×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

TV Review: Yara Shahidi of ‘Black-ish’ in the Freeform Spinoff ‘Grown-ish’

Launching a spinoff from a successful show is a bit like sending a child off to college: No amount of high hopes and preparation can eradicate all the worries.

But when it comes to “Grown-ish,” a Freeform comedy starring the oldest child from ABC’s well-regarded “Black-ish,” those fears are unfounded. There are a few growing pains here and there, but in general, “Grown-ish” is a buoyant, sprightly addition to the television scene. Yara Shahidi takes full advantage of the expansion of her screen time, and the kind of piquant, culturally relevant storytelling that “Black-ish” has honed is on display here too. All in all, “Grown-ish” is a smart, breezy expansion of the “Black-ish” family.

There are some differences, as is to be expected. As Shahidi’s confident Zoey heads off to Southern California University, which is not far from her Los Angeles home, she doesn’t interact with her family much in the first three episodes. The desire to give “Grown-ish” some real independence is laudable, though there is one major connection to the ABC show.

Deon Cole, the hilarious secret weapon that “Black-ish” has deployed in many side-splitting workplace scenes, turns up on “Grown-ish” as an extremely unusual college professor. His character, Charlie, teaches an evening class that actually begins at midnight, and that’s not the weirdest thing about his “marketing” course. The logic of it all doesn’t matter (and his weird teaching style is mined for solid comedy). The point of Charlie’s entertainingly bizarre class is to give the show’s characters an early focal point. As “Grown-ish” offers up an endearing homage to “The Breakfast Club” via Charlie’s eclectic collection of students, “Grown-ish” finds Zoey and her new friends and crushes grousing about their weird teacher, and inhabiting the expected parties, common areas and dorm rooms.

“Grown-ish” offers the creative team a chance to reinvent Zoey Johnson a bit. On “Black-ish,” she’s been a confident, popular teen, one capable of dishing out amusing condescension and chilly judgment. It makes sense that college would rattle her — up to a point. The third episode goes a little too far in depicting her boy-oriented insecurities — it’s frankly a bit hard to buy that her self-esteem would be rattled in such an extreme way by potential rejection, given what we know of her steely sense of self-worth. Also, at times, “Grown-ish” has Zoey directly addressing the camera, as well as offering up narration, two presentation styles that occasionally work against each other.

But in the main, “Grown-ish” entertainingly examines socially conscious, striving young people with both wisdom and wit. As is the case with the mothership, the comedy is willing to poke fun at the pieties of the woke while allowing its characters to sincerely examine their moral choices and selfish mistakes. This version of Zoey comes to regret her devotion to social status in ways that often seem believable, and various other characters are also shown to be either shy, scared or self-conscious under their masks of cool self-possession.

Shahidi is the central focus, as is only right, and she’s deft and winning in the central role. But as it progresses through its energetic opening episodes, “Grown-ish” whets the viewer’s appetite for expanded roles for many of the supporting characters. Early standouts include Chloe Bailey and Halle Bailey as tart-tongued college athletes, Jordan Buhat as an ambitious, sweetly nerdy striver, Emily Arlook as a cynical but game-for-anything sidekick, and Chris Parnell as a goofy if somewhat caring administrator.

Comedy; 13 episodes (3 reviewed); 8 p.m. Weds., Jan. 3, Freeform. 30 min.

Cast, Yara Shahidi, Trevor Jackson, Jordan Buhat, Emily Arlook, Francia Raisa, Chris Parnell, Deon Cole, Chloe Bailey, Halle Bailey, Luka Sabbat.

Executive producers, Kenya Barris, Anthony Anderson, Laurence Fishburne, Helen Sugland, E. Brian Dobbins, Julie Bean.

TV Review: Yara Shahidi of 'Black-ish' in the Freeform Spinoff 'Grown-ish'

More TV

  • Drew Goddard

    Oscar-Nominated Drew Goddard Inks Exclusive Overall Deal with 20th Century Fox TV

    Writer, director and producer Drew Goddard has signed an exclusive, multiyear overall deal with 20th Century Fox Television, under which he will write, create, direct and develop new TV series for the studio across all platforms. Goddard’s deal, announced by Disney Television Studios and ABC Entertainment chairman Dana Walden, is the first to close since [...]

  • AVOD streaming video OTT users -

    Comcast Unveils 'Flex,' a Streaming Service for Internet Customers

    Comcast said it would unveil “Flex,” a hub for its Internet-only customers that allows them to stream and purchase shows and movies, the latest effort by a traditional cable provider to latch on to customers who are migrating to broadband services, The Philadelphia cable giant will also make free, ad-supported services available via the service, [...]

  • Imagine, Zero Point Zero Produce Doc

    Imagine, Zero Point Zero to Produce Doc on Teen Skateboard Star Brighton Zeuner (EXCLUSIVE)

    Fourteen-year-old skateboarding star and two-time world champ Brighton Zeuner will be the focus of a feature documentary by Imagine Documentaries and Zero Point Zero, Variety has learned exclusively. Described as a coming-of-age story, the film will document Zeuner’s childhood, personal and professional relationships, and road to earning a spot as a member of the 2020 [...]

  • Smithsonian Handmaids Tale Costume

    Why the Smithsonian Chose to Enshrine 'Handmaid's Tale' Servant Costume

    The iconic red-caped, white-bonneted outfits worn by Elisabeth Moss and the other childbearing servants in Hulu’s “The Handmaid’s Tale,” created by costume designer Ane Crabtree, have become that show’s signature visual.  Hulu immediately knew it had a good thing, hiring groups of women around the country to parade in the garments to promote the show. [...]

  • Stephen Bruno

    Stephen Bruno Exits Netflix for Top Marketing Job at MGM

    Netflix global marketing chief Stephen Bruno has exited his post for MGM, where he has been named chief marketing officer. His departure follows that of Netflix CMO Kelly Bennett and marks a major shake-up for the streaming giant. Bruno had been with the streamer since 2014, and is known as an innovator. He joins MGM [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content