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  • Freeform “Grown-ish” follows Yara Shahidi's character Zoey from "Black-ish" to college, the latest spinoff to do so.

  • File From left, Marisa Tomei, Lisa Bonet and Dawnn  Lewis starred in “A Different World,” which was a spinoff from “The Cosby Show.”

  • ABC Sarah Hyland stars in “Modern Family.”

Sunday, January 14, 2018 1:00 am

Spinning off to college

'Grown-ish' latest to follow character out of comfort of home

Sonia Rao | Washington Post

Anthony Anderson's piercing wail kicks off the new Freeform series “Grown-ish,” a spinoff of ABC's “Black-ish” that premiered this month and centers on the college experience of the Johnson family's oldest child. Zoey (Yara Shahidi) has been at the fictional California University for just three days, but to her father, Dre, it feels like a lifetime.

“It hurts so bad,” he screeches on the phone. An exasperated Zoey asks for clarification and, clutching his chest, Dre replies, “My soul.”

Dre's parental woes are familiar to many viewers, as is the overall premise of “Grown-ish.” With any series fortunate enough to be renewed for multiple seasons, the teenage characters inevitably grow up and, often, go to college. Some land their own spinoffs, while others inexplicably remain major figures in the original shows.

Here's how several popular comedies have dealt with the transition.

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“Black-ish” (2014-present) and its spinoff, “Grown-ish” (present)

Character: Zoey Johnson (Yara Shahidi)

What happened: Much to the distress of her father, Zoey is now navigating an increasingly political world on her own at California University. But “Black-ish” fans, fret not. The actress recently confirmed that she would still appear on the ABC series from time to time, and her TV parents might stop by to make some appearances on Freeform, too. A few of Shahidi's “Grown-ish” co-stars include famed Selena Gomez kidney donor Francia Raisa and both halves of the Beyoncé-approved R&B duo Chloe x Halle.

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“The Cosby Show” (1984-1992) and its spinoff, “A Different World” (1987-1993)

Character: Denise Huxtable (Lisa Bonet)

What happened: “A Different World” is the most obvious precursor to “Grown-ish,” as each series – at least initially – focuses on the college experience of the oldest daughter in a middle-class black family. Denise figures prominently into the first season of “A Different World,” which takes place at the fictional HBCU Hillman College, but her character was written out around the same time that hippie-chic icon Bonet, newly married to Lenny Kravitz, announced her pregnancy. The series went on to have five more seasons, and Denise eventually returned full-time to “The Cosby Show” with a husband and stepdaughter, played by Raven-Symoné, in tow.

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“Saved by the Bell” (1989-1992) and its spinoff, “Saved by the Bell: The College Years” (1993-1994)

Characters: Kelly Kapowski (Tiffani Thiessen), Zack Morris (Mark-Paul Gosselaar), Screech Powers (Dustin Diamond) and A.C. Slater (Mario Lopez)

What happened: California University appears to be quite popular in the TV universe, as half of Bayside High's lovable troublemakers go on to attend the school in the ill-fated “Saved by the Bell” follow-up, “The College Years.” Zack, Screech and A.C. move in with three female students in the pilot, one of whom is swapped out in the second episode to make room for Kelly's return to the franchise.

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“Boy Meets World” (1993-2000)

Characters: Shawn Hunter (Rider Strong), Topanga Lawrence (Danielle Fishel) and Cory Matthews (Ben Savage)

What happened: The final two seasons of ABC's TGIF hit take place at Pennbrook University, where the trio join Cory's goofy brother, Eric (Will Friedle), and Shawn's soon-to-be-revealed half brother, Jack (Matthew Lawrence). Of course, no school in “Boy Meets World” is complete without the sagacious Mr. Feeny – or “Fee-hee-hee-heenay,” as Eric would yell – who ends up teaching at Pennbrook. Cory and Topanga get hitched, Shawn deals with even more family issues and, thankfully, the Matthews parents (Betsy Randle and William Russ) show up in almost every episode.

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“Arrested Development” (2003-present)

Character: George Michael Bluth (Michael Cera)

What happened: George Michael's transition to college coincided with the series' Netflix revival, in which each episode centers on a different character, and the show's trademark style of interlocking storylines didn't allow for an absence from Bluth family shenanigans. Though he drives off to UC-Irvine in the infamous stair car and then studies abroad in Spain for a year, George Michael is eventually forced to live with his father upon his return to campus. The two even (unknowingly) date the same woman.

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“Glee” (2009-2015)

Character: Rachel Berry (Lea Michele)

What happened: While multiple members of the New Directions family move away from Lima, Ohio, after graduating from McKinley High in Season 3, Rachel's college journey is the most closely followed. The Barbra Streisand superfan attends the New York Academy of Dramatic Arts – or “NYADA,” as they seem to utter in every sentence – to pursue her Broadway dreams and faces a reality check while working with her intense dance instructor, Cassandra July (Kate Hudson). The latter three seasons of “Glee” split their focus between Lima and New York.

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“Modern Family” (2009-present)

Characters: Alex Dunphy (Ariel Winter) and Haley Dunphy (Sarah Hyland)

What happened: Haley, portrayed as the family airhead, finally goes to college in the fourth season of “Modern Family,” only to get kicked out for drinking and the (accidental) battery of a police officer. She ends up living at home and sporadically attending community college – a clever tactic to keep her in the show – while her nerdy sister, Alex, later goes to Cal Tech, but somehow almost always has a reason to stay with her family, like a case of mono that renders her homebound for months.