ABC’s new network comedy show just premiered for its highly awaited second season, following a much talked about and highly deserved appearance at this Emmys which ended with the awards for the show in writing, casting and acting.
Created and written by Quinta Brunson, Abbott Elementary is a mockumentary style sitcom set in a predominantly Black public elementary school in Philadelphia and follows its small team of teachers and staff. The main cast comprises of the school’s teachers and principal, who dedicate themselves to their students in their own ways. Brunson also stars as the show’s lead, Janine Teagues, an optimistic and sometimes overeager second grade teacher, who is determined to make things work at a school that is underfunded and ignored.
Brunson has talked about how the show is named after her sixth-grade teacher, Joyce Abbott, and is primarily inspired by her mother, who taught at the elementary school she attended as a child. She has spoken on how listening to her mom interacting with coworkers, whether it was sharing frustrations or joys, and witnessing the development of personal relationships alongside professional goals and passions provided the core of this show. Speaking to Insider on the motivations behind Abbott’s characters, Brunson, having witnessed the daily grind of teaching, affirmed, “Everyone is dedicated to doing a good job because if they don’t, it means a child doesn’t learn.”
The show was a critical success. It has an impressive 98% on Rotten Tomatoes with a 90% Audience score. A score that parallels widely beloved sitcom royalty like Parks & Recreation and Brooklyn Nine-Nine. Abbott Elementary has also started racking up accolades. The show has won Hollywood Critics Association Awards, Dorian Awards, Television Critics Association Awards and of course, three Emmys, one for Sheryl Lee Ralph for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a comedy, one for Quinta Brunson for Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series and one for Wendy O’Brien for Outstanding Casting for a Comedy Series. No small feat for a show with only one 13-episode season.
Speaking on the show’s success and importance, Tyler James Williams, who plays substitute teacher Gregory, stated, “Our show is very much about the flexibility of teachers, working within the confines of difficulties and underfunding.” He further continued, “We have a real opportunity to humanize a group of people and tell their story in a way that could change the everyday person’s life on a daily basis.” Abbott’s poignancy comes from its unabashed reflection of education inequality in the United States and its racial and class dimensions. Stories of teachers struggling to make ends meet while still aspiring to provide a safe and positive space for their students are a staple of the news cycle. Abbott Elementary pays tribute to those teachers, while aspiring to shine a light on their realities.
Lisa Ann Walter, who plays veteran teacher Melissa, while speaking on the reception of the show, said “Just the fact that so many people have found it and that when I go on social media and I read things like, ‘I have nothing good going on in — I’m worried about everything. This is my safe spot. This is my joy. This is what makes me laugh. And I forget about everything.’”
Abbott Elementary is, first and foremost, a comedy. Excellently written so it balances humor with heart, and boasting a cast capable of handling its nuances, the show is light-handed with its commentary but always sincere. Add the healthy dose of beloved TV tropes like a “will they-won’t they” romance and the “bad boss” in Janelle James’ multidimensional Principal Ava, Abbott Elementary has all the makings of a comfort show that you can return to again and again.
The show’s Emmy wins come right on time to celebrate Abbott Elementary coming back with a full 22 episode run for its second season this fall. Episodes will air on ABC and will be available to stream on Hulu. Do yourself a favor and give this comedy excellence a chance.