Sunday, March 25, 2018

Pilot Review: On My Block

On My Block (Netflix)
Premiered March 16

I suppose that, in an age where high school students are marching in streets across the country to demand better gun control after a wave of school shootings, there should be one show to address a community where the way that those who hear gunshots almost every day cope with it is to compete to identify what type of gun has been fired. This is a series that aims to turn what could be a serious, inescapable situation into a lighter, comedy-filled one, not averse to heartbreak and violence but still tempered by an entertaining tone. Each of the four protagonists has their own hangups that make their circumstances complicated. Monse is the only girl in the bunch, and her father is constantly away for work to try to bring them home some money, leaving her free to make her own decisions. Ruby just wants his own room and to stay out of trouble, but instead he has to live with his grandmother and be subject to the whims of others. Jamal can’t lie, and as a result now he’s committing to an even larger concocted football career. And Cesar is hopelessly stuck in the gang life that his family has ordained for him, with no way to escape it, likely not even with the help of his friends. There are some good performances here, particularly Sierra Capri as Monse, and it’s nice to see a fresh cast that emphasizes diversity and representation of a community that feels appropriately stylized and energetic. I don’t think I’ll keep watching, but this was a worthwhile start.

How will it work as a series? This show is reminiscent of other recent youth-focused efforts like “The Get Down” but with far less flair, which should help it to be a perfectly normal and enjoyable series enhanced by its plotlines and its characters. How far it chooses to go in certain situations will tell whether it can remain balanced in its tone and still appealing to viewers.
How long will it last? Don’t expect ratings data from Netflix anytime soon, and looking to reviews from among the many streaming shows premiering every single week is the best indicator of its chances. They’re pretty positive, and so I’d expect this series to be brought back for a second season.

Pilot grade: B+

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