I have a ton of TV Binge to review but after finishing On My Block this past weekend (for the second time), I decided to bump this one up so we could look at it a little earlier. I picked this out completely spontaneously and well, lets just say that its worth some talk about and if you haven’t seen it, you probably should. I promise to avoid the big spoilers but if you plan on watching this series, its probably best read only the top portion and not look at the breakdown. I should have a spoiler alert in there just to stop you to from going further.
On My Block (Season 1, 2018)
Creator: Eddie Gonzalez, Jeremy Haft, Lauren Iungerich
Cast: Sierra Capri, Jason Genao, Diego Tinoco, Brett Gray, Ronni Hawk, Peggy Blow, Julio Macias, Jessica Marie Garcia
A coming-of-age comedy about four bright, street-savvy friends navigating their way through high school in the gritty inner city of South Central Los Angeles. – IMDB
I’ve talked about my disappointment in teen movies lately on Netflix with F the Prom (review) and #RealityHigh (review) so for me to jump into this one was quite the spontaneous event. I knew nothing about this series beforehand and while it seemed like it was a teen comedy and most of the time, it did maintain the humor throughout because of its charismatic and charming young cast, it still highlighted some of the underlying issues in the neighborhood that they lived in. For example, when they heard gunshots, they would guess casually which type it was. With that said, once the first episode started, it reminded me of my experience watching (and reading) Freedom Writers (review), which happens to be one of my favorite movies and such a powerful movie to say the least. On My Block gave me exactly the same feeling and trust me when I say that its a great compliment from me to the creators and cast of this show.
The structure of the show is also very binge-worthy with 10 episodes of 30 minutes each. It goes for a quick season and just fun little doses of the story which keeps it paced quick enough to understand the situation and the teens. The story itself packs in all kinds of relationships and secrets. Its a coming of age for each of the teens in this group as new people join into their crew and situations occur with family. Everyone has their own story and their own struggle and they are growing and adapting and reacting to everything around them. It keeps the story focused and fun because while they struggle, there is this bond that makes them so special to watch. Not to mention, they have an amazing soundtrack to match up everything here.
The charm of the show does lie in its great writing but also in how Sierra Capri, Jason Genao, Diego Tinoco and Brett Gray take on their roles as Monse, Ruby, Cesar and Jamal respectively. They add a great deal of personality and it gives their characters such a genuine and believable quality to it all. We cheer for them and laugh with them while celebrate their little successes and feel bad for their failures. Life might seem trivial in their eyes but they also have much bigger things to deal with in the background especially with their neighborhood their in. Its a unique (because it is very rarely used at least to my knowledge) setting and I don’t know how accurate it reflects this urban community but its nice to see a show not focused on rich kids with their self-inflicted problems (for the most part). Its refreshing angle and an intriguing one that has me very excited for season 2, which I believe has been announced since I finished the season. But then they also have some fun supporting characters that really are incredibly fun as well from Olivia (Ronnie Hawk) to Ruby’s grandmother (Peggy Blow) and of course Spooky (Julia Macias).
On My Block highlights a lot of great themes and packs in some great characters. If you haven’t seen the series, my suggestion is this point forward will have *mild spoilers* as I go into a more in-depth breakdown of different elements.
There’s something so naive and yet great about this friendship between the four main characters here. Monse, Jamal, Cesar and Ruby.These childhood friends have such a great dynamic despite being different in their own goals and personalities. However, its these differences that compliment each other and make for such comedic moments which gives this story, despite its shadowing difficulties from each character and their backgrounds and situations, a much less intense sort of vibe.
Along with these childhood friends, Ruby’s house is inhabited by a family friend’s daughter, Olivia. Its the first girl friend that Monse actually connects with. The way that their friendship develops is quite something to be admired. Many shows us boys as a breaking point between girls but these two show genuine respect for each other and put their friendship before other things. Its truly some goals to see happen more in TV series, especially in teen shows.
It’s hard to do shows without the love arc and I have to say that this friendship we see is so strong that it’s hard to see that Monse and Cesar have a thing going on in secret. Somehow the being in secret part is also quite apparent so its funny how Jamal and Ruby haven’t seen through it. However, I like this little love story they have going on here. Plus, you add in the fact of finding a balance between a friendship and loving someone. You can totally see their struggle but also fall in love with them a little as well. On the other hand, we also have the Ruby’s infatuation with Olivia and then Olivia’s obvious attraction to Cesar which takes a general play in the series as well. Ruby does a lot of sweet and corny things but I think its because of these things that makes his character such a memorable one as well.
While the show does pace itself fairly quickly, the four characters each have their own focus. Monse first start with her love issue but then morphs into tracking a lady she brushes by and she suspects is her mother who left her when she was a baby. Cesar has his gang background that he struggles to accept especially as his group of friends tries very hard to keep him as he was before he was jumped in. That part of the story is intriguing especially as we get to see him bond with his brother, Spooky and realize that everyone has their own dreams. Ruby on the other hand maybe is the most fortunate as he turns into the goofy guy who really just wants some privacy and have his own room while balancing out the group but trying to impress Olivia. Finally, Jamal probably has the simplest but also the oddest personal dilemma and goal: the first is to impress his dad and pretend to be in the football team which ends up being some of the most hilarious parts in the story. The comedic moments with Jamal continues as he looks at his dream and belief that takes him on a treasure hunt for what he believes is the RollerWorld money. As crazy as his schemes are and everyone with their own problems and while four characters seems like a lot to track in such a short season run time, it definitely covers what it needs to enough to connect with these four.
Memorable Supporting/Cameo Characters
There are so many supporting characters here. I can’t quite place whether Olivia is considered a supporting character but she does get a lot of time with the group since she’s the new addition. Possibly the most hilarious one goes to Peggy Blow as Abuelita. She is a quirky one. While she seems like the silly grandma in the background, she also is the one that helps out in the background as well and says some hilarious things. She’s hard but supportive, exactly how I remember my grandparents. She supports Jamal through RollerWorld and helps Olivia and Ruby when they need it even when she feels underappreciated. In many ways, she is more there than the parents and teaches some important values to them. As we go along, this group meets all these colorful characters from the parents of these four to a man who finds company in a garden gnome.
On My Block is absolutely a great binge. It was so great that I binged it a second time and almost wanted to go for a third time. Great young characters set in a dangerous backdrop which makes a tone change almost halfway through. There’s a lot of personal dilemma and character development. The soundtrack is awesome and well, even in its dangerous and dramatic moments, they have a decent amount of comedy to balance it out. Its tough to find charming and unique teen TV shows nowadays but this one doesn’t only highlight a specific group but also does a great job at it while delivering a fantastic story. Its probably going to be a long wait for Season 2 (hopefully not), but I’m definitely looking forward to see where it goes, especially with the cliffhanger ending of Season 1. I have a few guesses but the creators/writers of the show have caught me off-guard quite a few times so I’m guessing they’ll do something unpredictable as well.
Have you seen On My Block? Thoughts?