By Joyce Slaton,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Black-ish kid goes to college in great, edgy show.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this TV show.
Places a modern stamp of approval on people being their authentic selves: "These six weirdos just bared their souls, and they're cool with their truth," says Zoey, who then feels comfortable revealing her insecurities. Honest and revealing talk about race, class, gender, and other hot topics. Characters occasionally gently mocked, but also accepted and treated with respect.
Positive Role Models
Cast is diverse; characters subvert stereotypes and are unique individuals. Zoey is a complex and realistic young woman from an affluent family and town. Sky and Jaz, from "the hood," worry that if they fail at college they'll let down their community. Vivek feels pressure from his traditional Indian parents to succeed in a scientific career, yet makes money for expensive clothes by selling pills. Nomi isn't "your typical Jewish-American princess, in fact she wasn't your typical anything," we are told about this outspoken bisexual "liberated woman." Characters have their strengths and weaknesses and are depicted thoughtfully and honestly, yet humorously.
Sex, Romance & Nudity
Expect jokes about and references to sex; same- and opposite-sex kissing and implied sex. Jokes can be on the surprisingly frank side: A provocatively dressed woman is gestured to as an example of a "whore" with a night job; Jaz tells her classmates that if she and her sister don't succeed in college and athletics, "We end up back in the hood jerking off some guy who sells incense and tube socks behind the doughnut shop." One character is sexually voracious and has consequence-free casual sex.
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Cursing and salty language includes "f--k" (bleeped), "ass," "s--tty," "bitch" (used both to refer to objects and women by other women), "dammit," "boobs," "whores."
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Products & Purchases
Vivek sells drugs so that he can "ball out" -- i.e., dress in fancy clothes. A segment before and after he starts selling puts price tags on his clothes, so we can see he went from "Steph Marbury's Starbury's" sneakers for $14.99 to "Yeezy 750 Boost" Adidas for $1,000. Students talk honestly about wanting the trappings of "success" (meaning financial success): a big house in a wealthy neighborhood, expensive cars and electronics.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Frank discussion of drugs and alcohol, on-screen use of alcohol, pot, pills. In one episode, Zoey breaks down substance use in college: "Beer, weed, and questionable Jell-O shots are the baseline ... then you've got your pill-poppers, they love their Oxy, their Vico, their Norco .... Then there's people who do Molly, poppers, coke. My thing? I dabble, I like a nice buzz but I don't get white-girl wasted." A main character is a drug dealer; others regard him critically. Depicts the downsides of substances: vomiting, passing out, acting foolish at parties and being photographed and mocked. In one episode, Zoey takes Adderall to stay awake for a project and realistically winds up frittering away time shopping online and making mistakes.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Grown-ish is a spin-off of Black-ish following daughter Zoey (Yara Shahidi) as a new college freshman. The maturity level is ratcheted up here; Zoey and her friends deal with sex, drugs, relationships, racism, classism, and other sensitive subjects. The drug content is particularly frank: Characters use drugs on-screen (including pot and pills like Adderall) and talk about the pleasures of drugs and drink. But consequences are also depicted honestly: hangovers, vomiting, acting silly at parties, saying foolish things to people you like, making mistakes you regret. A character smokes cigarettes; another is a drug dealer who sells all kinds of pills. Sexual content is also edgy; characters talk about sexting, "You up?" texts, prostitution, casual sex with no strings, bisexuality, getting "d," and more. Expect both same- and opposite-sex kissing and sexual situations. Strong language includes "f--k" (bleeped), "ass," "s--tty," "bitch," "dammit," and so on. But the characters treat each other and themselves with respect, and there's lots of talk about being true to yourself and being thoughtful and kind to others.
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What's the Story?
GROWN-ISH is a spin-off of popular sitcom Black-ish built around Zoey, the teen daughter of Dre (Anthony Anderson) and Rainbow (Tracee Ellis Ross), who has graduated from high school in the bosom of her loving, quirky family and headed off to a still-close-enough-for-weekends-home university. Also making the jump is Dre's eccentric co-worker Charlie (Deon Cole), who moonlights as a professor at Zoey's school. College is a strange new world for Zoey, but with her new friends, like roommate Ana (Francia Raisa), and classmates Nomi (Emily Arlook), Vivek (Jordan Buhat), and Luca (Luka Sabbat) on her side, she'll figure it out one crisis at a time.
Is It Any Good?
Fresh, relatable, and equally as charming as its parent show, this college-set sitcom gets just about everything right. In the first episode, Zoey meets a new cadre of pals in a midnight-to-2 a.m. digital marketing class they all wound up in because their personal foibles prevented each of them from registering for classes on time. It's a genius strategy for introducing a large, sprawling cast of diverse characters, each of whom is swiftly and sensitively drawn: the twin sisters whose athletic scholarship has given their tumbledown neighborhood hope (but who hate each other and secretly long to break free of their perfect image), the gender nonconforming classmate with an ever-present joint; the son of Indian parents who wants to succeed in a STEM career and be a smooth-with-the-ladies baller.
Each starts as a stereotype but quickly emerges as an individual with lovable and/or questionable quirks in a show that clearly has sympathy for people and the stupid and/or beautiful things they sometimes do. Vivek sells drugs and lies to his parents, Zoey lets her desire for romance overpower her good sense, Ana puts so much energy into trying to escape her strict background that she doesn't consider consequences. The main thing this show gets right: No matter where they come from or how they were raised, everybody in the "grown-ish" teen years is figuring things out, and terrified of making mistakes. The genius of Grown-ish is that it lets its characters make those mistakes, and learn from them, without treading into Very Special Episode territory. This show isn't taking on issues, it's telling stories about characters. The teens who will relate -- and the parents who will remember -- can both find something to enjoy.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about spin-off TV shows like Grown-ish. Are they common? Are they popular? What examples can you name? What's the appeal of taking a familiar character and putting that character in a new setting?
What's it like to be an older teen? What are some specific challenges that those close to adulthood but not quite there yet have to face?
How do the characters in Grown-ish demonstrate compassion, empathy, and integrity in their lives? Why are these important character strengths?
Is Zoey from a wealthy family or a poor one? How can you tell? How do TV shows show or tell us about a character's socioeconomic status?
- Premiere date: January 3, 2018
- Cast: Deon Cole, Anthony Anderson, Chris Parnell, Trevor Jackson, Yara Shahidi
- Network: Freeform
- Genre: Drama
- Character Strengths: Empathy, Teamwork
- TV rating: TV-14
- Last updated: February 18, 2023
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.
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