TV Review: “Growing Up” (Disney+)

Brie Larson, Captain Marvel and NFT lover (?), executive produces Growing Up, Disney+’s newest hybrid-documentary series. The ten episodes follow young adults and their own personal journeys of overcoming hardships and facing the struggles that come with becoming an adult.

Each episode is part narration, part talking-head interviews, part dream sequence, part reenactment. This amalgamation of ideas creates an end product that hurts the focus of the series, instead creating episodes that can’t decide their purpose.

Clearly, the target audience is younger viewers, the same age as those starring in each episode. Yet I can’t help but think a Gen-Z crowd will find this cringey. When watching, I was invested in each person’s story (from fighting for an end to period poverty in schools to speaking up against unwarranted pity towards the disablity community), but the presentation of the information was laughable.

The framing device of the series has all the participants sitting on a couch, telling their story aloud. Immediately, the set design takes away from the stars. Why are they sitting in an Urban Outfitters home section that has been placed on the stage of a 1980s syndicated game show? As each story branches off into camera-facing narration, the stories “come alive” with bad reenactments. Painfully bad. These individuals aren’t actors. They do not claim to be actors. So, why place them in acting roles?

One scene as two individuals who have enabled free menstruation products to be available to all classmates in the middle of a dream sequence dance number. This tone shift is the norm, but it never justifies its existence. Would I have not known the success of the period poverty program without seeing teens dance full-out next to lockers?

Overall, the show’s stars are interesting, engaging, thoughtful young adults who have stories to tell. Their stories deserve to be heard, whether as a means of connection for those watching at home or for those to open their eyes to the hateful concept of “other.” Frustratingly, the show ruins the chance for the participants’ lives to not be overshadowed by bad stylistic choices throughout. For a simple concept, it’s just all too much.

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Marshal Knight
Marshal Knight is a pop culture writer based in Orlando, FL. For some inexplicable reason, his most recent birthday party was themed to daytime television. He’d like to thank Sandra Oh.