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Abbott Elementary is Changing Sitcom Television this Back-to-School Season

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at American chapter.

Following the success of their first Emmys, “Abbott Elementary” is back and better than ever. Sheryl Lee Ralph stole the show with her acceptance speech for ‘Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series’ and the show’s creator, writer and lead actress, Quinta Brunson, took home the award for ‘Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series.’

Season two of the mockumentary-style sitcom aired Wednesday, Sept. 21 and proved to fans that they are not going anywhere. The new 22-episode season is reminiscent of sitcom greats like “The Office”, “Parks and Recreation” and “Modern Family” and is far from the limited series that saturate most streaming platforms. 

The show features a strong cast of teachers and students struggling to learn and teach despite all of the problems underfunded public schools face. Set in the titular ‘Willard R. Abbott Public School’, the young and optimistic protagonist Janine Teagues (Brunson) is navigating the tough bureaucratic systems of public schools as well as her complicated relationships in and out of the classroom. Enter new substitute teacher Gregory Eddie (Tyler James Williams) to give us the spark of a potential workplace romance similar to the legendary Jim and Pam of “The Office.” A charismatic duo of veteran teachers, a hilarious custodian, an eccentric underqualified principal and a plethora of talented kids give the show a perfect cast that earned them their third Emmy for ‘Outstanding Casting for a Comedy Series.’

The predominantly Black cast is unlike any other mainstream sitcom. Brunson has made it clear that she wanted to make a show that was simply about a topic rather than an exploration of race.  This privilege is something that shows with white leads have always been able to do. 

She told The Independent, “a recent phenomenon, here in America, has been that the TV shows featuring Black leads are about race, and not just about these people living life. That was becoming frustrating to me as a viewer. … I just wasn’t interested in doing that with “Abbott”, because I think we deserved a show that wasn’t about exploring Blackness.” 

“Abbott” is simply a great comedy with superb actors telling real stories that keep fans returning every week. The second episode of season one brought in over seven million viewers and ABC’s highest ratings for a comedy since the series finale of sitcom giant “Modern Family.” Numbers all the more impressive in the days of binge streaming. 

Quinta Brunson shared her appreciation for network television with Late Night host Seth Meyers. “I love network television. I love the accessibility of it. … It is something people can watch in prison, which is a huge demographic. … It’s about accessibility. It is about accessibility and people being able to watch network TV from anywhere.”

Brunson continues that accessibility and representation in the show. Fans praised the season two premiere for its representation of students with disabilities. Ralph’s character Mrs. Howard was fighting to make the school wheelchair accessible and the millennial teacher Jacob (Chris Perfetti) communicated through his newly learned ASL with a student. 

The show is also continuing to honor the hardworking teachers they portray. Months before the Emmy wins Brunson, the production team and ABC decided to redirect a portion of money allocated to the show’s marketing to supplies for teachers. “It’s about being able to make those kinds of decisions that really excite me, things that can really materially help people,” Brunson told NPR. “Abbott” has also teamed up with Lakeshore Learning to give away $10,000 to deserving teachers via a sweepstake contest. 

“Abbott Elementary” is set to be a sitcom staple that will become a longstanding example of what true representation, great comedy and meaningful change look like.

Caroline is a sophomore at American University majoring in Communication Studies with a minor in Literature. She loves all things books, theater, and dance. Caroline is currently a Feature Writer for HCAU living in DC.