‘Abbott Elementary’ Shines a Comedy Light on Urban Education

ABBOTT ELEMENTARY - “Pilot” – In this workplace comedy, a group of dedicated, passionate teachers — and a slightly tone-deaf principal — are brought together in a Philadelphia public school where, despite the odds stacked against them, they are determined to help their students succeed in life. Though these incredible public servants may be outnumbered and underfunded, they love what they do — even if they don’t love the school district’s less-than-stellar attitude toward educating children. (ABC/Prashant Gupta)

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In Abbott Elementary, Janine Teagues (Quinta Brunson, also the series creator) is one of three new teachers who didn’t quit in the first year at an underfunded public school in Philly, despite ceaseless challenges: Her textbooks are missing the three most recent presidents (she taped them in). There’s a smell in the walls. And one of her second-graders just peed on the rug.

Reminiscent of Parks and Recreation, this enjoyable new sitcom employs a mockumentary style as a news crew films the school for a spot on urban education. Janine is like Amy Poehler’s Leslie Knope, naively optimistic, slugging it out every day because, she declares, “I care about whether or not I can make a change.”

Abbott Elementary Quinta Brunson

(Credit: ABC/Prashant Gupta)

As she lobbies for the money to replace her rug, she starts to give the jaded teachers — like her idol, Barbara (Sheryl Lee Ralph), gifted with the ability to make her students listen (as seen in the clip, above) — something to rally around.

The absurdity outweighs the warm-and-fuzzy moments, though, with plenty of laughs mined from inept and inappropriate principal Ava (standout Janelle James). Her greeting to arriving sub Gregory (Tyler James Williams): “I thought one of my colleagues here hired a stripper for me.” The teachers never know what crazy situation will present itself next, but that’s what makes Abbott an A+ comedy.

Abbott Elementary, Series premiere 9:30/8:30c, ABC

This article originally ran on tvinsider.com.

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