Grown-ish - Late Registration - Review "Gen Z Breakfast Club" By Rantsofafangirl (January 10, 2018, 11:51 pm)
Watch out world! Zoey Johnson is grown now.... well, Grown-ish!
After the huge success of the socially conscious, female-driven show The Bold Type, FreeForm continues to strengthen it’s young adult programming with the adoption of ABC’s Black-ish spinoff Grown-ish. Centered around rising star Yara Shahidi, Grown-ish follows Zoey, the eldest of the Johnson children, who leaves home for college and arrives at South California University where she quickly discovers that she's not at all prepared to face the real world challenges that come with this new found college freedom.
Grown-ish adopts a lot of the same narrative conventions as Black-ish. The show is told through a series of narrations by the main character (in this case Zoey) and uses slideshows to aid in providing context and commentary to the issues in a episode. But this is where the direct similarities end.
Late Registration opens with Black-ish dad Andre Johnson, in the midst of a mental breakdown over his favourite child’s departure from the family home. He worries that his daughter's college experience will be like Freaknik. Zoey wisely handles the phone call with the calm, self-assured temperament we’ve come to expect from her. However, her future actions tell a completely different story. Zoey’s inevitable downfall in her new environment is the driving force of the series.
I really liked this scene as I felt that it was a nice homage to Zoey’s previous life as well as a new “passing the torch” moment for new fans who have not watched the backdoor pilot. For those curious; I wouldn’t prioritise watching the Black-ish version of the pilot if you haven’t already, it has no real relevance to the Freeform version of the show.
Andre mentions The Breakfast Club, and the first episode was a nostalgic nod to the classic 80’s movie. I found it to be a playfully retro way to get through the huge amount of character introductions and expositions this episode has.
The homage begins in the form of Professor Dr Charles Telphy’s Digital Marketing/Drones course, a class that runs from 12pm-2am to offer the college experience to students who may not be able to attend classes during the day. In Cal U’s case, this means the class is mostly comprised of drug dependents and sex workers. What do drones have to do with Digital Marketing? Nothing really, drones just turn him on. With this comment I can’t help but think about my college experience and how I have one professor who won’t stop basing his syllabus around his own interests and will use his life as an example for everything!
For Black-ish fans who are accustomed to Charles’ kookiness, there’s some really funny moments in his opening monologue in the form of a clip reel of Charles’ greatest hits from the parent show. Deon Cole (as one would expect) holds most of the show’s overtly comedic weight and does so with the level of absurdity we’ve come to expect from him. This show looks like it’s going to grapple with some hard issues, so I find his inclusion in the spin-off to be a fantastic way to add a light-hearted tone to the series.
Charles begins the lecture by informing the class that the administration is assessing the validity of his drone/terrier coyote filled class, so each student is required to fill out a survey explaining why they decided to take the class. It is then that Zoey is introduced to the six misfit students that comprise her own answer to the Breakfast Club.
The characters are introduced in two parts. First Zoey narrates a freeze frame run-down on each character’s backstory. The narration is a way for the show to put all their cards out on the table by allowing us to pick our early faves while also providing us with possible social issues that’ll be raised in future episodes. The second part is each character explaining the circumstances which landed them in the class via flashback moments. I liked how each story revealed a vulnerable moment for each character as most of them involved a secret which brought them closer together. Despite how mismatched they may appear, there are more similarities that run deep within the group than there are differences.
So let’s meet the club:
Regarded as Zoey’s boo, Nomi Segal is an unconventional Jewish girl with a rebellious streak. Nomi is bisexual and it’s her newly found freedom to express her bisexuality by hooking up with a girl in the bathroom stall that lands her in drone class. For all her brash honesty and confidence, she’s still struggling with coming out to her family out of fear it will define her in their eyes.
Her uncle is Burt Parker, dean of students at Cal-U. Although he is also series regular, we don’t know much about Dean Parker beyond the fact he’s and an 8-time divorcee who wants his niece to find a eligible Jewish man. His lingering presence only adds to the anxiety of Nomi coming out as bisexual to her family.
Skyler and Jazlyn Forster are star athlete twins recruited by Cal-U for their track program. To the public they’re sweet and seemingly “all-American” darlings but secretly, they’re just like other young girls that grew up in the inner city, code-switching when conversing with each other privately. I can see the show really sinking their teeth into discussing the perception of black identity and the struggle for many women of colour to be successful in fields and spaces that are ethnocentrically white.They’re in the class because they were too busy arguing with one another for an unexplained reason.
A pro-black student advocate, Aaron Jackson is the eldest member of the group being a college sophomore. He’s intentionally taking the Drones class because he only wants to be educated by black professors of which Charles is unfortunately one of them. While well intentioned, his performative expression of his activism via buttons and his outrage over a school changing their blackboards to whiteboards implies that he’s still in his early stages of activism as most socially conscious adults are at his age. The refinement of his political and social views will be an interesting and relatable story throughout the series.
If Jaden Smith and Ezra Miller had a love child, it’d probably be a lot like Luca Hall. A free-spirit freshman who does not conform to fashion gender norms and societal pressures. His existentialism is what brought him to the drone class after choosing to smoke a cigarette over class registration. He’s pinned as the “burnout” of the group but his spot-on hot takes about each character in this episode makes me believe that there’s something more underneath all the chains and rings.
Vivek Shah is an ambitious, first-generation Indian-American Hindu with his sights set on making it big in engineering so that he can live an extravagant lifestyle like his personal hero Drake. His drive to earn money is due to the resentment he holds for his father for choosing to support his family as a taxi driver over applying himself to more ambitious and financially unstable pursuits. Unwilling to wait until he’s finished college to start making money the books-smart Vivek unknowingly becomes the college’s resident drug dealer.
The group now turn to Zoey who is reluctant to admit why she was taking this class at first, but feeling emboldened by the group's honesty, she begins to confess why she's really there... and it's not pretty.
We’re introduced to Analisa (Ana) Torres whom Zoey regards as her “first real college friend”. Born to Cuban immigrants, Ana is a devout catholic and republican with a secret love for Barack Obama. Despite their obvious political and religious differences, the pair have a lot in common from their coffee orders and freshman status, to their love of Zoey’s hair.
Everything seems to be going well, they’re invited to their first college party and they seem to be having good time. That is until Ana gets so wasted she ends up puking in a kiddie pool in front of the entire party some of which had cameras ready to capture her lowest moment. Struggling, Ana calls out for Zoey to help her only for her new BFF to ditch her out of fear that her humiliation would affect her reputation. The next day Zoey spots Ana and skips class registration out of guilt which is the real reason why she’s in drones class.
Expecting to be absolved for her mistake, the group give her and themselves some tough love instead. Reminding all of us that despite how far we’ve come, we still got a lot to learn and privilege that needs to be checked and challenged at times, and it’s easier to do that with a group of people who are traveling a similar path. As fate would have it, Zoey’s resolution of “being a better person” is put to the test 24 hours later when it’s revealed that her new roommate is a rightfully pissed off Ana.
Overall, I can see why the show changed the title of the series from College-ish to Grown-ish. The show depicts more of a personal insight into growing up at college over the college experience itself. The focus on the characters rather than the setting will serve Grown-ish well in regards to the longevity of the series which will inevitably expand beyond the confines of higher education as Zoey and the crew grow up and graduate.
Late Registration has a few issues, the expositional narrative and the contained setting of the episode didn’t provide me with much of a “vibe” about the regular format of the series. It relied heavily on me being interested in the characters, which I luckily was. My questions about the vibe of the series are well and truly satisfied in Bitch, Don’t Kill My Vibe which Freeform graciously aired alongside the pilot. But that is story for my next review.
So what did you think about the first episode? Which member of the Breakfast Club impressed are you excited to learn more from? Also Drones, Yay or Nay? Let me know in the comments down below!