Grown-ish Studies the Student-Athlete

by Lindsey Mutz

Review of episode 1×04 “Starboy”

Grown-ish picks up right where we left off last week, when Zoey bumped into a cute basketball player when walking around on campus. On this week’s episode, Zoey is being forced to tutor said basketball player, Cash Mooney, new student and star of California University’s basketball team. Zoey isn’t crazy about tutoring Cash, but she depends on Dean Parker’s letter of recommendation for a Teen Vogue fellowship, so a tutor she becomes.

After Zoey’s first study session with Cash derails because he shows up an hour late, she’s ready to quit; he changes her mind. He explains that he really needs to pass a class and he wants a cute girl to help him do it. Flattered and feeling slightly bad for him, Zoey agrees to help. They soon bond over their shared fears of not being able to live up to expectations. Cash is struggling in his game, and Zoey is still trying to escape her unfortunate nickname, “Cup Bitch.” [That’s what you get for handing out solo cups!]

Zoey and Cash’s concerns mirror the pressure all college kids face to get good grades, get followers on social media, get an incredible internship, and eventually get a good job. We all feel that pressure, and the scenes with Zoey and Cash worrying about their futures felt real and raw. Whether you’re a student athlete or not, everyone wants to be the best they can be. The honest way in which these characters work through their feelings throughout this episode felt very refreshing for modern television.

A few days later, Zoey and her friends gather to watch Cash at his basketball game, which prompts an interesting conversation about student athletes not being paid for their sport. Zoey and her friends pretty much all agreed that it was crazy that student athletes aren’t paid a penny when they make colleges millions of dollars annually, but the topic isn’t explored any further, which is disappointing. If Grown-ish introduces such a complicated issue like college athletes not being paid, I would expect a more nuanced take than, “yeah, this sucks.”

After Cash does poorly at his basketball game, he wants to quit, but Zoey convinces him not to, as she reminds him that he’s much more than a basketball player and that he has a bright future no matter where he ends up. Thankfully, he pulls it together by the end of the episode and becomes the star athlete again.

The episode ends on an off-putting tone, when Zoey goes to take her exam and finds out that Cash paid someone to take his exam for him. It’s a strange ending to a slightly unbalanced episode, but shifts in tone keep it interesting and add depth to Cash’s and Zoey’s relationship, which I’m all for. Grown-ish would do well to explore their dynamic further in future episodes. I can’t wait to see what new situation Zoey encounters next week!

Featured Image via Grown-ish Instagram @grownish.

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