Grand Crew is a new Black TV sitcom on NBC and Peacock focused on a group of, largely, Black friends living in Los Angeles and getting through the everyday struggles of life. The characters are probably meant to represent millennials, but they probably give off a little more Gen Z energy than anything else. At first glance, you can easily put it in the vein of Friends or Cheers, as the show centers around this group of six congregating at their hangout of choice and occasionally going out into the world, only to bring their triumphs and tribulations back to the hangout for group discussion and debate.
However, I think the show aspires to be much more than that. In fact, I think the show actually aspires to win you over because of your aspirations as a Black person. The shows prevalence of college educated Black folk, career climbers, overachievers, vegans, hopeless romantics, and long-time monogamist, suggests that it’s simply not going for the viewer who just wants wants to hangout, but someone who sees themselves always climbing the proverbial ladder–whether it be in status, work or love.
Most of the characters in this show are college-educated. Now does everyone in America aspire to be college educated? Of course not. In fact, only 35% of white people, and 25% of Black are reported to have a college degree. But if we’re being real about it, certainly since the 80s, this country has done nothing but encourage its citizens to pursue higher education. It’s become a a defacto stamp of approval–and real meaningful designation when it comes to socioeconomic status. It’s that forcing mechanism that has allowed colleges and universities to increase their tuitions at ridiculous rates, year after year, and without remorse, because every child is told that college is something they have to aspire to. So while Grand Crew, through its choice of characters, may not be the entity saying that you have to go to college, it does put in front you a group of Black people who went along with the aspirations society cast upon them, and as a result, self-selected into a group of a certain ‘status”.
Then there’s this element of career success that is constant throughout the show. “Nicky” is an amazing realtor with high net worth clients, a business of her own, and a cold-calculating mind for real estate. “Anthony” is an accountant who is quickly climbing the corporate ladder at his firm and is always on the lookout for how he can accelerate his career. These two, along with other members of the group, are constantly discussing their work matters and trying to figure out how to advance in their respective professions. Maybe in some circles it is somewhat commonplace to discuss all of your career aspirations with your friends. But in my experience, this type of conversation is, for the most part, left for the overachievers, nerdy MBAs (raises hand), and of course, investment banking associates. Most people don’t use their leisure time with friends to figure out how to impress the boss, instead opting to focus on things that are, you know…fun! Maybe your friends will open the evening’s conversation with a complaint about their boss or figure out how to undercut their manager at the next meeting. But the specifics of a twenty-something’s workday rarely venture into a Machievellian-like discussion about “what’s next for me” unless there’s some more dire underlying crisis. Grand Crew’s use of characters highly-focused on their career pursuits, however, speaks to what a lot of people (but certainly not all) want to be. Afterall, if you are going to have to have a job, why not be good at it? This high-achieving take on life is certainly a character trait that many people would at least want to borrow from.
And then there’s the pursuit of love. Just about all of the characters have some bout with love throughout the first season of the show–they are in their twenties, right? Nicky tries to find the right guy for her independent personality. Anthony starts to fall in love with a non-vegan. “Wyatt”, the married member of the crew, is always trying to figure out how to be the best husband he can be–while spending untold hours out of the house at a bar with his friends. And the star of our lovestruck characters is “Noah”, Nicky’s brother, and the self-proclaimed romantic of the group. He is a serial monogamist whose only wish is to find the true love of his life. He wants to be like Wyatt and have that special someone, and he makes you feel as if you’re the crazy one if you don’t understand his obsession with falling in love. For some, this quest for love can grow tiresome. But for others, who are also looking for that special someone, the things Noah is willing to do, say, and embarrass himself for are somewhat inspiring. You can’t be mad about not finding someone to love if you aren’t really putting yourself out there. So in that vein, oddly enough, Noah’s do-anything-for-love-mentality is aspirational to a certain crowd.
While I’ve broken Grand Crew down into a number of things I think the show thinks you want to be, at its core, it is a show about friends and adulting. The aspirational aspect, however, is strong. I couldn’t watch it without constantly thinking about my own career pursuits, matters in love, or the things I’ve experienced in life as a result of my college degree. And I think that’s cool…especially for a sitcom. Especially for a broadcast sitcom, where generally speaking, getting you to think about all of the things you aspire to be is the job of the commercials, not the show itself. Thus, if you’re one that can appreciate the humor in trying to be something you’re not yet, and might even be one to use that humor to fuel your own aspirations, then this just might be the series for you.