In a world where there’s a constant need for laughter and movies that uplift spirits, sitcoms are a blessing. I watch more sitcoms than movies these days, which means I’m always on the prowl for a new one to devour(pardon me if that came out wrong). A friend recommended Abbott Elementary which for some reason is not getting the expected attention and before I dived in, she said “It’s not for everyone”. That statement didn’t make sense until I watched the entire series.
Who knew a sitcom that takes place in a school was exactly what we needed?
Set in a public school in Philadelphia, Abbott Elementary follows a group of passionate, hardworking, and dedicated teachers led by a very unusual (almost incompetent) principal, and their struggle to educate their students and also navigate their personal lives. The Mockumentary Sitcom made up of 13 episodes was created by Quinta Brunson for ABC and premiered on December 7, 2021.
ABBOTT ELEMENTARY ANALYSIS
Plot and Theme
Abbott Elementary kicks off with the main cast introducing themselves and from this scene alone, you can decipher their characters to an extent. Most of the scenes are shot within the school premises of Willard.R. Abbott Public School, which was a decision I thought dicey. I mean, who would want to watch teachers and elementary students in the same environment all day? Well, people did watch and it turned out to be an interesting blend of characters and events that made sense.
While I appreciate that they were trying to paint a picture, I didn’t understand why all the teachers except Ava, and maybe Melissa had to be dressed in outfits I found quite alarming. I mean, teachers have evolved in recent years, and so has their fashion sense. Also, in that episode that focused on the teachers trying to get their students to read better with new technology, that child was supposedly reading an excerpt from Michelle Obama’s book ‘Becoming’.
‘At fifty-four, I am still in progress, and I hope that I always will be.’
While he was reading this from the middle of the book (from the way he held it), some of us do know that excerpt was from the epilogue. They should have taken care to be sure the book was turned to the end and not just opened to a random page.
Also, I felt that after the episode of Taylor visiting the school, her appearance as the sudden love interest of Gregory was sort of unnecessary and forced.
Asides from these, the series did try to teach some valuable lessons and also shed light on the political aspect of running a public school, with all the blackmail and siphoning of funds that end up affecting not only the teachers but the students.
Let me just mention that the highlight of this sitcom for me was seeing Tyler James Williams as part of the main cast. If I’m being honest, he was the reason I decided to watch in the first place. I haven’t seen him in many movies since Let it Shine and Dear White People, so I was excited he was part of this one. He plays the role of Gregory Eddie, who applied to be the principal of Abbott Elementary but didn’t get the job. He decides to become a substitute teacher, and later a permanent one.
Gregory is rigid and hardly smiles or laughs but finds himself getting comfortable with the other teachers and his students. One thing about Tyler, he knows how to play any role he’s given to perfection.
Quinta Brunson plays Janine Teagues, an overzealous but brilliant teacher. From being an insufferable know-it-all in every area except her relationship with Tariq to having extremely horrid taste in fashion, Janine was noticeably the most annoying character. But, her heart was indeed in the right place. Quinta did a good job depicting this role and I don’t know anyone else who could have bodied it the way she did.
Janelle James plays the role of Ava Coleman, principal of Abbott Elementary who in saner climes wouldn’t have the job. Ava gets the principal spot through blackmail and has no idea what the job entails. Loud, exasperating, and only interested in social media trends, Ava is the most unusual principal. I liked the character development, and how they wanted to point out that she wasn’t all that shallow. Although she should have been fired after that disaster of a presentation, her presence in the school makes the series more fun. Janelle also bodied her role and brought good vibes to the show.
Melissa Schemmenti, the teacher who would have been better suited as a biker with her leather jacket and semi-goth looks is depicted by Lisa Ann Walter. She’s the strict but cool teacher who knows a guy that knows a guy. Melissa might be cool, but she’s definitely not one to cross. I do think someone else asides Lisa would have been better suited to the role, even though I can’t think of someone else right now.
Sheryl Lee Ralph plays Barbara Howard, the nice and strict teacher with years of experience and she could double as a pastor’s wife because she just had the look. Proper, polished, and a motherly figure to the students, teachers, and even Ava, Barbara brings a refined atmosphere to Abbott Elementary. She is respected, feared, and loved by both students and teachers alike. There couldn’t have been a better Barbara than Sheryl.
The nerdy and sometimes awkward teacher Jacob Hill is played by Chris Perfetti. He brought life to the character and reminds me of Max Greenfield from The Neighborhood. Although Jacob makes you feel embarrassed on his behalf most of the time, his character eventually grows on you.
All in all, each character brought a certain flavor to the show and they turned what might have seemed like a boring script into something worth watching. They taught many lessons and stole some hearts in the process.
I came to appreciate teachers even more after watching this series. Having something that makes you understand how difficult yet fulfilling teaching is, makes you see things from a different perspective. Abbott Elementary is a 4 out of 5 stars for me and I’ll recommend it to people who like sitcoms. Just like my friend says, it is not for everyone and some might even find it boring. But if you’re someone that likes series that teach lessons, then you should watch this one. It’s no surprise that it has already been renewed for a second season.
Let’s not forget that teachers are the real superheroes and they put in a lot of work to shape us into worthy adults. A special salute to all teachers in the world, you all are the real MVPs!
The Abbott Elementary Breakfast Club.
P.S: Dear Mr. Johnson, this isn’t trash.
WRITTEN BY CASS