Your college years are an era. If you’ve been fortunate enough to go to college and live on campus, chances are that you left with tons of vivid memories. The on-campus experience is dynamic, and as much as I learned in the classroom, the lessons that stuck to my ribs didn’t occur there. That brings us to Grown-ish on Freeform, starring budding star Yara Shahidi as Zoey, a co-ed figuring out the next stage of her life living on-campus at Cal U. The show, currently in its third season, is a spin-off of Black-ish.
When Grown-ish debuted it filled a crater-sized gap in the market. It felt necessary. As a 90’s baby, I grew up watching re-runs of shows, like “Saved by The Bell” for instance, try to convey what the college experience is like, but there’s but so much envelope pushing that you can do in a sitcom. My desire was to see a show that was compelling, highlighting the fun and gut wrenching moments of the undergraduate experience.
I didn’t fall head over heels for this show at the start. The first two seasons of Grown-ish felt like someone told the writers “be easy.” It was a fun watch and got the mechanics of college life, but it lacked grit. It felt a little too glossy for me. Sure, we had Adderall use by Zoey, or some drug selling by Vivek (Jordan Buhat), but it still felt way too safe to me. I needed something to connect with more. For instance, on screen siblings Sky and Jazz Forster are played by the incomparably talented Chloe X Halle. They’re sisters who attend Cal U on a track scholarship and their storyline onscreen is all things Black Girl Magic—they’re star athletes, smart and have a formidable bond. In the first two seasons their relationship hit some hiccups, but to me it was still kinda humdrum.
This season however, oh season three is simply just another beast. Season three of Grown-ish so far is damn near everything I was hoping for the show to be. At this point Zoey has left school to pursue her fashion career—remember those classmates— but she maintains the relationships with her crew. She realizes living in both worlds has its drama. Her ex, Aaron (Trevor Jackson) has a new chick, and they’re both in school, connecting everyday. There’s a visceral conflict right there that we can all relate to.
You also have Ana (Francia Raisa) who’s seeing a dude that wants to be celibate, and she has to figure that out. The temptation is captivating and entertaining as hell on screen and once again, it feels relatable, especially as a guy. I remember those times, you meet someone, want to walk a certain path with that person but also aren’t willing to be patient enough for it. I didn’t know many celibate dudes, but I’ve met my share of ladies on that journey. Frankly, it was refreshing and entertaining to see those roles reversed this season.
One of the most dynamic storylines this season involves a couple on “a break”, Jazz and Doug (Diggy Simmons). Jazz realizes that her relationship has been taking the focus off of her track performances and the pair mutually decides to fall back until she can compartmentalize better. But then sex happens. I won’t give it away but first love feelings, remember those, get crushed—hard. I love it. College is such a dry run for what life will be. In so many instances you truly learn as you go.
There are a lot of moving parts this season—activism, rivalry, money issues— which I also think is a way more accurate depiction of college life on campus.
When I was in undergrad, every day literally felt like a new adventure. It’s one of the best, worst and most unique experiences ever, I mean in college you live with your friends…all of them. That time shapes you in every way. It also keeps you guessing. I think that’s why I fanning out over this season of Grown-ish— just like college, it has me anticipating the next semester.
Kahlil is a writer, author, and content creator from Brooklyn, NY. He really thinks that you should be familiar with him by now, but if you aren’t, feel free to be. Follow his work on Instagram @Damnitpops and his thoughts and rants on Twitter @Damnpops