SPOILER ALERT: This article contains details from the premiere episode of Good Trouble. Gone are the days of the enjoyably schmaltzy and sugar-coated melodramatic coming-of-age series about young adulthood (I love me some Dawson’s Creek) and welcome to a new era of millennial-driven shows that are inclusive and tackle issues that don’t play out like “lesson of the week” but rather give us a fresh — and much-needed — perspective of the modern world we live in today (Bi-sexuality! Race relations! Women in the workplace!). With Freeform’s Good Trouble, a spin-off of The Fosters, we see all of this and it’s done in a way that isn’t pandering or forced. Instead, it’s appropriate with heartfelt charm and feels like it didn’t come from an older, uninformed TV exec that said: “this is how kids talk, right?”
Appropriately titled “DTLA”, the first episode (premiering Jan. 8) picks up five years after The Fosters has ended and has Callie (Maia Mitchell) and Mariana (Cierra Ramirez) driving into downtown Los Angeles in a Uhaul as they begin their lives as adults in the workforce. Callie has found a job as a clerk for a judge while Mariana has landed a job as a software engineer at a bigtime tech company. But all of their excitement and anticipation into their new adult lives quickly deflates when they see their living situation.
At first, they are giddy because they are living above the Palace Theatre in DTLA. But when they go inside and meet Alice (Sherry Cola), they realize they are sharing a room and it’s a communal living situation with a shared bathroom, kitchen and the occasional visit from some mice. They are introduced to a motley crew of their urban commune who will certainly make for interesting storylines down the road.
To add another speed bump to their first day in L.A., their Uhaul is towed and when they go to retrieve it, they have to pay a hefty fee only to find out all of their stuff has been stolen from it — but it doesn’t bring them down! It gives them an excuse to go shopping for new stuff!
After a fun shopping montage, the two ladies head off to their jobs. Callie is immediately thrown into the cutthroat world of law and feels less-than and uncomfortable around her Ivy League colleagues and the conservative judge (Roger Bart) she works for. Mariana dives into the world of tech and realizes it may be fun with all the perks, but she immediately learns that she needs to glam it down, not share her ambition with the CEO, and has to navigate the rough waters of a male-dominated industry.
To make matters even more complicated, the hunky Gael (Tommy Martinez) is thrown into the equation. He not only lives with them, but he also works with Mariana. And one steamy night, he sleeps with Callie without knowing who he is to Mariana — who is crushing on him. All of this takes a turn in the (maybe) shocking ending that changes the dynamics of their friendship.
Created and executive produced by Peter Paige, Bradley Bredeweg and Joanna Johnson, Good Trouble is most certainly on brand for ABC-owned channel and each moment of the first episode brings smiles, some cheese, laughs, sibling drama, some tears and a smoldering guy who is seen shirtless in more than one scene (that would be Gael). But above all, it captures the emotions of being on your own as an adult for the first time in a big city as much as a TV show could.
Executive produced and directed by Crazy Rich Asians helmer Jon M. Chu and from Jennifer Lopez’s Nuyorican Productions, Inc., the debut episode builds a narrative foundation that engages the audience and leaves a lot of interesting story to be told it’s connected to its parent show while maintaining its own identity. Like its sister shows on Freeform, Good Trouble folds in topics of identity, image, and social issues without being preachy or like a know-it-all high priestess of “wokeness” (I swear, that’s the only time I am going to use that word in this review) on Twitter. The first episode presents these ideas with endearment and doesn’t take away from the fact that this is a show about being a career adult on your own for the first time.
Good Trouble could have easily gone the way of heavy-handed, eyeroll-worthy storylines that shove social issues in your face, recklessly making them a “hot trend”. The show handles topics well and thoughtfully — it actually puts them in an empathetic and compassionate scope without forcing feeding them to you. For Callie, she meets her new commune-mate Malika (Zuri Adele) who informs her of a case about the shooting of an unarmed black man — a case her firm is handling. At the end of the episode, she is faced with a dilemma: do what’s right and try to fight for a case or sit back and see her conservative boss throw the case out. Meanwhile, Mariana feels that her job is perfect, but when she realizes she is a woman in a male-dominated industry. She’s treated differently, is forced to have a makeunder, chastised for talking to the CEO and her abilities are questioned because she is a woman. Again, both instances are a start of many-a-conflict that can result in worthwhile and relevant stories for the season.
What grown-ish is doing for black-ish, Good Trouble does for The Fosters — and it makes sense since both shows are on Freeform. It continues that familiar Fosters familial story through a different lens that’s hip and fun — specifically between two sisters.. Sure, there are moments that may not connect with older audiences, (what is this music these kids listen to these days?), but those small moments are easily overlooked. Good Trouble a heartfelt dramedy that will put a smile on your face and bring you back to those days of struggle when you were a wide-eyed twentysomething navigating the landscape of independent adulthood.