Abbott Elementary Season 2 Review: Lovable Comedy Returns

ItIn the series premiere Abbott ElementaryOne of the most beloved TV shows, ‘The Greatest Showmanship,’ is shocked by what happens. A rookie teacher kicks her student after she is overwhelmed on her first day of teaching. This is an example of the dangers associated with staffing public schools by inexperienced teachers. Her immediate firing also serves a narrative purpose; we learn that the substitute sent to replace her, Gregory (Tyler James Williams), was hired to be Abbott’s new principal, before narcissistic, woefully unqualified Ava (Janell James) blackmailed the superintendent to get the job. Quinta Brunson, creator of the episode plays Janine as Janine. He is a potential love interest. By the episode’s end, her cheery presence has helped convince him to stick around, and their will-they-or-won’t-they plot begins.

Sitcoms of all quality, including those that are really great, can be found in most places. The New Girl And It’s Always Sunny in PhiladelphiaTake a moment to hear their voices. But ABC’s AbbottThe re-launched Emmy Awards will be presented on September 21. It fits in a very familiar genre, but it is a single-camera mockumentary that follows the traditions of The Office, Parks and RecreationPlease see the following: Modern FamilyThe show is successful because it contextualizes its goodness in a world that lacks the latter.

Tyler James Williams and Quinta Brunson (Gilles Mingasson—ABC)

Quinta Brunson, Tyler James Williams

Gilles Mingasson—ABC

Abbott school is located in the heart of a Philadelphia suburb, and it’s a great urban school. And Brunson’s depiction of that setting is unflinching. There are many foul smells, infestations, and the building is in disrepair. (Janine and Gregory’s meet-cute happens in a restroom, where he’s trying to help a boy who has peed all over himself, she’s escorting a girl who vomited in class, and a broken toilet has been spraying water everywhere.) There’s no room for basics like up-to-date textbooks, cleaning supplies, and classroom rugs for the littlest kids to sit on in the anemic budget. Many parents are disengaged—not because they don’t care, but because supporting a family on low-wage work is more than a full-time job.

Some staff members are not particularly dedicated to children. Ava doesn’t even pretend she’s not exploiting her leadership role for cash, clout, and perks. We also learn that, of the couple dozen new teachers who started at Abbott the previous fall, only Janine; Jacob (Chris Perfetti), a white social-justice guy who’s desperate to be liked by his students; and one other colleague returned for a second year. But the committed faculty members who make up the show’s core cast of characters are there for a reason—and, as veteran teacher Barbara (Emmy-winning standout Sheryl Lee Ralph) notes, “it sure ain’t for the money.” They want to do the very best they can for kids who rarely get to enjoy the best of anything. We know they have real-life counterparts because America’s increasingly strained public school system hasn’t collapsed yet.

Although everyone has the same goal, the teachers don’t necessarily agree on how to achieve it. Barbara, one of those magical kid whisperers who never loses control of her classroom, and her friend Melissa (Lisa Ann Walter), a street-smart Philly girl to the core, have been so disappointed by administrators and local governments for so long that they’re resigned to make do with the meager resources they’re given—or go outside the system to get what they need. (Melissa’s “got a guy” for everything.) Younger, more idealistic teachers like Janine and Jacob aren’t ready to give up on their conviction that it’s possible to change the system from within. They’re almost always proven wrong, but practical support from the more experienced teachers and genuine concern for their students keeps them going when it would be easier to give up.

Lisa Ann Walter, left, and Sheryl Lee Ralph (Gilles Mingasson—ABC)

Lisa Ann Walter and Sherylle Ralph

Gilles Mingasson—ABC

Television does not have an inherent right to reflect real life. The greatest comedy of all time comes from Atlanta You can find more information here CommunityFantastical flourishes are what allow them to thrive. But there’s something deceptive, in these cruel times, about the typical “nice” sitcom—one that’s set in a world just like our own, except kinder. At worst, ideology disguised as realism may function as propaganda to promote an optimistic outlook without any basis in reality. Show me a fallen billionaire as gracious and loving as Johnny Rose on Schitt’s Creek, or a pro football coach as sensitive and progressive as Ted Lasso. This is a sign that Trump’s nastiness, police violence against communities and color has rapidly aged. Parks And Recreation and Brooklyn Nine-NineMike Schur, the creator of these characters made them. The Good PlaceA comedy about moral philosophy set in a nondenominational afterlife.

Abbott’s kindness resonates differently because Brunson doesn’t have to conjure a better world or otherwise distort reality to make it work. She is openly honest with her teachers about the challenges faced by students. Disappointment, no matter how small or large, is part of daily life. Brunson never suggests that individual educators can or should be expected to adequately compensate for a broken system—just that plenty of them are doing everything they can. For the unlucky reason of never running out of issues to drive the plot, a poorly served public school can make a perfect setting for teleserial. The kids are adorable.

To that end, the show’s second season introduces a new source of frustration: Addington Elementary, the well-funded charter school in Abbott’s neighborhood. When Janine and her colleagues step inside to return a box of fresh textbooks meant for Addington, they’re dazzled by its sparkling hallways, functional air conditioning, and computer lab. A year ago, the Abbott teacher was also there. “At a charter school, there’s a lot less oversight in the hiring process,” the woman brags, “so it’s been pretty sweet.” Like so many of the best Brunson jokes, it’s funny because it’s true.

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