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Freeridge Review 2023 Tv Show Series Season Cast Crew Online
In the wave of nostalgic spin-offs/reboots/revivals that has nearly drowned out original debuts over the past few years, there are valid worries about whether an On My Block offshoot could capture the magic of that underrated Netflix coming-of-age gem. Thankfully, Freeridge is a genuine delight for superfans of OMB that also claims its place as a heartfelt, uproarious teen comedy in its own right.
The show builds on a series of Easter eggs set up in the final episodes of its predecessor, following a new group of Freeridge High students, including three of the four original actors who played the next-generation friend group in the On My Block series finale. Gloria (Keyla Monterroso Mejia), Demi (Ciera Riley Wilson), and Cameron (Tenzing Norgay Trainor) are a tight threesome entering sophomore year and their biggest dilemma at the start of the series is dealing with Gloria’s caustic younger sister Ines (Bryana Salaz) and Cameron’s clingy boyfriend Andre (Zaire Adams). Over the course of the frenetic pilot, the crew gets wrapped up in a curse that connects back to the events of the prior series, including the addition of Abuelita actress Peggy Blow in a series-regular role that is a spoiler in and of itself.
The spin-off wastes no time getting back in the Southern California neighborhood of Freeridge, dropping viewers into a schoolyard fight that immediately dispels concerns about the new show’s ability to capture the vibe of the original. The joke-a-minute pacing coupled with skillful introductions to the new characters show how well-crafted the slightly magical world is, as the series unfurls a more stylized and confident version of their dramatic teenage antics. Even though the episodes are filled with nods to the past series and appearances from familiar characters, Freeridge immediately establishes itself as a novel tale of adolescent joy in the face of real-life sorrow, thanks in large part to its extremely charming cast.
Mejia, who’s best known from her scene-stealing guest spots on Curb Your Enthusiasm and Abbott Elementary, shines as Gloria, the determined group leader who isn’t afraid to lay down some tough love (or a knockout punch) to anyone who disrespects her. Unfortunately, much of that disrespect comes from Gloria’s own sister, who channels her grief from her mother’s death into being an equal-opportunity agent of chaos. The sisters go at each other’s throats and have each other’s backs in equal measure, a dynamic portrayed with impressive chemistry and vulnerability by both Mejia and Salaz. Rounding out the new core four are spiritual future bruja Demi and bisexual serial monogamist Cam, with confident-yet-unsure Dre stepping into Jasmine’s hanger-on shoes. That’s already a stellar set of main characters, without even mentioning Gloria and Ines’ entrepreneurial Tío Tonio (J.R. Villareal) and his teenage assistant Rusty (Michael Solomon).
With these fresh faces, plus some appearances from the parents of the original crew, showrunner Lauren Ungrich and her four co-creators (Eddie Gonzalez and Jeremy Haft also return) show new sides of Freeridge, California, smartly moving away from the Santos drama to focus on everyday struggles of being a kid. The mysterious curse begins hitting close to home immediately, leading to some moving scenes between the sisters and their loving father Javier (Jean Paul San Pedro). And that setup, of the curse’s importance coming from its ability to hurt the characters’ loved ones, is a smart way to make relationships a propelling force in the plot. Speaking of relationships, there is also an obvious care and dedication in the addition of same-sex couples and sexual fluidity going on; this could feel like a hollow appeal to youths in a lesser show, but doesn’t at all here.
Freeridge does fall into some of the same storytelling quirks as its predecessor, however. A few character developments and changes in motivations hit too quickly, and the season’s curse arc gets weaker as its never-ending twists and turns lead to an anticlimactic conclusion. But Freeridge excels when it explores the bravery within vulnerability and a more mundane form of resilience, with its most heart-wrenching emotional scenes involving conversations about life and death in the characters’ kitchens. It’s difficult to balance heightened comedy and grounded drama, and Freeridge’s creative team does a solid job of giving both modes equal weight.
Throughout its run, On My Block was an underappreciated gem among Netflix’s endless options. It found its fans, but its renewal status was always a question of if rather than when. That was a shame for a show that depicted the full spectrum of joys and struggles among teenagers in a Black and Latinx community, and it will be a shame if Freeridge exists in the same limbo. Anyone who misses the world of On My Block needs to give this series a shot, obviously, but everyone else should tune in as well, if only to become familiar with this cast of rising stars.