevs.) And at the end of the premiere, Ana becomes Zoey's roommate. Zoey and Luca both take a fashion design class together. And a little way into the season, Zoey starts dating a basketball player named Cash Mooney. He eventually leaves her when he decides to go pro. And after awhile, Zoey becomes romantically interested in both Aaron and Luca, and isn't sure which one she wants to be with. At the end of the season, Cash returns and says he wants Zoey back, so now she has three guys to choose between. And I guess that's all I want to say about season one (I expect I'll reveal who she chose when I start writing about season two). But I do want to say there's more to the show than just romantic complications. It does deal with various serious issues. But mostly it's about Zoey trying to figure out what kind of person she wants to be.
First I want to mention that this season is longer than the first one (21 episodes instead of 13). And I need to reveal that at the end of season 1, Zoey chose Luca. But it was the end of the school year, so they just had like a week together before going their separate ways for the summer, and just keeping in touch online. So Zoey found things a little... confusing, I guess, when they returned to Cal U for their sophomore year. But they soon settled into some kind of normalcy in their relationship. At least for awhile. They kind of had their ups and downs, throughout the year. Also this season, Zoey, Ana, and Nomi move into an apartment together. (In season one, Zoey lived in an all-black residence hall called Hawkins, which first appeared in the backdoor pilot. Aaron also lives there, as do several other main characters.) Oh, and Dean Parker is no longer at Cal U, though his absence isn't explained. Nor is the fact that Charlie is the new dean. Aaron, who is now a junior, becomes Hawkins's RA. (He also continues to call Zoey by the nickname "Freshman," despite her now being a sophomore.) Also this season, Jazz starts dating a guy named Doug Edwards, who becomes a new member of the group of friends. And Zoey has some academic problems, which prompts her father to cut her off financially, so she has to get a job in the campus bookstore. (Her father and grandfather appear in one episode. Her brother, Junior, appears in a few episodes, and develops a romantic interest in Sky.) And we see a bit of a Gender Studies class taught by Professor Paige Hewson. After that class ends, Nomi enters into a secret relationship with Paige, which causes some problems for the rest of the season. Also, Aaron and Ana start a relationship, despite their different political opinions (Ana is a Republican). That relationship has its fair share of twists and turns. Vivek moves into Hawkins Hall, where he spends a lot of time hanging out with Aaron and Doug. Zoey tries starting her own fashion styling business. Near the end of the season, there's an incident in Hawkins that makes Aaron aware of how little help Cal U has to offer students (particularly POC) with mental health issues, so he starts a campaign called Black Minds Matter. (This is actually a thing in the real world, which existed before this show brought it up, so I'm not entirely sure whether Aaron is meant to have started his own initiative independent of that, or simply tapped into the existing movement.) Also at the end of the season, Sky sustains an injury that will keep her from running with her sister in an upcoming event. And Zoey gets a new job (working as a stylist for real-life rapper Joey Bada$$), which leads to trouble in her relationship with Luca.
At the end of the first episode, we learn that Nomi is pregnant, having hooked up with some random guy after her breakup with Paige. (She eventually moves back home with her parents.) Zoey deals with the awkwardness of remaining friends with Luca now that their relationship is over. Meanwhile, Luca begins dating a girl named Jillian, who also becomes friends with Zoey. Sky dates a guy named Rodney, whom she mistakenly believes to be Black (just light-skinned), so there's some awkwardness when she finds out he's white. Ana gets more involved in political issues, and eventually develops feelings for a guy she works with named Javier. Aaron begins to worry about his student loan debts. Zoey promises to get her father to put in a word for Aaron at Stevens & Lido, but she fails to do so because she's swamped trying to balance both her school work and her job working for Joey. This leads to stress in her friendship with Aaron, for awhile. But he does get a job working for Dean Telphy. Sky works extra hard at track after recovering from her injury last season, to prepare for Olympic trials. But she's upset that Jazz isn't keeping up with training because she's spending too much time with Doug. So by the midseason finale, Jazz decides to put her relationship on hold, to focus on training. Also, Zoey decides to quit school to focus on her job. And it seems that Nomi is about to go into labor.
And then, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, it was a year before the second half of the season aired. Oddly, the pandemic is never mentioned in this show, even though it is in "Black-ish." Anyway, a major storyline in this half of the season is Aaron learning about Cal U investing in private prisons, which he starts a protest movement against. He also starts dating a woman named Rochelle, which leads to awkwardness with Zoey, who realizes she is in love with him. Zoey also starts working for a second client, named Indigo. Ana struggles in her relationship with Javier when she learns he's taken a vow of celibacy. Jazz has a one-night stand, which she later tells Doug about, and that ends the relationship. Vivek starts dating a student named Heidi, but he hides his drug-dealing from her. Nomi returns to Cal U with her baby, Luna. She eventually tells Luna's father, Phil, about her, but we don't really get to see his reaction. At the Olympic trials, Sky makes the cut but Jazz doesn't. (Again, it's really weird that in the world of this show, there's going to be an Olympics in 2020 instead of being postponed due to Covid.) Aaron graduates at the end of the season, and decides he wants to be with Zoey, who has quit her job to re-enroll at Cal U.
This season starts out with everyone vacationing in Mexico during the summer of 2020. It's toward the end of their vacation that they hear about Covid-19 coming to the U.S. (some months later than it did in real life). The third episode starts with Zoey recapping fall semester being virtual, everyone staying home with their parents (even though we never saw Zoey at all on Blackish last season). And we fast forward to everyone going back to school in spring 2021. In other news, Vivek finally got busted for drug dealing at the end of last season, and Heidi broke up with him. This season he's doing community service, and gets expelled from Cal-U (though he still lives in the house with his friends), and disowned by his father. Also, Sky is still away training for the Olympics (so maybe I was wrong about there being Olympics last season?). But Jazz decides she isn't interested in track anymore. Also, Doug meets a freshman named Kiela whom he wants to date, but she turns out to be Luca's sister, and Luca doesn't want them together. So they sneak around behind his back. There are a couple of episodes about protests against police murdering Black men. Ana breaks up with Javi. And Zoey has trouble with her latest internship, which she needs to graduate. Aaron and Luca each try to help her with that, Luca by hiring her as an intern at his startup fashion company, Anti-Muse, which leads to Aaron punching Luca. Also, Ana has sex with Vivek.
In the latter half of the season, Ana wants to never speak of her hookup with Vivek, but he thinks it was great and hopes it'll happen again sometime. And their friends find out about it, despite the attempt to keep it secret. Aaron believes he can't set aside his jealousy of Luca, so he breaks up with Zoey to "work on himself". Also I guess sometime earlier in the season Jazz started dating a guy named Des, but she's uncomfortable being with him because he's a cross-dresser. And a new freshman student inspires Aaron to become a more engaged teacher. He eventually starts a discussion group called the Afro Salon. Kiela breaks up with Doug, because she believes he's not over Jazz. Phil finally starts to get involved in Luna's life. Aaron reconnects with Zoey. And of course, Zoey, Ana, Jazz, Nomi, Luca, and Doug all graduate (though Zoey and Luca miss the ceremony).
For the future: Aaron gets a job offer in South Africa. Zoey considers going with him, but instead goes to New York to run Anti-Muse, when Luca drops out of the company. Nomi gets into Yale Law School. Vivek enrolls at a different school. And it looks like Zoey's brother Junior enrolls at Cal U. I hope I'm not forgetting anything important.
Aaron gets a new job as an assistant professor at Cal U. Junior meets some new people, whom I hope to get to know as the season progresses. In the season premiere, Zoey visits Aaron and Junior, and the does the narrative asides for most of the episode, but Junior takes over at the end, and will apparently handle the narration for the rest of the season. Which I think is a nice callback to Zoey taking over narration from her father. Not sure what else to say yet.