Although On My Block labels itself as a comedy, for large stretches of its 10 episode run time this teen coming-of-age story is much more drama than anything else. While there aren’t any truly laugh out loud moments, the comedy intertwines nicely with the drama for the most part although there are moments where it feels a little jarring. The eccentric, diverse group of characters at the heart of the story is ultimately what this one will be remembered for though and its here that On My Block shines.
The story predominantly revolves around four friends as they prepare for high school. Ruby (Jason Genao), Cesar (Diego Tinoco), Jamal (Brett Gray) and Monse (Sierra Capri) find their friendship put to the test when a secret threatens to break up their tight knit circle. As the series progresses, the drama hits an emotional peak at the end of the 6th episode before slowly building toward an unexpected, shocking climax in the last episode. Nestled between these two moments are plenty of comedic quips and sharp bites of dialogue as the characters navigate the dangerous, gritty world of life in South Central Los Angeles. At times the comedy does feel forced and a lot of this is as a result of supporting character Jasmine (Jessica Marie Garcia) who isn’t particularly funny and the lack of depth to her character makes this worse, especially compared to the other main characters.
There’s some really good work done to flesh out each of the main characters though and each has their own subplot that grows throughout the 10 episodes. Jamal winds up entangled in a city-wide hunt for treasure whilst grappling with his own inability to keep his friends’ secrets. Ruby becomes infatuated with new girl Olivia (Ronni Hawk) and spends most of his time trying to win over her heart. Cesar is the most emotionally complex character and what begins as a simple story about a boy getting mixed up in a gang quickly ends up as the most complex and gripping, especially when intimidating gang leader Oscar (Julio Macias) joins the fray. Completing the quartet is Monse who struggles with her feelings toward Oscar for most of the season. There’s no denying there’s an awful lot crammed into this season and the lack of filler only works to On My Block’s benefit. The individual stories are simple enough to follow and complex enough to keep you watching through to the finale which certainly ends on an unexpected and shocking note.
At 30 minutes an episode, On My Block is an easy show to binge and even easier to get invested in. The characters are relatable and have enough personality to avoid falling into comedic archetypes. Although some of the acting is a little wooden at times, it’s a minor point in an otherwise good display from the young cast. The cinematography serves its purpose and is largely unremarkable for most of the run time although a few clever edits help to give this one a bit of an edge in this crowded genre.
The well written, diverse group of characters at the heart of this show help to make this an absorbing dramatic comedy. Although there is humour here and On My Block advertises itself as a comedy, the show works much better as a drama, especially with the intensity of the emotional peaks during the 6th and 10th episode. With four, fleshed out parallel stories alongside the main plot of the show, On My Block manages to balance a consistent pace with a lot of plot progression. With the season ending the way it does, it’ll be interesting to see what the future holds for this show but based on what’s here, a second season certainly wouldn’t go amiss, even if On My Block does fail to be the laugh out loud comedy it advertises itself to be.
Verdict - 7/10