“grown-ish” is outpacing its character development

So, I never did post about it, but I tuned in to watch the premiere episode of “grown-ish”…And…Well…While I absolutely LOVE Yara and I think “black-ish” is hilarious, the first episode was too much, too soon and fell kind of flat. It was like trying to squish in everybody’s back story in 30 minutes and all of the characters feel forced, not organic.

I am not sure what I expected, but the supposed “Breakfast Club” episode was not even close to the genius of the original. I found myself rolling my eyes a lot and I really hope that this coming of age show provides a vehicle for more than checking off a list of collegiate and world social trends and issues.

I will still give it a chance, because I remember when “A Different World” premiered (telling my age) and well, the first season was obviously setting the stage to tie it forever to its parent show, but after a little shifting, and removing of characters and character focus, it became the show that many of us always wanted it to be. It inspired us in ways “The Cosby Show” couldn’t. It was perfect for the new generation.

Maybe I put too much on the shoulders of the show and the young lead actress, Yara Shahidi, whose real-life persona and activism seem more like the sort of teen we wanted her to be on “grown-ish”, but there lies real potential in her current character’s self-discovery and growing pains. A lot can be accomplished in 30 minutes, and it doesn’t have to FEEL like it.

Whitley and Dwayne were organic. You could believe they once didn’t like each other very much but grew into one another. You could see them growing up and their personal maturity seemed natural. It was like waiting for a plant to grow that you have watered and exposed to sunshine. The great reward is that you watched it grow from a bud, to a fledgling, and then one flower and then another, and suddenly the beautiful rose bush is in bloom.

With this show, it seems rushed and they pay off is achieved too soon. We didn’t work to get to know that the overachieving Indian guy, Vivek, sells drugs because he wants to, not because he has to. We couldn’t empathize with the struggle of the young lady to come out to her family. We didn’t see how and why Zoe’s object of affection became such a black militant. We are told. To go back to the plant analogy, it’s like handing us a plant that was already fully grown. Sure you get pleasure from its newness, but you haven’t bonded with the plant and aren’t sure what it takes to keep it alive. Maybe you re-pot it, or trim the stems. It might live a little while but the satisfaction just isn’t as great.

I am totally rooting for this show to live up to its hype if for no other reason than to see Yara and Kenya Barris, the show’s creator succeed. In the words of my current favorite show runner/creator Issa Rae, “I’m rooting for everybody black.”


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