Above all, it’s an amusing half hour spent in the company of a finely tuned cast. Grown-ish has things to say about campus life in 2018 and modern complications like prescription meds and the money made on the backs of student athletes. The episodes prior to “Un-Break My Heart” filled a void I didn’t know existed in my TV diet, a sweet spot halfway between Degrassi and Undeclared. But the social lives of the characters, the downtime that exists between classes, studying, fellowships, and jobs, demands that Grown-ish excel as a hangout show, too, the type that commands attention when the characters are just shooting the shit or ragging on one another at the student bar or on a dorm room floor. “Un-Break My Heart” is that type of scene, wall to wall, and it’s remarkable that the actors—Shahidi, Arlook, and Raisa especially—have been able to strike up such an authentic sense of friendship and camaraderie so quickly.


This is the type of thing I hope for whenever I start a new TV show: an early episode that shows the pieces clicking into place. (To name a couple of very A.V. Club examples of this happening on other shows: the debate episode of Community and “Tracy Does Conan” on 30 Rock.) But with more shows to choose from than ever before, it’s getting harder and harder to summon the patience for anything that doesn’t pull off an “Un-Break My Heart” in its first few weeks. While contributing to that glut of content, streaming series have also helped circumvent the wait-and-see predicament: Learning if a show is going to get its hooks into you becomes a matter of hours, rather than days. But when you’ve made the investment across the weeks, and you get a return like “Un-Break My Heart,” there’s little else like it, in any medium. And for a show about self-discovery like Grown-ish, it’s thematically appropriate, too.