The Office needs to step aside; there’s a new queen in town. ABC’s new mockumentary sitcom “Abbott Elementary” is shaping up to be one of 2022’s best new shows.
“Abbott Elementary” follows the day-to-day lives of a group of dedicated, multi-generational teachers at an underfunded Philadelphia public school. Leading character and second-grade teacher Janine Teagues is played by Quinta Brunson, who also created the series. Brunson is best known for her viral Vine “Ooh He Got Money,” starring in season one of “A Black Lady Sketch Show” on HBO and her work on BuzzFeed.
On a visit to New York City during spring break, Drake first-year Nathan Carter attended a taping of Late Night with Seth Meyers where Brunson was the one of the guests.
“One of the main things I remember was her talking about how it was based on her mom who was a teacher. I think it’s really cool that “Abbott Elementary” is a successful network show that has a specific airing time, and in our digital era, it’s super hard to come by,” Carter said.
Janine is an overzealous, painfully awkward, yet passionate second-year teacher who has an endless desire to “make a difference” in her students’ lives. Her constant quest to prove herself to her older coworkers is always well-intentioned, yet falls so short every time.
Some of my favorite Janine moments include her regularly calling her wise, 20+ year teaching veteran coworker “Mom,” inviting her SoundCloud rapper boyfriend (played by comedian and rapper Zach Fox) to give an anti-drug concert to the likes of the D.A.R.E. program and crashing the school’s power grid trying to change a lightbulb in the school’s infamous “spooky hallway.”
While Janine’s awkwardness could fill an entire episode, her coworkers and the “Abbott” cast as a collective are truly the heart of the series. The hilarious cast of characters includes elementary school vets, a Philly native that always “has a guy for that,” an insanely tone-deaf and unqualified principal, an outlandish yet loveable janitor and new teachers who are just trying to carve out their path in this new profession.
One thing I really enjoy about “Abbott Elementary” is that it does not pride itself on speaking on the issues. The show uses humor and authentic experience to illustrate teacher burnout rates, lack of funding, issues with gifted programming and the laughable incompetence of school administrators without making the entire show about these issues. In that same breath, “Abbott” regularly pokes fun at the horrible timing of modern-day “wokeness” and virtue signaling. For example, second-year teacher and self-proclaimed ally Mr. Jacob regularly name-drops famous Black authors in casual conversation, tries to connect with students through slang and cosigns on Janine’s impulsive decisions as: “It was the chance to support a strong Black woman.”
First-year Mylo Bissell has been an avid watcher of “Abbott Elementary” since its release in December 2021.
“I just enjoy TV that allows for Black women and Black people in general to be painfully mediocre,” Bissell said. “In other ABC shows led by Black creators, our main protagonists simply couldn’t slip up, the second they [do], they are vilified almost immediately. ‘Abbott Elementary’ isn’t just following a model, it’s redefining it for the people it has always been meant to serve.”
Maybe I’m just obsessed with dramatic camera glances and comedically timed confessionals, but “Abbott Elementary” is ushering an era of authentically representative TV that simply checks all the boxes. The show is comedically timely, socially conscious without overkill, sentimental in all the right places and will definitely make you laugh out loud.
Tune in to “Abbott Elementary” Tuesdays on ABC 8 p.m. central time and next day streaming on Hulu.