When I saw commercials for the first season of Abbott Elementary, a comedy on ABC, I chuckled. I didn’t, however, consider watching the show. After all, it’s on a network. With the exception of the CSI reboot, which I only watched for Gil Grissom, I haven’t tuned into a network show in eons.
But last week, three things reminded me of Abbott Elementary’s existence: I saw commercials for its upcoming second season; I heard that the show won some Emmys; and my streaming service emailed me, suggesting that I check out the show.
So, I watched an episode with low expectations. After all, it’s on a network. How good could it be?
Pretty expletive good.
Told in a mockumentary style and set in a fictional Philadelphia elementary school – hence the title – the show follows Janine Teagues, a young, idealistic second grade teacher, as she navigates the harsh realities of the classroom. No matter how many setbacks she encounters, Janine keeps trying, even when she gets electrocuted.
Janine strives to be as good as Barbara, a veteran teacher who has command of her classroom and who possesses a presence that inspires respect. Other characters include Jacob, a history teacher who is as idealistic and awkward as Janine; Melissa, a teacher who wears lots of animal prints; Gregory, a substitute teacher who has a crush on Janine; Mr. Johnson, the eccentric custodian; and Ava, the unprincipled principal.
Ava deserves a separate paragraph because she’s my favorite character. She’s terrible and I mean that in the best possible way. She makes fun of the other characters to their faces. She’s selfish, self-absorbed, and shallow. She’s horrible at her job. She knows nothing about the students or education. She passes her days by making personal videos and wasting school funds on ridiculous projects. Gregory justifiably despises her because he knows he should be the principal and because Ava constantly harasses him. But when she shows up on screen, I go ahead and start laughing because I know she’s going to deliver. This is due, in part, to the writing, but mostly to the actress. She is just so funny.
Of course, the entire cast is funny. I enjoy them separately or in pairs, but I prefer scenes that feature most of the ensemble. My favorite scene of the first season was the one when Gregory admits he doesn’t like a particular food that is enjoyed by most Americans. The look of shock on the other characters faces made me laugh and laugh. What’s more, as a picky eater who has been poked fun of her entire life for her food preferences, I felt Gregory’s pain when he finally makes the admission.
Abbott Elementary’s second season begins Wednesday, Sept. 21 on ABC. I hope the show doesn’t suffer a sophomore slump. Maybe it’s because of Janine’s optimism and the general goodness of the characters (well, except for Ava), but the show seems so wholesome. And not in a way that makes you want to vomit. Instead, in a way that makes you smile.
This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.