This bright, modern show manages to reflect the world we live in – or would like to live in – with a phenomenal ensemble cast, high production values and a lot of heart.
You’d be forgiven if you haven’t heard of Good Trouble, the US show that dropped its first two seasons on BBC iPlayer last month. It’s a spin-off of The Fosters, a family drama that premiered in 2013 and never made it to the UK in any legitimate form. Despite the somewhat baffling choice to purchase a spin-off of a show almost nobody has seen, the BBC is onto a good thing with Good Trouble: this ensemble piece left me wishing I was 22, living in a commune above a theatre in downtown Los Angeles and sharing my bathroom with 15 strangers.
Good Trouble follows Callie and Mariana Adams-Foster: sisters, recent graduates and new arrivals in Los Angeles ready to make their mark and change the world. Upon arrival in LA, they move into The Coterie, an ‘intentional community’ of hot, cool mostly twenty-somethings and form the sort of chosen family that can be so emblematic of young adulthood. Like The Coterie, quite a lot about this show can feel ‘intentional’ – its phenomenal diverse ensemble cast, the hot-button issues it covers – but it never loses sight of the fact that is a fun, fresh television show designed to entertain. It’s glossy, sexy and takes interesting risks in its creative direction – the pilot was helmed by John M. Chu of Crazy Rich Asians (2018) and In The Heights (2021) – playing with nonlinear storytelling techniques to maintain suspense.
Do you need to have seen The Fosters to enjoy its spin-off? Well, I’d say no, and clearly the BBC agrees with me. The original show followed wives Lena and Steph Adams-Foster (a school principal and a police officer) and their five teenage-ish children: Steph’s biological son Brandon, Jesus and Mariana, the twins they adopted as toddlers, and siblings Callie and Jude who they foster and then adopt at the start of the show. Over the course of five family-friendly seasons on the Disney-owned Freeform channel (or weirdly-paced, very well-hidden videos on DailyMotion because nobody would take my useless British money to let me pay for it), we watched the Adams-Fosters go through all manner of soapy ups and downs – falling in love, going to juvie, tragic nail-gun-to-the-face accidents – almost none of which have any bearing at all on Good Trouble. Incidentally, I became obsessed with the original show at a time when I was asking a lot of questions about myself. Watching two beautiful, powerful women in love and raising a family together was magnetic in a way that my ‘straight’ little heart didn’t quite understand yet.
The Fosters was a family drama and in the same way – although Callie and Mariana are the main characters at first – the various members of Good Trouble‘s chosen family all have their own stories and it becomes a genuine ensemble piece. They are young and passionate, with big dreams, and although their lives might sound like a conservative’s nightmare (they are activists and artists, dealing with issues like sexism and racism in STEM, police brutality, casual dating as a queer person, rights for trans veterans) no character is solely defined by any one aspect of their identity. They are allowed to contain multitudes, just like every single one of us. There is even all-too-rare representation of a bisexual man (Gael, played by Tommy Martinez), who uses the word ‘bi’, isn’t tormented about it, and genuinely dates and sleeps with both men and women in exactly the same way as the straight characters date.
In telling ‘zeitgeisty’ stories, the creators are also trying to put in the necessary work. There is a Black Lives Matter arc in season one (which makes for depressingly relevant viewing in 2020, two years after it first aired), and they hired Patrisse Cullors, one of the co-founders of the movement, to act as a story consultant, moving to a position in the writers’ room for the second season – as well as appearing as herself in the show.
Despite the lack of fanfare to greet its arrival on iPlayer, Good Trouble is more than worthy of generating buzz. The first season got surprise rave reviews – unlike its parent show – earning a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. It captures the messy, awful, amazing idealism of early adulthood with humour and flair and I’m thrilled it’s finally landed.