The idea that drove On My Block for four seasons was pretty simple: four friends living in their particular Los Angeles neighborhood, dealing with the usual teenage things. In a new spinoff, we get to see a new group of friends hang out in Freeridge, and deal with some weird goings-on.
FREERIDGE: STREAM IT OR SKIP IT?
Opening Shot: Kids outside the high school in the LA neighborhood of Freeridge run into the courtyard, where two girls are having a knockdown, drag-out fight.
The Gist: The extremely personal, boob-twisting smackdown is actually between two sisters: Gloria (Keyla Monterroso Mejia) and her younger sister Ines (Bryana Salaz). This isn’t the first time the two of them have been in conflict at school; it’s to the point where they’ve arranged for their uncle Tonio (J.R. Villarreal) to intercept calls from school and pose as their father. He agrees to do so…. for a price. And the girls now owe him over $1,000 for his services.
Gloria and Ines haven’t gotten along in a long time, yet Ines and her anarchic personality are part of Gloria’s small circle of friends. Demi (Ciara Riley Wilson) is the most spiritual of the group, and Cameron (Tenzing Norgay Trainor) is the least confident; his current issue is trying to get his clingy boyfriend Andre (Zaire Adams) to back off.
Gloria and Ines decide to raise some money via a yard sale, though when they go through the stuff in the garage, they find a box of items belonging to their mother, who died a few years ago. Their dad, Javier (Jean Paul San Pedro), just wants to keep a scarf from that box.
The yard sale infringes on the one Geny (Paula Garcés) is having at her house, but Gloria confidently says she can upsell both of their merchandise for a cut of the sales. Cam decides to by an ornate box from Geny’s sale; he figures Andre will get ticked off enough at the secondhand box with someone else’s initials on it to finally break up with him. But soon afterwards, a mysterious red-haired lady (Peggy Blow) offers $200 for the box, then disappears.
Later, the woman shows up at the girls’ house and offers $1000, but Cam has already left with it; he starts to think that it’s cursed. Ines seems to have bought into the idea, and Demi is putting out crystals in order to fight the bad mojo. But Gloria is unconvinced, until Javier finds out that he has cancer.
What Shows Will It Remind You Of? Freeridge is a spinoff of On My Block, and some of the characters from that show (mostly parents like Geny) appear here.
Our Take: Co-creators Lauren Iungerich and Jamie Dooner, along with showrunners Jamie Uyeshiro, Eddie Gonzalez and Jeremy Haft, have given Freeridge the same vibe as the show it originated from. The friend group at the center of this spinoff is small but tightknit, even if Cam and Demi want Gloria to kick Ines and her negativity out of the group, and they’re set to go on an adventure that involves a not small amount of mysticism.
The roles of this friend group are a bit better defined than they group from the original show was at its start, but that’s mainly because Mejia and Salaz play Gloria and Inez so well. We’ve seen a lot of Mejia lately, in Curb Your Enthusiasm and Abbott Elementary, and she displays the same confidence here that she does in those shows. Gloria knows who she is and what she wants. Ines, on the other hand, is more unsure, but likes to get under people’s skin. The difference between the two sisters immediately sets up situations where the conflict between the two will result in funny scenes.
But Cam and Demi also have been given more than enough shading to make their characters interesting. At the same time Cam is trying to fend off Andre’s over-the-top affection, he’s also not sure that he completely hates it, either. But he also seems to have a crush on Demi, though even Demi thinks it’s just because he’s finding an outlet for his frustration. But we think Demi is in denial, and we’ll see if they take things beyond friendship, at a high risk that it’ll break the friend group apart.
As we stated above, there are a few Easter eggs for fans of On My Block, namely with Blow playing someone who looks a lot like the late Marisol, whom she played on the original series. But from the start, Freeridge tries to forge its own identity, and it’s better for it.
Sex and Skin: None.
Parting Shot: As the four friends hatch their plan to beat the curse, the mystery woman watches them from her car.
Sleeper Star: J.R. Villarreal is good comic relief as Tio Tonio, who seems to have a good racket going with his nieces. He’s also funny when he walks in on dinner with Javier, the girls and the woman he’s dating.
Most Pilot-y Line: The girls keep throwing poor Demi under the bus with Javier, so when Javier sees Demi at the house, he says to his daughters, “Why do you keep hanging out with her?” It’s a funny callback in the first episode, but we can see it getting old.
Our Call: STREAM IT. Like On My Block, Freeridge is a fun show about a tight group of friends dealing with some strange goings-on in their neighborhood. Strong character development and confident lead performances make the show a very easy watch.
Joel Keller (@joelkeller) writes about food, entertainment, parenting and tech, but he doesn’t kid himself: he’s a TV junkie. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, Slate, Salon, RollingStone.com, VanityFair.com, Fast Company and elsewhere.