You Should Watch: The Expanding Universe of Ashley Garcia

15-year-old scientist Ashley Garcia explores the great unknown of modern teendom after moving across the country to pursue a career in robotics.

I haven’t properly laughed out loud at a show in aaaages. But this one is an absolute delight! It’s wholesome, and hopeful and smart; it’s sweet, and impressive and empowering! The Expanding Universe of Ashley Garcia —later rebranded as Ashley Garcia: Genius in Love—is brilliantly entertaining, and it’s also the first studio-audience recorded-laughter show that I have been able to actually watch (and not turn it off in anger at the audience’s audible interruptions) in over a decade. (Since then I’ve also discovered Indebted, which is another perfectly delightful and wholesome comedy I totally recommend! Between Fran Drescher and The Mindy Project‘s Adam Pally, it’s somehow so good the studio audience doesn’t bother me.)

This show follows Ashley –literal actual genius– played by Paulina Chávez, as she’s learning rules of being a teenager. She’s got PhDs in Robotics and Applied Mathematics (the “only 15-and-a-half-year-old robotics engineer and rocket scientist” in the world) and moves in with her uncle on the other side of the country for a chance to work for NASA. What’s awesome about her character is that while she’s inexperienced in ‘regular teen stuff’ because she’s been focused on her career, Ashley knows as much about feminism as she does scientific studies, and she calls them all out. She’s a total role model for young girls as to what kind of treatment they don’t have to stand for, and the way she should treat her friends. While she’s navigating the issue of making friends, rekindling a friendship with her childhood best-friend and deciding if she’s into wearing makup, she’s also navigating workplace drama at her internship doing serious spacework (Big Bang Theory vibes happening here for sure) where even adults will relate to her stresses. I saw a tweet that describes Ashley Garcia to parents as Doogie Howser meets Tiana, which… definitely tracks!

Her first crush, Tad (played by Conor Husting) is a take on the popular-but-stupid guy. (I’ve seen this himbo trope in quite a few of Netflix’s kids shows lately and honestly, I don’t hate it.) The more we see of Tad, though, we begin to feel as serious love for the way he shows his heart and sincere kindness. He’s also the complete star of the show! Truly! Conor Husting is an undeniable comedic talent like I haven’t seen in ages.

Now that I think of it, he kind of reminds me of how it felt to watch a young Dylan O’Brien in his Teen Wolf era. Every single time I clicked back to rewatch a scene it was to watch Husting’s incredible delivery of comedic moments. You can even see it in the photos in this post. A star!! I’m so impressed. (Google is telling me he’s been cast in the iCarly reboot, where I hope he gets the showcase and recognition he deserves. Seriously, this kid’s the real deal. Mark my words!)

These episodes tell stories of teamwork, found family, sportsmanship and supporting your friends. The episode titled “No Scientific Basis Whatsoever” discusses sportsteams’ luck and superstition, and is directed by Eva Longoria. (The whole show is produced by and occasionally features Mario Lopez). There’s a storyline where Brooke, Ashley’s best friend, confronts her video-game addiction. Brooke also takes us on a journey of why she volunteers at a homeless shelter while she’s applying for internships and doing school presentations. We witness Tío Victor, the uncle with whom Ashley lives, growing in his parenting journey, and being a dedicated coach to the school football team. There’s a surprise Quinceañera! And of course there’s romance! Teen crushes and first relationships! House parties and high school sleepovers!

Extremely random but it must be noted that Literally every character is consistently making bold outfit choices! Bright patterned shirts, pastel platform sneakers. I may actually have to do a whole post in honour of the costumes for each character. There’s also an incredible number of product mentions! At first, the product most prominent is this kitchen-whisk-style head-scratcher tool which plays an integral part in the plot. But it turns out to not be brand placement, somehow! It continues throughout the episodes, mentioning Wikipedia, an ice cream brand, Amazon, Hoarders marathons. Every time I notice it I’m sure I just haven’t googled deep enough to discover what surely must be brand links for Netflix, it’s just too ridiculous not to be!

I’m really, really delighted and excited by the knowledge that there is a whole generation of kids, Latinx and not, who will enjoy this laugh-out-loud, bright and smart, swoon-worthy, upbeat and inspiring Netflix show for exactly what it is.

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