“Freeridge” is being called a spinoff — but it only really shares the same creative team (Laura Iungerich, Eddie Gonzalez, Jeremy Haft), inner-city locale and fantastical context as its forebearer, “On My Block,” a four-season dramedy that streamed on Netflix from 2018-2021.
The amiable new series, premiering Feb. 2 on Netflix, features an entirely different core cast as it unwinds the tale of four high school friends in Freeridge, Calif. who think they’ve accidentally unleashed a mysterious, evil force and deal with its repercussions.
The trouble starts almost immediately after we meet our protagonists: Gloria Salazar (Keyla Monterosso Mejia) and her annoying, slightly younger sister, Ines (Bryana Salaz), whose bickering occasionally segues into all-out brawling (but they really do love each other, natch). They hang around with Demi (Ciara Riley Wilson), who feels slightly ignored and under-appreciated, and Cameron (Tenzing Norgay Trainor), who has a clingy boyfriend but really only has eyes for Demi. (Wilson made a cameo appearance in the “On My Block” series finale.)
Gloria and Ines live with their widowed father, Javier (Jean Paul San Pedro) and his freeloading brother, goofy man-child Tonio (JR Villareal), who bunks in the kitchen pantry. Uncle Tonio is unemployed yet has a personal assistant to do his nonsensical bidding — good-natured Rusty (Michael Solomon), who looks really familiar to everyone (he is, we learn, “Trusty Rusty,” a former kiddie TV star).
Gloria and Inez are still grieving their mother’s death (from cancer) but agree to sell a few of her things in a yard sale, which leads to a box embossed with the initials “MM” — and, in a roundabout way, the curse that surrounds it. (That’s where Marisol from “On My Block” enters the picture.) Before long, bad karma starts to infect Gloria, Ines et al., including Javier’s serious medical diagnosis. The friends’ goal: to put the evil genie spirit back in the “MM” box and reverse the curse while navigating the ups and downs of their lives (and loves) and interpersonal dynamics.
“Freeridge” trots along at a brisk pace and there’s rarely a dull moment. Iungerich, Haft and Gonzalez — joined here by co-creators Jamie Dooner and Jamie Uyeshero — have created fun, appealing characters who mesh nicely with each other onscreen; nothing is too forced here and the comedic situations are, for the most part, family-friendly, the “evil,” such as it is, unthreatening in that “Let’s have an adventure!” vein (note: this is no “Stranger Things”). There’s a lot of energy here. You’ll learn more about the friends’ lives as the season progresses and they get into more situations that test their mettle.
Iungerich has said that there is “a lot of connective tissue” between “Freeridge” and “On My Block,” but it’s not necessary to have watched the former to enjoy the latter, which should fit snugly into the Netflix YA canon.
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