‘On My Block’ isn’t your average ‘hood’ story

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Photo Credit: Crazy Cat Lady Productions | Daily Texan Staff

If you’re looking for a quick show to binge watch, “On My Block” is it.

“On My Block” is a classic coming-of-age story centered in a working-class neighborhood of Southern California. The 10-episode series premiered last month and has recently began to pick up steam, earning a second season revival.

The series follows a group of black, Latinx and Afro-Latinx kids who struggle to maintain their friendship amid gang-related drama, neighborhood secrets and romance. Stories about people of color growing up in less-than-desired neighborhoods are typically dark and serious. Unlike the average inner-city story, “On My Block” bursts at the seams with energy and humor from beginning to end. The show manages to pay tribute to its predecessors such as “Boyz in the Hood” and Ice Cube’s “Friday” franchise while remaining original and tasteful.

For example, the first episode includes a scene in which the main characters — Monse, Ruby, Jamal and Cesar — are running from a party and take guesses at what kind of gun is being shot based on the sound of the shots. While these issues are real and serious, it is refreshing to see a story in the hood where the main characters aren’t perpetually sad or angry.

Things get heated when Cesar is jumped into his older brother’s gang and his friends try to save him from a new and dangerous lifestyle he’s forced to live. There’s also a new girl, Olivia, who captures the hearts of both Cesar and Ruby while Cesar is in a secret relationship with Monse.

All of the main characters carefully approach and dismantle stereotypes about themselves as people of color. While Cesar is gang-affiliated, he aspires to break free of his neighborhood and go to college. Monse constantly takes charge of the boys, asserting her intelligence and doing what’s best for her friends.

The storyline gets scattered toward the middle of the series as the characters follow their own personal storylines dealing with romance, family problems and gang activity. The lack of direction, however, is made up for by Jamal Turner, played by Brett Gray. As the only main character with no romantic interest and the only black character who isn’t mixed, Turner is an unexpected standout in the show. Turner’s inability to keep a secret, determination to help his friends and his perfectly timed comedic bursts help tie the show together and make him an instant fan favorite.

Not all characters are as lovable as Jamal. Latinx newcomer Olivia, played by non-Latinx Ronni Hawk is introduced to the story when her parents are deported and she moves in with Ruby’s family. In Episode 6, Hawk speaks Spanish very poorly, drawing criticism from fans. Some fans have demanded that Olivia’s character be recast in the second season after Hawk supported President Donald Trump on Twitter. Politics aside, Hawk’s portrayal of Olivia isn’t vital to the show’s dynamic. A Latinx actress playing the role of Olivia would more than likely boost interest in the show.

Each of the 10 episodes are only 30 minutes long, which makes the drama incredibly enticing and leaves viewers wanting more. “On My Block” is timely, unexpected and worth the watch.

Rating: 4/5