When a new piece of media comes out, I’m usually late to the party. By the time I get done procrastinating and decide to watch it, the hype is over. This time, I’ve managed to catch a show that is still in its early stages. “Abbott Elementary”, a show that premiered on ABC and Hulu last December, has caught my attention for the time being.
The show revolves around a documentary being made about a small staff and their inept principal working in a predominately black Philadelphian elementary school plagued by low funding, poor management, and a high turnover rate.
The main character Janine Teagues (played by comedian Quinta Brunson) is the show’s overly optimistic, young, and naïve second grade teacher who tries to improve the school’s situation for her students, but is often met by misfortune.
Her colleagues include Melissa, a witty teacher who often uses her less than ethical connections to score resources, Barbara, an old fashioned and stern teacher whom Janine constantly seeks validation from; Jacob, an awkward man who frequently tries to prove how progressive and relatable he is as one of two main white staff members,
Mr. Johnson, the school’s mysterious conspiracy -theory – believing janitor, and Ava, the school’s unqualified and self-absorbed principal. Together, this staff manages to function and keep Abbott Elementary functioning as best as they can, no matter the obstacles.
The termination of a teacher calls in the need for a substitute, and a new main character, to fill in the position temporarily. This brings in Mr. Gregory Eddie, who takes this job even though he originally applied to be the school principal (he lost the chance due to the current principal getting hired after blackmailing the superintendent).
Gregory is played by Tyler James Williams, who most people remember from his childhood role-playing a character based off the experiences of a young Chris Rock.
Chris Randal Einhorn, who is known for his work on Parks and Recreations and The Office, brings his mockumentary directing style to the show.
Many of the scenes are reminiscent of the single camera techniques from “Everybody Hates Chris” (where Tyler James Williams starred as young Chris) as they both humorously magnify the awkward personalities and impoverished situations of the main characters and their surroundings. Some of the show’s best moments involve the characters being caught off guard during uncomfortable moments and looking into the camera at the right time.
Though the nature of the show is lighthearted, it effectively highlight many of the real-life issues surrounding public schools in poorer areas, as well as the will and determination of the thankless people who staff them. Quinton Brunson, who is also the creator of the show, drew her inspiration for the show from her own childhood experiences.
I don’t usually relate to the shows I’m watching but I ended up feeling nostalgic thinking about how my own 2nd – grade teacher was a young Black woman new to the world of education, much like the main character Janine.
Her kindness, upbeat nature, and quirky ways stuck with me throughout my childhood, and made me feel grateful that I got to have a teacher like her.
I can even recall a time she went out of her way to give me a ride home after my mom’s car wouldn’t start up — very similar to how the characters of this show go above and beyond their job titles to help their students.
The show is a must watch for anyone who enjoys wholesome, relatable content that leaves you rooting for everyone to succeed.