Entertainment

Abbott Elementary on ABC, a humorous series about Philadelphia teachers struggling with budget cuts and bureaucracy to reach their students

The film and television simulation format has been around for nearly 40 years, since This is the spinal tap, but its TV heyday was about 20 years ago, since the UK version of Office release. Since the American version became a huge hit, it’s become an overused format, but it can still work with the right theme and material. New ABC comedy Abbott Elementary School use format, but can it make it new again?

Opening scene: We saw kids running into Willard R. Abbott Public School. Inside, a teacher is doing homework with her 2nd graders about their favorite movie and character. When a person says American gangster, the teacher self-consciously looks into the camera and says that she will have a third conversation with the parents about what they show her.

Gist: Janine Teagues (Quinta Brunson) is a 2nd grade teacher, and in the documentary being made at Abbott Elementary, she becomes the central character. Why? Because she is a young teacher who has been attached to the difficult school of Philadelphia in her sophomore year, and her optimism and positivity is rare at Abbott.

Not that the rest of the teachers don’t care. They really care a lot about their students – at least when they’re not trying to riot against the more passive young educators. But when the city restricts their budget and pushes them away every now and then. For example, Janine needed a new carpet for her classroom after too many kids peed on it. For her, it’s like a “Xanax for kids”, focusing them and relaxing them. But the incompetent and brilliant principal Ava Coleman (Janelle James) won’t get one because the school doesn’t have the money for it.

Her colleagues react to this in different ways. Janine’s sophomore teacher, Jacob Hill (Chris Perfetti), pulls through because he feels he has to, no matter how much of an “ally” he is. 20-year veteran Barbara Howard (Sheryl Lee Ralph), for whom Janine is obsessed with her being in control of her class, works with what she has. Melissa Schemmenti (Lisa Ann Walter) uses her South Philly connections; she always “knows a guy”.

When a violent teacher kicked a student, Ava fired her, and lobbied the superintendent to give the school some emergency funds. When Janine wrote a clever e-mail asking the principal for more rugs, Ava decided to spend $3,000 on a new sign with her picture on it. Enraged, Janine emails the superintendent, but Barbara reminds her that those emails will be forwarded to the school’s principal. Ava plots revenge by calling a meeting about respecting your co-workers, saying anyone can be honest about someone else. She begins by calling Janine “Clutter and annoying.”

Substitute Gregory Eddie (Tyler James Williams) arrives, and he immediately finds a kindred spirit in Janine, but Ava gives him nicknames that will provoke calls to HR if Gregory thinks he is. have any leverage. After the respect meeting, Janine addressed the issue on her own, because “she knows someone who knows a guy,” aka Melissa.

Abbott Elementary School
Photo: Prashant Gupta / ABC

What shows will it remind you of? Office and Parks and Recreation, but took place at an elementary school in Philadelphia.

Our Take: Brunson is not only the star of Abbott Elementary School, but also the show’s creator and moderator (given her previous life as a BuzzFeed video creator, this shouldn’t have been difficult for her). Here she has the backing of veteran sitcom producers Justin Halpern, Randall Einhorn (who also directed the pilot) and Patrick Schumacker. For that reason, Abbott Elementary School manages to hit the same tone as the aforementioned fantasy series (which Einhorn also used to direct).

And that tune? Well, it’s a combination of funny jokes, including occasional glances at the camera just to let people know the camera is there and side interviews that sometimes believe the person is real. what is thinking. But it also has the same sense of family and community as the other two programs.

In fact, Brunson was able to establish that quality quickly, with the laughs coming from the protagonists’ quirky attitudes and attitudes more than anything else. Such rapid establishment is a sign of a sitcom with enduring power.

One of the other signs we enjoyed Abbott Elementary School the fact that the model format did not bother us. Remember that this is a format that has been copied many times since Office’The original British version came out 20 years ago, and the format has more or less worked. Still, putting it in a struggling big-city elementary school was an inspiring choice, mainly because the show was not about children, but about the absurd bureaucracy that the This teacher struggles in (sometimes futile) efforts to gain students.

Brunson’s performance as Janine is so upbeat that it’s almost obsessive in the background of the show, but the rest of the cast also perform very well in their roles, and it feels like if the show were still based. Based on these teachers’ ability to teach even though things like “reverse toilets” are going their way, the show will continue to be humorous.

Gender and Skin: Nothing, except for the extremely inappropriate nicknames Ava gave to Gregory.

Farewell shot: Janine tells the camera that she knows she has the ability to get the job done, despite not having any support or budget. We then see her try to fix the “inverted toilet” with the help of a YouTube video with little success.

Sleeper Star: Sheryl Lee Ralph shows power as veteran teacher Barbara Howard. When she said “Sit down now!” I feel even I need to listen to her.

Most Pilot-y routes: Can Ava get away with what she gets, especially the sign with her picture on it? Her character is the heaviest one, although there are moments where we see her real character come into play, like when she says she got the principal’s job when she pushed her. director money.

Our call: INSTRUCTIONS IT. Abbott Elementary School Not only is it funny, but its pilot establishes a workplace family that can last for many seasons.

Joel Keller (@joelkeller) writes about food, entertainment, parenting, and technology, but he’s not kidding: he’s a TV junkie. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, Slate, Salon, RollingStone.com, VanityFair.com, Fast Company and others.

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