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Black-ish - Liberal Arts - Review:"BSMCRDF"

Black-ish has been hyping up the Zoey spin-off for months, so it was a no-brainer that they would dedicate one of their final episodes of the season to her new adventures in college. If “Liberal Arts” is an indication of what we’ll see in the fall, there will be lots of zany college hijinks, student drama, and crazy professors, including Charlie as an adjunct marketing professor who’s just there for the showers and high-interest credit card applications.

The show immediately signals the baton pass from father to daughter when Zoey interrupts Dre’s traditional opening narration with one of her own. “Don’t worry,” she tells both her worried father and viewers, “I’ve got this.”

But does she? Zoey quickly discovers that she is no longer the big fish in the small pond. Luckily, she has a new best friend, Miriam, to help her navigate the waters ahead. Zoey’s version of “killing it” at college leads to her trying to stumble her way through acronyms in front of a cute BSU representative, giving the Dean and the President the impression that she has meningitis, oh, and shutting down the black student dorm.

One of these things is a little bit of a bigger deal than the others, but it was an honest mistake. It begins when Zoey discovers that she doesn’t have housing for the fall. Dre forgot to turn in her application, and for once it wasn’t a passive aggressive way to sabotage her dreams. How was he supposed to know the McRib would be back while he was driving to the post office? Bow immediately understands how Dre got distracted and a frustrated Zoey tells her parents that she will deal with the problem herself.

One thing that has always stuck out about Zoey is her confidence. She’s no shrinking wallflower and when she decides that she needs to do something about the housing, she goes straight to the president and the dean.

This leads to the sour note of the pilot. As much as I like Chris Parnell and Matt Walsh, it seemed weird that a show would devote precious time in its backdoor pilot to have a scene about the two of them sniping at each other. This is about Zoey’s journey, and I could care less about college politics at this point.

The dean and the president are too wrapped up in their fight to realize that Zoey is just there to correct a housing snafu. Instead, they think she is the representative from the black dorm, Hawkins Hall. Zoey is confused about the whole thing and agrees that segregation is pretty bad. It’s not the most controversial stand to take, but it does lead to the president agreeing to disband Hawkins.

Aaron, the student activist, is the first to set her straight. Hawkins isn’t about segregation, but student engagement. He doesn’t take Zoey’s honest apology, even though it wasn’t her completely her fault, as Miriam tells her.

It’s only when Zoey messes up that we get to the heart of the matter and what makes her journey important. Within the Johnson household, Zoey is the voice of reason. She’s always there to talk some sense into her parents or siblings when they get too involved with their latest shenanigans. Outside of her family, Zoey has to learn how to deal with a whole new set of problems. She sums it up perfectly in the voice over: Everything usually works out for her. Zoey now has to deal with being the protagonist in her own story, and she’s scared.

Luckily, there is another voice of reason on campus – marketing professor Charlie Telphy. I don’t know the logistics of the matter, but I hope that Charlie can pop up on both shows. In his capacity as a beloved teacher, he teaches Zoey the acronym BSMCRDF. Charlie is actually correct, acronyms are the only way for students to learn and Zoey remembers his lessons about supply and demand just in time to convince the money-hungry president to reinstate the dorm.

She also manages to talk herself into a job she doesn’t want – the Student Cultural Liaison. This seems like the show’s way of combining the larger university politics plots with the smaller student arcs. Zoey is forbidden by the president from doing a power strut out of the office, but that’s how she feels on the inside.

Zoey rejoins her father, who presumably had a good weekend at Shake Shack. He doesn’t believe her about Charlie being a professor (he wouldn’t have time to teach his kickboxing classes in the park!) He does, however, believe that Zoey can do whatever she wants in her life and he’s proud that she survived orientation. Now let’s see if she can get through freshman year!

What did you think of our first look at the spinoff? Will you be watching in the fall? Let me know in the comments!