Words by Nick Slay
For those of us who watched Zoey Johnson grow up on ABC’s hit comedy ‘Black-Ish’, preview images of her new spin-off may remind of a different show we grew up on. A sitcom where a similar daddy’s girl leaves the nest to explore ‘A Different World.’ Although Kenya Barris’ borrows many recognizable tropes from The Cosby Show, Grown-ish stands on its own for a very different reason.
The pop culture icon that is Lisa Bonet’s Denise Huxtable, went off to college in an arguably less complicated world than Zoey. Yara Shahidi will resonate with modern teens who will have to deal with more than just finding themselves in college. These are teens that have seen a black president, global terrorism, grew up on the internet, and experience a different kind of drug epidemic than the 80’s.
Premiering on ABC Disney’s Freeform imprint (focusing on younger internet driven Gen Z teen audience) will give way to way more realistic storylines than seen on Black-ish. While situations in the Johnson household led by Andre and Bow’s characters are more satiristic in nature, viewers will see Zoey jump right in deal with real world situations that will not easily wrap up in a 30-minute episode.
Grown-ish’s first two episodes showcase Zoey dealing with heavily infused drug culture typical of modern day major universities. However, this isn’t just the brush with edible eating suburbanites at underage parties touched in Season 3 with her brother Junior (who ate pot infused chips).
This season will show the usually well put together and confident Zoey Johnson forced with dealing with the pitfalls of recreational drug use. While struggling to find her ‘thing’ in college, her resolve and morals avoids heavy opiate use or habitual smoking from her fashion partner Luca Hall (Luka Sabbat) in typical Zoey fashion. Yet when faced with the reality of balancing late night parties, her crush on sophomore Aaron Jackson (Trevor Jackson), and a 25-page paper, she gives in to the temptation of Adderall to finish it on the second dose, I mean try.
Running an Adderall spiral joke by 2 of her new multicultural ‘Breakfast Club’ inner circle, she vows that it was a one time thing. Yet we are let wondering if it is. For the usually confident, witty, smart Zoey Johnson her path isn’t so clear. That’s just the way Kenya Barris planned it, but that’s not without some apprehension.
“Going into this, it’s scary for me because it’s not like a laughy-laughy show,” Barris told TV Guide in a recent interview. “People are expecting Black-ish and that’s not what it is. You watch and watch and you get more and more in. We want to see Zoey grow.”