In Season 1, Episode 1, “Late Registration” (kudos for the Yeezy nod) Yara Shahidi brings her refreshingly vibrant character, Zoey from ABC’s award-winning series, Black•ish, to the exploration of a new chapter in her life: college. She wants to think she has everything figured out, but there’s certainly more growth to be had.
Zoey has more to worry about than her father’s obsessive sniffling at the idea that she’s now on her own. We find her in the digital marketing strategies class of adjunct professor Charles Telphy played by Black•ish co-star, Deon Cole. This strangely scheduled midnight course is home to a rag-tag gang ranging from “meth heads” to “breech terrier puppies”. It’s also home to Zoey’s classmates/future friend group made up of Aaron Jackson (Trevor Jackson), Nomi Segal (Emily Arlook), Vivek Shah (Jordan Buhat), Luca Hall (Luka Sabbat), and the Forster Twins – Jazz and Sky (Chloe Bailey and Halle Bailey).
The episode centers around the characters in Professor Telphy’s marketing class about drones and an introduction of her classmates — who they are, why they’re there, and what they’re about; each of them different in their own right. Nomi, for example, is an atypical “Jewish-American princess” with a fondness for hooking up with women in bathroom stalls. Vivek is a STEM major that doubles as a drug dealer with an affinity for designer clothes. The star athlete twins, Sky, and Jazz, turn out to be as ratchet as a Waffle House on a Saturday at 3AM.
After her classmates reveal their own truths and how they wound up in a class about drones, Zoey decides to bear her soul and share that she ended up in the class after missing a registration deadline while avoiding her former friend Ana Torres (Francia Raisa) who she had ditched at their first college party after Ana got a bit too lit, vomiting all over herself.
After their revelations about who they are as individuals, the group comes together to talk about their stories and how they feel the need to hide who they are from their families or the rest of the world. Zoey, feeling terrible for committing the cardinal sin of friend abandonment, has a bit of an emotional breakdown. Collectively, the group comes to a realization that all of their feelings of fear or uncertainty are normal at this stage of their lives and this stage was only the beginning. How did the episode end? As if the pot needed to be stirred even further, it’s revealed that Zoey’s roommate had left due to her need to “study naked” and was replaced with none other than the party puker herself, Ana Torres, still scorned at being left behind at the party. Dun! Dun! DUN! *dramatic sound effect*
While I felt the narration and Zoey’s omnipotent asides were a bit redundant and made for a more passive viewer experience, it was helpful to have in setting the scene of who the key players are, who they were and what they’re about. Although, I do hope this feature is lessened in future episodes, it was also a good way to both relate the show back to Black•ish and still establish a difference in style at the same time.
As far as spin-offs go, this one follows closely to the flow of its predecessor but doesn’t step on its toes. The choice of writing for the show reflects one of the many things that makes Black•ish such a necessary piece of programming. At every turn possible, there’s an educational component when it comes to Black culture and how it’s both unconsciously consumed and often perverted as American culture, both in the past and the present.
The choice for a diverse cast mirrors the all too common theme of typical public universities in their battle to be seen like a melting pot for people of all backgrounds. I went to a PWI college and every brochure (even the ones I’m in myself) looked similar to the cast’s ethnic make up. However, the show does a good job in developing each character to thematically represent one often overlooked ideal: Yes, we’re all different, but it’s understanding what makes us different that truly matters.
As someone that went through the undergrad college experience, I have to say they hit the nail on the head with their takes on situations that young adults come across in their new academic environment. I too, have left a new “friend” at a party my freshman year and my course load also looked like I picked it at the last minute. (I did. I was literally the last person in my freshman orientation group to pick classes – 8AMs everyday sucked SO much.) It was a delight to see these familiar scenarios played out on screen by such a talented group. The humor in the writing was spot on and although it was brought to life by such a young cast, they carried it well and the jokes really stuck the landing.
I’d certainly recommend keeping up with this show from here on out. How often do we see the troubles of a new college life tackled by people from such underrepresented areas? Not much. How often will we see it done this well in such an innovative way? Much less often than that. You can continue watching Yara Shahidi’s college shenanigans on Freeform on Wednesday’s at 8pm ET.
Did you agree with this review? What did you think of the show? Leave a comment and let us know OR tweet us at @GeeksOfColor and let us know your thoughts!