Abbott Elementary is a critically acclaimed and highly rated sitcom which premiered on December 7, 2021 with 13 episodes. It’s a workplace comedy filmed as a mockumentary (think The Office), set in an inner city elementary school in Philadelphia.
The series was created by Quinta Brunson, who is also credited as a writer and one of the lead stars on the show. Brunson plays Janine Teagues, a starry eyed and idealistic, second grade teacher who never gives up.
The series follows an ensemble cast including Tyler James Willams, Lisa Ann Walter, and Sheryl Lee Ralph, as they navigate the various joys and obstacles of teaching in the American school system.
One of my favourite parts about Abbott Elementary is how diverse and well-rounded the writing is for all of the teacher characters. The characters collectively sum up any and every kind of teacher you may have had throughout your school years. There’s the veteran, the one who cares to a fault, the one who sort of fell into teaching accidentally, and even the obnoxiously new age millennial.
It’s also interesting to see the dynamic and contrast between such different characters all doing the same job.
I also love the nuanced approach to education and the school system as a whole, which has proven to be a very politically, socially and economically divisive discussion. The show is heart warming and endearing but it doesn’t shy away from tackling tough conversations such as race, economical imbalance, lack of resources, burn out and more. .
The people behind Abbott Elementary have managed to crack a fine balance between light-hearted situational comedy and depicting the nitty gritty of a broken, underfunded and often poorly managed system. They also highlight the disconnect between various moving parts that make up said system: teachers, administration, students, and government.
The writers and producers do a fantastic job walking the line between “woke” and hilarious. They may not have the answers, but that doesn’t stop them from asking the questions in a very entertaining manner.
Every teacher I know personally seems to relate heavily with the characters and the situations on the show. The overall theme seems to be that even though the teachers are burnt out, underpaid and under appreciated, they love their jobs and want to do the best for their students.
The character arc for each role also isn’t limited to the school system. The writers have developed interesting backstories, personal lives and unique personalities to each character making the show more entertaining and versatile. The various side story lines work together to enhance the overall experience for the audience.
Teachers aren’t the only ones appreciating Abbott Elementary. The series was nominated for seven Primetime Emmys after its first season, and ended up winning three – Outstanding Writing For A Comedy Series, Outstanding Casting For A Comedy Series, and Outstanding Supporting Actress In A Comedy Series. The wins garnered a cloud of controversy as well when Emmys’ host, Jimmy Kimmel was accused of taking the spotlight during Quinta Brunson’s acceptance speech for a bit on stage.
Many people expressed their frustrations online and felt as though Kimmel took away Brunson’s moment and degraded what should’ve been a historic moment for Black representation on primetime television. However, Brunson appeared on Jimmy Kimmel Live and interrupted Kimmel’s monologue to deliver her Emmys acceptance speech, proving that the whole incident is water under the bridge for both Kimmel and Brunson.
Still, despite the mild controversy, Abbott Elementary is dominating the ratings as well. Season one was ABC’s highest rated new comedy series, and after the season, it was the number one comedy series and number two series overall, coming second to Grey’s Anatomy. The series has a 98% rating on Rotten Tomatoes–so the people (including me) have spoken and they clearly love Abbott Elementary.
I cannot recommend Abbott Elementary enough. It’s been a long time since I have loved something enough to watch it on TV every week. I binge watched the first season and have been looking forward to each episode of the second season. It’s definitely climbing its way to the top of my list of favourites joining The Office and Parks and Recreation. Abbott Elementary is so smart, crisp and full of heart that you can’t help but get invested in the characters and their stories.
The first season is streaming on Crave and Disney Plus, and you can catch new episodes airing every Wednesday at 9pm on ABC.
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